Can Sierra Leone’s Chief Electoral Commissioner walk a straight line?

20 November 2012

It is now three days since the people of Sierra Leone went out to elect their leaders last Saturday.

But instead of positively looking forward to an exciting announcement of the results in a few days, there are fears across the country, of a nation teetering on the edge of chaos and violence.

It seems the people have been badly let down by an Electoral Commissioner, whose incompetence and partisanship have been called into question on many occasions.

Independent observers of the elections in Sierra Leone have reported evidence of serious electoral malpractice by government ministers and officials, including; doling out cash for votes on polling day, stuffing of ballot boxes, over-stating of the numbers of registered voters, multiple-voting, and political intimidation.

One of the most serious accusations, was made against the minister of defence, a retired army officer who, dressed in a military fatigue was seen heading towards a polling station in a truck filled with armed ex-combatants.

A few months ago, president Koroma imported $5 million worth of military grade weapons, which caused tremendous alarm for the international community, civil rights groups, and opposition political parties in the country.

The president was accused of stockpiling weapons in advance of the election and in preparation for the possibility of the elections turning sour.

Not long after the importation of the military grade weapons, it was reported that government ministers and senior ruling party officials had been issued with those very weapons, in advance of the elections.

The president had passed a legislation legalising the ownership and use of arms and ammunition by private citizens, in a country, which up until the back end of last year, had been banned by the UN from importing military and small arms fire.

The people of Sierra Leone had suffered a brutal and destructive war that lasted for ten years. The return of military grade weapons and small arms fire to the streets of Freetown is a worrying development, especially as post-electoral temperature continues to rise. 

But call for an investigation by the country’s main opposition SLPP party comes, as new evidence emerge of serious electoral malpractice at polling stations across the country, by the ruling APC party.

The Chief Electoral Commissioner – Dr. Christiana Thorpe, is yet to respond to the numerous accusations and allegations that are once again poised to destroy the credibility of the NEC.

But yesterday, Monday, 19 November, 2012, the Commission issued the following press statement:

“On Monday 19th November 2012, the Chief Electoral Commissioner and National Returning Officer made an on the spot visit to Regional Tally Centres in Bo, Kenema and Makeni to monitor ongoing tallying of elections results by courtesy of UNIPSIL.

“Since the commencement of the result tallying process on the night of Saturday 17th November 2012, the exercise has been conducted on a 24 hour basis by three sets of data centre staff on three shifts of eight hours each.

“Political Parties, National Elections Watch (NEW), other national and international observers that were accredited are observing the process.

“Out of a total of 9,493 polling stations 7,175 polling station results (75%) are now being processed.

“Eastern Region: The Eastern Region has a total of 1,985 polling stations. Results for 1,511 have been received and are now being processed.

“Northern Region: The Northern Region has a total of 3,302 polling stations. Results for 2,055 stations are now being processed.

“Southern Region: The Southern Region has a total of 1,908 polling stations Results for 1,402 polling stations are now being processed.

“Western Region: Out of a total of 2,298 polling stations, results for 2,207 are now being processed.

“Two Political Parties, All Peoples Congress and Sierra Leone Peoples Party agents have been in attendance to observe the tallying process.

“Based on the progress of receipt and tallying of elections results in all regional tally centres, official declaration of elections results will commence within the next few days.”

But as the Chief Electoral Commissioner attempts desperately to shore up optimism, not many in Sierra Leone share her enthusiasm, as a dark cloud of gloom engulfs the nation.

Trust and confidence have been shattered and are now in very short supply.

It will take a great miracle, for the Electoral Commissioner to succeed in convincing the people of Sierra Leone, that the elections of Saturday, 17 November, 2012, were indeed fair and free of fraudulent conduct, as she walks precariously across a frozen lake.

 

2 Comments

  1. A repeat of this must be prevented, but peacefully.

    One proposition is to thank Christiana Thorpe for having given the nation two controversial results in two straight rows, and thus should resign, so that we have another Sierra Leonean to handle this job.

  2. The Chief Electoral Commissioner Ms. Christiana Thorpe has spoken again today with the whole country and diasporans hanging on to every word.

    She said she is taking her time and counting all the votes. We will all have to be patient with her and give her time and space to do the job efficiently.

    I suspect there is a lot of behind-the-scene discussions taking place probably with the leaders of both main parties.

    In Freetown right now, there is an uneasy calm with checkpoints set up since yesterday at major intersections from St. John to Clock Tower to Ferry Junction.

    Every citizen wants peace in the country, so to avoid problems, maybe a coalition government would be best, to satisfy supporters of both SLPP and APC.

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