U.N. official booted out of Sierra Leone for election year meddling
2/15/2012, 2:23 p.m.
Feb. 14 (GIN) - A U.N. official allegedly aiding the opposition prior to important elections this November has left the country, cutting short his stay in the West African nation by a year.
Both the U.N. and Pres. Ernest Bai Koromo have denied that Michael van der Schulenburg was pushed out of his job. But in a leaked internal U.N. letter, van der Schulenburg complained that "...The decision by (President Koroma) to force my early departure will be seen - rightly or wrongly - by virtually every Sierra Leonean as an effort to remove a potential obstacle to Koroma's re-election and as opening the door to manipulating the election outcome in his favor."
Elections in Sierra Leone this November come a decade after the end of a brutal civil war. President Koroma will be challenged by about ten people, among them former military leader, Brigadier Julius Maada Bio, his main challenger.
In his letter, the former U.N. envoy also reportedly warned that the world body risked losing the opportunity to claim Sierra Leone as "our success story".
Van der Schulenburg, who worked in the U.N.'s peacebuilding division, had been critical of the Koroma administration for failing to make progress fighting youth unemployment, for corruption and inadequate enforcement of mining contracts, and for the failure to address the spread of ethnic-based tensions which he predicted will impact votes for parliament, the presidency and local offices next fall.