Kabs Kanu: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 16 October 2023:
At long last, the mediated dialogue between the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) and the opposition All People’s Congress (APC) to break the political stalemate in the country begins today in Freetown, with the Commonwealth, the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) overseeing as negotiators.
The outcome of the dialogue will determine whether elected APC MPs, Mayors and councillors who had boycotted their seats in protest over the rigging of the 2023 elections — as confirmed by the U.S, Britain, France, Netherlands and international elections observers including the Carter Centre, the European Union ( EU ) Observer Mission and the National Elections Watch ( NEW ) of Sierra Leone — will return and the opposition will work with the ruling SLPP to govern Sierra Leone.
The United States, angry with the scale and impunity of the rigging of the elections by the SLPP, has suspended the Millennium Challenge Corporation ( MCC) U.S $400 million grant won by the government and imposed travel ban on all those who undermined the elections in Sierra Leone.
The U.S has appealed to the APC MPs, mayors and councillors to return to parliament and the councils, while giving the SLPP the conditions to dialogue with the opposition and to make meaningful reforms that will forestall the occurrence of elections rigging in Sierra Leone.
The U.S demand is however a difficult proposition for the APC because the grassroots of the party have rejected any suggestion of MPs , Mayors and councillors taking their seats and are demanding a re-run of the 2023 elections in the interests of strengthening and deepening democracy in Sierra Leone.
Cokorioco newspaper has been sounding the opinions of grassroots members of the APC and stakeholders and supporters of the party; and from all their responses, the APC rank-and- file have resolved not to go back to Parliament or the councils and only want a re-run of the elections.
Social media is also seething with audios and videos produced by partisans of the APC demanding a re-run of the elections. Some of the audios and videos are replete with very harsh language and even profanities and threatening remarks about dire consequences for the leadership of the APC if it accepts any resolution of this governance stalemate other than a re-run of the elections.
Last week, the EU released its final report on the elections, and it was damning and damaging to the SLPP, providing statistical data and facts to conclude that no presidential candidate reached the threshold of 55% to avoid a runoff.
In essence, the EU demonstrated that nobody won the elections and insinuating that it was fraudulent of the Elections Commission of Sierra Leone ( ECSL ) to declare the SLPP‘s presidential candidate – Maada Bio, as the winner of the elections.
I spoke to some SLPP supporters and they rejected the notion of a re-run of the elections. They asserted that only the Supreme Court has the power to annul an election and order a re-run. They said that the APC bungled the opportunity to have the Supreme Court make any decision because the APC failed to file a lawsuit at the court challenging the results of the elections. Also, as far as they are concerned, the SLPP won the elections.
The results of the 2023 elections announced by the chairman of the Sierra Leone Elections Commission, Mr. Mohamed Konneh, exacerbated the political crisis in the country and produced a governance impasse with the APC boycott that prompted the intervention of the Commonwealth, the AU and ECOWAS.
It remains to be seen what this mediated dialogue will achieve, with relations between the SLPP and APC seriously polarized and supporters of both parties apparently holding firm to their respective positions.