By Mohamed Jaward Nyallay
Claim: Exclusive Newspaper, last week published a story claiming that:
Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone (ECSL) invited 1500 ECOMOG soldiers and US Marines to deploy for Sierra Leone’s June 24 elections.
Verdict: The claim is FALSE.
On the 12th of May, 2023, Exclusive Newspaper published a story in their daily edition claiming that US Marines and ECOMOG among others have been invited by ECSL to observe the elections.
There are at least three claims in this story:
i) 1500 ECOMOG will deploy,
ii) US Marines will deploy, and
iii) ECSL invited both ECOMOG and US Marines among others to deploy.
The first paragraph of the story claimed that ECSL invited international organizations to observe the elections. The second paragraph continued by stating that:
“Some of the invitees are one thousand five hundred (1500) soldiers from the ECOWAS Monitoring group – ECOMOG, seventy-eight (78) European Union observers, some US Marines and thirty (30) observers from the Carter Center in the United States of America.”
Online news site Sierraloaded also published a similar story and apart from the headline (‘ECOMOG to monitor 2023 elections in Sierra Leone’) being false, the content was also completely disconnected from the title.
To verify this claim, SLAJ/NDI SuperNewsRoom fact-checkers contacted the United States Embassy in Freetown. According to the Embassy, US Marines will not be deployed to Sierra Leone for the general elections.
“While the U.S. Embassy is excited to participate as ECSL accredited international observers for the upcoming general elections, these observers will be selected among our own embassy staff. The U.S. is not deploying marines to observe Sierra Leone’s elections,” Paul Stucky, Ag. Public Affairs Officer at the US Embassy in Freetown said.
ECOWAS was also contacted on whether ECOMOG will be deploying to Sierra Leone for the elections. ECOWAS Communications Director, Amos Lungu said he had no knowledge on whether the Commission will be deploying its “standby force”, which was once referred to as ECOMOG.
However, to further inquire about the veracity of the claim about foreign troops deployment, the team also contacted the Office of National Security (ONS), which is the umbrella body for the security sector in Sierra Leone.
The Director of Strategic Communications and Spokesman of ONS, Abdul Karim Will said there are no plans for foreign troops deployment in the country.
“So far, we are not aware of any foreign troops deployment in Sierra Leone, neither ECOMOG nor US Marine. There are no plans for foreign military troops deployment,” the ONS Spokesman said. Karim said since 2007, Sierra Leone’s security sector had taken charge of securing public elections.
To verify the claim about ECSL’s invitation of US Marines and ECOMOG, the team contacted the Director of External Relations at ECSL, Albert Massaquoi, who said they did not send any invitation to US Marines or ECOMOG to deploy for the June 24 elections.
US Marines will not be deployed to Sierra Leone.
There’s no proof to show that “1500 ECOMOG” will deploy to Sierra Leone.
ECSL did not invite US Marines or ECOMOG to observe the elections.
This fact-checked story is a product of the SLAJ/NDI SuperNewsRoom on Combating Disinformation in Sierra Leone’s 2023 electoral cycle. The project is supported by Global Affairs Canada to enable citizens have access to credible and accurate information during the elections.
The SuperNewsRoom is powered by Africell SL.
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