Chernoh Alpha M. Bah: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 29 March 2018:
Events unfolding in Freetown this week have clearly illustrated the political mood in Sierra Leone. The incumbent regime of Ernest Bai Koroma and his All Peoples Congress (APC) have been all-but-defeated and are now in a permanently collapsing defensive position.
There is no doubt that the APC is fighting a losing battle. They have lost the electoral contest and failed to align with the popular aspirations of Sierra Leoneans.
It is a fact that APC supporters have now fully realized that Samura Kamara, the handpicked candidate of Ernest Koroma, is heading into the second round of this election as a badly defeated and morally broken candidate.
This is the real motive behind the ongoing attacks on the credibility of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) and the persistent harassment and intimidation of electoral staff by the police.
Koroma’s ambition and determination to rig the polls in favor of his party is fuelled largely by his desire to protect his stolen wealth. He is also concerned that the many people he has offended and trampled upon in the last ten years of his presidency will seek revenge.
To Koroma and the APC’s horror, Samura Kamara is contesting against an opposition candidate who is now the frontrunner in a presidential race that the APC claimed they would win on the first ballot.
A few months ago, APC leaders and supporters actually claimed that Maada Bio’s 37% in the 2012 elections would be reduced by the advent of the National Grand Coalition (NGC) and Kandeh Yumkellah. These speculations and predictions turned out to be absolutely wrong.
Bio has not only forced the APC into a second round, but he has garnered an impressive number of votes in areas that are considered traditional APC strongholds. This is a serious leap compared to his reported 2012 statistics against the now outgoing Ernest Koroma.
Bio’s more than 43% lead in this first round has illustrated an increased electoral advantage for a candidate who some had said was unelectable.
This ongoing opposition victory and success have actually occurred in an electoral environment deliberately constricted by a corrupt and rogue incumbent president who does not want to leave political office.
APC supporters have been unable to grapple with these shocking results. How did Julius Maada Bio emerge as the strongest candidate in an authoritarian electoral environment organized by a corrupt and rogue incumbent?
Why has the surreptitious and electorally subversive actions of Ernest Koroma failed to give Samura Kamara an undue advantage in the polls sufficient enough for victory?
This shock is what now torments the APC leadership and members. APC leaders have continued to deceive their supporters with false hopes and stories about their defeat in the first round. It is clear that Ernest Koroma knows his authoritarian and vindictive use of state power has created more animosity and dissent against his regime.
He knows quite well that his regime is facing an election with an abysmal political and administrative record hanging over it.
Thus, his only hope is to play crookedly with the terms of the electoral process. He deliberately wants to skew the electoral environment to obstruct and constrict the opposition. Koroma plans on unleashing all available authoritarian methods and tactics to help his handpicked candidate.
These methods include the coercive use of the judiciary and police forces, the bribery of political actors and voters, and the crooked application of draconian legislations and judges. His ultimate aim is to prevent an opposition victory in this election.
He is desperately determined to do anything to subvert the democratic process and undermine the popular will of Sierra Leonean voters.
Yet, Koroma’s combined authoritarian methods and tactics against the opposition have so far failed to yield his desired intentions. His methods and tactics keep crashing against the resilience and determination of a growing opposition support base.
Bio has defied all the anti-democratic efforts and intrigues by Koroma and his gang of politicians. Now Koroma and his men are scared that they have to face Maada Bio in a second round with a defeated candidate who is growing more unpopular by the second.
It can be seen that Samura Kamara’s morale is already broken and he lacks the political energy to politically compete in a clean electoral contest. (Photo: Samura Kamara – right).
In reaction, the APC is now trying to patch together its fractured ranks. This approach means that Koroma has even swallowed his pride and despotic ego.
Over the last two weeks, Koroma has been begging the former ministers and other politicians he had sacked, humiliated, and marginalized to support his doomed successor.
These discredited politicians, once humiliated by Koroma, have now found renewed relevance in the APC. They have assembled themselves into a “new campaign team” that is equally backed by a few discredited APC elements in the media.
This makeshift group of discredited and disgraced political and media elements is determined to wage a media offensive against the victorious opposition forces in the country.
Their first subversive move has been to initiate a media campaign against the National Electoral Commission (NEC) and its staff.
These APC journalists and politicians have falsely alleged that the opposition spent five million United States dollars in bribes on electoral staff to rig the polls.
Their propaganda campaign was supplemented by Koroma’s use of the police service and judiciary to harass and intimidate NEC officials a few days ago.
These ugly developments are all part of renewed efforts by Ernest Koroma to create the basis to justify a planned rigging of the second-round elections in his party’s favour. They plan to discredit the NEC and, by extension, the results of the first round in order to deny the opposition its justified leading position against the APC ahead of the second round.
