Unofficial Political Parties Registration Commission Report slams political parties

19 January 2012

An unofficial report of the Sierra Leone Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC), has unequivocally cited those responsible for the violence that erupted at last weekend’s  Fourah bay local by-election.

The violence left several people severely wounded and hospitalised, including the ruling APC party’s Lansana Fadika and Brima Lewally; and the opposition SLPP party’s chairman of the contested local council ward – Abdul Aziz Carew.

Mr. Carew is said to be critically ill in hospital after several truck loads of heavily armed police officers raided his family home to enforce an arrest. According to witnesses, Mr. Carew was unarmed and did not refuse arrest.

The police have been accused of brutality, and their professionalism – during and after the polls, called into question.

Inspector General of Police - Francis Munu

Many in the country believe that the police have become an appendage of the ruling APC party, and hence cannot be trusted to provide a secure and safe environment for all political parties to freely participate in the forthcoming general elections.

Despite the violence, the country’s National Electoral Commission NEC) and the Political Parties Registration Commission declared the election free and fair. The opposition SLPP won the hotly contested poll.

But the violence and chaos witnessed at the polling stations have been widely criticised, prompting a call for an investigation by the Political Parties Registration Commission.

A leaked copy of the PPRC’s Report into the conduct of the election appears to be blaming the ruling APC party stalwarts and their supporters for the chaos, which degenerated into a bloody street battle.

This is what the Report says:

1. Introduction

Following the death of former Councillor Abdul Salaam Ade Lewally of Ward 369 in Constituency 104 in Freetown, the National Electoral Commission (NEC) declared the seat vacant and slated Saturday 14th January 2012 as the date for a by-election to replace the former Councillor.

On Saturday 14th January, 2012, the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) deployed six staff to monitor the conduct of political parties during the voting process in Ward 369, Constituency 104 in Freetown. This was in pursuance of the Commission’s mandate which relates to monitor the conduct of political parties in Sierra Leone.

Four political Parties filed in candidates for the by-elections in ward 369. They are as follows:

a. All Peoples Congress (APC) Party – Abdul Tarawally;
b. National Democratic Alliance (NDA) – Ousman Kanu
c. Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) – Mohamed Kanu Mansaray
d. United Democratic Movement (UDM) – Mohamed I. N. King

2. Goal and specific objectives for monitoring of the by-election

The broad goal of the monitoring exercise was to monitor the conduct of political party operatives in the voting process in Ward 369.
The indicators which guided the monitoring of the conduct of political parties are as follows:

a. Level of political tolerance between and among political parties;

b. Accessibility to polling centers by political parties

c. Level of movement by party members or supporters from one center to the other within the Ward;

d. The enabling environment for all contesting candidates & voters to cast their votes;
e. Level of security provided to political party;

f. Level of pluralism in the electoral process
g. Conduct of party agents and supporters at the polling centres and the vicinity.

3. General observations and findings

a. Voting started at 7:20am and ended on time. This was due to argument between Party agents and NEC Staff as to the number of party agent in each polling station;

b. Voter apathy was noted. Out of 6,000 registered voters in Ward 369 according to NEC sources, less than 1500 votes were registered. Low turnout of female voters was easily noticeable;

c. A number of halts were noted during the voting period occasioned by disturbances by party supporters in and around polling centers;

d. It was observed that some of the voters had their names on the list of registered voters produced by NEC but their identity card numbers did not correspond with that on the voter register;

e. According to NEC and Political Party Officials, there was an agreement that police clearance taken between the 1st to the 9th January 2012 will be accepted on polling day. However, it was noted that some voters had police clearance issued after the 9th January, 2012.

These cohorts of voters were not allowed to vote but a member of the APC insisted that they should vote and this was a source of tension in all centres.

3.1. Political Party members and operatives

a. It was observed that members and supporters of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the United Democratic Movement (UDM) were peaceful;

b. The Commission noted a high presence of SLPP stalwarts in and around the Laura Dove polling centre. The presence of Manso Dumbuya, Ambassador Allie Bangura and Hindolo Ngevao Esq. of the SLPP prompted other party agents to rally their own members to converge on the Laura Dove polling centre.

c. The SLPP Councilor elect made a number of visit in the voting center;
d. Party stalwarts of the APC who were seen in and around the Laura Dove Polling Centre were Alhaji Unisa Alim Sesay (Awoko), Alhaji M.S. Kargbo, and Hon. Nuru – Deen Sankoh Yillah;

e. The arrival of Lansana Fadika of APC in a company of a group of young men at the Laura Dove polling centre provoked verbal exchanges between supporters of the APC and the SLPP. The Sierra Leone Police however was pro active in quelling the tension and Mr. Fadika was asked to leave.

f. According to NEC and Political Party Officials, they had agreed that police clearance taken between the 1st – 9th January 2012 will be accepted on polling day. Contrary to this, Hon Nuru – Deen Sankoh Yillah was seen and heard announce publicly that those with police clearance dated after the 9th January should be allowed to vote. This announcement led to an uncontrolled rush at the gate of the polling centre at Laura Dove. The voters with dates after the 12th January wanted to vote but were prevented from doing so.

g. Hon Tunde Lewally was seen in the company of a group of youth arrive at the Laura Dove Polling centre to cast his vote. He was told by Police Officers at the gate that he will not be accompanied by his entourage to cast his vote. His youth insisted that he should be accompanied and the SLPP Councilor elect, Mohamed Kanu Mansaray objected to. This confrontation led to violent clash between supporters of Hon Tunde Lewally and Councilor elect Mohamed Kanu Mansaray.

In the circumstance, the police officers were over ran by supporters of the APC and SLPP. School benches and chairs were broken and used as weapons by both parties. It was reported later that the Councilor-elect, allegedly suffered from a hand fracture.

Other Political Party stalwarts present at the Laura Dove Polling centre were:

1. Banja Tejan Sie – National Secretary General SLPP
2. Hon Musa Tamba Sam – Publicity Secretary & Member of Parliament SLPP
3. Harriet Turay – Deputy Women’s Leader SLPP
4. Mohamed Bangura – Interim Chairman/ Leader UDM
5. Mohamed Jalloh – National Secretary General NDA
6. Albert Abou – senior member NDA

However, the commission observed that some SLPP supporters wore T- Shirt with party logo whiles some APC supporters were also clad in red colours.

3.2. The Sierra Leone Police Force

a. The Commission observed that the Sierra Leone Police acted responsively and professionally in controlling the riotous crowd. At the start of the polls, there was deployment of armed and General Duty Police personnel at all three polling centres.

This largely contributed to the end of the polling process.

b. At some point, the police were overwhelmed and over stretched by the riotous crowd and had to send for reinforcement. The presence of the Inspector General of Police and senior police officers helped to boost the confidence of the police deployed at the polling centres. However, the SLP should desist from issuing police clearance after the stipulated date.

3.3. Overall polling management by NEC

a. The overall management of the electoral process by the NEC is commendable. The process was free, fair and transparent.

b. NEC provided all contesting candidates, a level playing field which made the electoral process credible;

c. Polling centers monitored at Laura Dove opened twenty minute late and Polling Officers and auxiliary staff were all punctual.

4. APPYA

The Commission notes with satisfaction the effort by the All Political Parties Youth Association (APPYA) in preaching Political Tolerance and Non Violence during the entire voting process.

5. Party Agents

• Party Agents of the APC & SLPP behaved in a disorderly manner.

• The SLP arrested an SLPP Party agent seen with a knife.

• The Party agents interfered in the process which led to heated argument between themselves and NEC Staff.

• The Party agents of the APC & SLPP gave false information to their party members about the process.

• The Centres were overcrowded with party agents.

• Party agents were not well informed about their roles and responsibilities and the polling process.

6. Recommendations

6.1. High profile Political Party operatives who are not voters in constituencies and Wards should not be allowed in and around polling stations.

6.2. Political Parties should sensitise their supporters who are not eligible voters in a constituency or ward that they should avoid being around / polling centre.

6.3. The Sierra Leone Police should continue to be professional in the performance of their duties and should be supported by the government of Sierra Leone with logistical support to enhance electoral security.

6.4. Electoral Management Bodies (PPRC & NEC) in collaboration with International Federation for Electoral System (IFES), the UN Family, Civil Society Organisations should provide training for Party Agents on Elections observation

7. Conclusion

The electoral process for the election of the Councilor for Ward 369 Constituency 104 slated for 14th January 2012 could be described as free, fair, transparent and well managed. However, the elections were marred with violence and the youth were at the centre.

The Commission wishes to state that this report is therefore truly independent and has not been directed by any authority, persons or institution.

For more information please contact:

078823955 / 078290611 / 078201770 or email us at:

pprcsierraleone@yahoo.com

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