The logic of this APC attack on the image and reputation of the Electoral Commission, including the organized police harassment and intimidation of its staff, is a calculated effort by Ernest Koroma to create the basis for a planned rigging of the second-round elections. This is Koroma’s last-ditch effort to rescue his defeated candidate.
The question the opposition leadership and its supporters face now is: how will they respond to the reaction of the APC to its humiliating defeat in the first round? This question is crucial because the opposition must do whatever is required to deny the APC’s ongoing plan to subvert the electoral process.
The opposition must carefully examine this situation and they must understand that it is their responsibility to prevent the APC’s planned subversion of the popular will of the masses.
The opposition must prepare its own rank and file in anticipation of the rigging plans of the APC.
They must make it impossible for Ernest Koroma to forcefully impose Samura Kamara as president of the country without a mandate of the people.
Two points are crucial here. First, the opposition leadership and membership must understand that they are now facing a politically and morally defeated incumbent party, a defeated incumbent party that has galvanized its own demoralized forces to put up a dirty fight in this second round.
Second, there is no way out for the APC’s defeated candidate. Samura Kamara has no chances of survival in this second round.
Kamara is already a broken and defeated contender. The APC plans on rescuing Samura Kamara by subterranean and subversive efforts.
What does this actually mean in the real geometric of electoral politics?
It means that the opposition party activists and members must be absolutely ready and willing to secure the votes of the masses. They must protect and defend their electoral victory. The lessons of the first round are now a template that can be used in a more sophisticated way in this second round.
Concretely, all pro-democracy forces tasked with monitoring the voting process must not allow the APC to stuff ballot boxes in their own strongholds. They must vigilantly and efficiently watch the entire voting process. This task includes inspection of the voters’ registers.
It also involves the verification of the casting of ballots, and the surveillance of every activity in the polling stations, including the correct recording, tabulation, and computation of votes, and the monitoring of the tallying and reporting of total vote counts.
The resilience and robust determination of the opposition to protect and defend the votes is certainly the only insurance against the last-ditch plan of Ernest Koroma to steal the elections.
The APC’s early attempts have failed. For example, in the weeks before the first round, the APC paraded the length and breadth of the country with rented crowds organized in dancing masquerades designed to deceptively create the impression that Ernest Koroma and his unpopular handpicked candidates were the popular choice of the masses.
Koroma and his boot-licking media propagandists and social media vigilantes had claimed that the APC would win the elections on the first ballot. Koroma’s so-called “thank you tour” and these subsequent APC dancing crowds that followed were the initial rigging plans that failed to yield the desired outcome for the APC in the first round.
The failure of those plans happened mostly because the opposition was robust in monitoring the voting process. This left the APC with no opportunity to fully actualize its rigging plans at the ballot box.
But the second round has yet to come. The task of defending the ballots must include a strong willingness to defend the leadership of the Electoral Commission against the ongoing authoritarian methods of Ernest Koroma if the need arises.
The APC’s ongoing war against NEC is a clear indication of its obvious defeat. We must force Koroma and his APC to accept that they have completely lost the support of the people. They must understand that the ongoing bribery of certain politicians will certainly do nothing to balance the electoral scale in favour of Samura Kamara.
The failure of the financially induced dance parades to ensure an APC lead in the first round is clearly illustrative of how money will do nothing to change the swelling tide against the APC.
No declarations of support for the APC by any so-called third-party coalition or candidate will add any political value to the APC’s electoral chances in this second round. The popular political aspiration and electoral mood of the overwhelming majority of voters in Sierra Leone today is not driven by any declarations of small party candidates.
The growing tide against the APC is solely conditioned by the overwhelming anger and outrage against the suffocating corruption and kleptocratic conduct of Koroma’s regime.
The APC leadership’s arrogant belief that their stolen public wealth would successfully subvert the democratic aspirations of ordinary people is heading for a rude awakening.
Thus, the APC’s ongoing effort to empty the Central Bank into the pockets of certain politicians is pointless.
Koroma and his men should now clearly realize that their efforts will have no impacts on the decisions of ordinary voters.
The hundreds of billions of Leones already lavished on the street parades did not produce the APC’s desired outcomes in the first round. Why would this reality be different in the second round?
The earlier the APC leadership realizes that no amount of stolen money thrown at corrupt politicians will save Samura Kamara from continues defeat, the better it will be for the public budget.
The basic truth is that Samura Kamara is already defeated and broken. He has no chance of recovering in this second round. That is just the hard-fact the APC must try to accept.