Sylvanus Fornah Koroma: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 14 August 2023:
The current political impasse in Sierra Leone can be visible and sadly seen in the country’s Parliament, which clearly shows that the Parliament is a One-Party Parliament, designed and created by the country’s Chief Electoral Commissioner’s refusal to publish the June 24 election results. This anomaly is totally at odds with Section 38 A (2) of the 1991 Constitution as amended.
Section 38 A (2) of the 1991 Constitution states: “In the district block representation system, the election shall be contested in each specified district by political parties for the block or number of seats in Parliament allocated to the district by or under an Act of Parliament and the political parties shall be allocated seats in Parliament by the Electoral Commission on the basis of their proportional share of the total district vote.”
The main opposition APC has decided not to be involved in any form of governance with the ruling SLPP in order not to legitimize what has been dubbed as rigged election, has effectively reduced Parliament to a One-party fiefdom.
Section 38 A (2) of the 1991 Constitution clearly indicates that parliamentarians did not and do not contest as independent individuals, and that the district block representation is as per the 1991 Constitution mandatorily contested by political parties.
Therefore, in such a system, it is the position of the political parties that matters and not the individual candidates. It is misleading to say for instance that people voted for Hon. Mohamed Bangura. It must be noted that individuals were not voted for, so wherein there is a conflict between the individual and the Party, the Party’s position holds sway.
But the real issue for Sierra Leone today is the refusal of the Electoral Commission to publish all disaggregated results of the June 24 elections. This is a recipe for trouble in Sierra Leone.
Publication of those results must be clean, transparent, and fair to prevent further contentions. It is mischievous and disingenuous to ask the political parties (in particularly, the APC) to first produce its own results.
The onus is on ECSL to first produce and then publish the results because it is part of their primary function. And it is for this reason that independent sources, for instance the National Elections Watch (NEW), had to wait in compliance with the strong advocacy that ECSL and the security apparatus held prior to the elections wherein it was stated that ECSL is the body mandated to first announce and publish the elections results.
The political parties and other relevant stakeholders had Results Reconciliation Forms (RRF), and the purpose for having these forms is to determine the veracity of the results that the ECSL shall have published by law.
Undoubtedly, there is chaos looming, and the ECSL must act swiftly to prevent the deterioration of the situation in Sierra Leone.
The All Peoples Congress (APC) has taken an unprecedented political decision, refusing to participate in any form of governance determined by the ECSL. Additionally, the APC states that they will only accept the ECSL’s results once they publish the disaggregated results in a transparent manner, and not the allegedly manipulated announcement of ECSL Konneh’s outcome.
The APC’s stance has resulted in an impasse in Parliament, many Local Councils, and visibly mounting tensions both domestically and among Sierra Leoneans in the diaspora, who are united in supporting the APC’s call for the ECSL to prevent conflict in Sierra Leone.
Now, it is essential for sincere and concerned Sierra Leoneans to stand up for the truth, becoming champions in safeguarding the nation from potential threats of war, which seem to be brewing, evident in the numerous demonstrations initiated and sustained by Sierra Leoneans in the diaspora.
If Mr. Julius Maada Bio himself acknowledged that ‘rigged elections will lead to war,’ it’s puzzling why some Sierra Leoneans are seemingly ignoring the critical situation the country currently faces. This crisis is directly attributed to the ECSL’s refusal to publish the disaggregated results, which amounts to the manipulation of election outcomes. Sierra Leoneans must cease being hypocritical and join in demanding that the ECSL must publish the results.
Religious leaders should take the lead in this matter, encouraging their congregations to demand that the ECSL publish the disaggregated results. Leaders and followers from all walks of life should consider it a moral imperative to demand transparency from the ECSL. This discussion must be held wherever Sierra Leoneans find themselves, until the necessary steps are taken.
So why is the ECSL refusing to be transparent and honest with the people of Sierra Leone?
First, I will start by looking into the hurried nature of changing the Country’s electoral laws just to beat the provision in Chapter 1, Section 2 of Article 2 (1) of the Protocol A/SP1/12/01 on Democracy and Good Governance Supplementary to the Protocol relating to the Mechanism For Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security which provides that: ‘No substantial modification shall be made to the electoral laws in the last six (6) months before the elections, except with the consent of a majority of Political actors’.
The Public Elections Act, 2022, that was passed in Parliament on July 27, 2022, was assented by the President on September 6, 2022, and Gazetted on September 20, 2022, ‘provided laws that are not in the very law itself,’ and this forms part of the recipe for the impasse that Sierra Leone now finds itself.
For instance, Section 93 of the Public Elections Act, 2022, (PEA, 2022) under the marginal note ‘Publication of Results’ states: “As soon as may be after the National Returning Officer has declared the result of the election or elections under subsection (4) of section 93, the Electoral Commission shall publish the results so declared in the case of an election of –
- President, in the manner prescribed in section 52; and
- Members of Parliament, by Government Notice and in any other manner as he may think fit.
It is certainly very critical and much more important to state what the law provides for both the referenced section 52 of the Public Elections Act, 2022. More so, the said provision is in relation to paragraphs (e) and (f) of section 42 of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone which throws light for Sierra Leoneans see, know or even question as to why the ECSL has so far refused to publish the elections results even though it is provided for as per law. But, first, it must be noted that there is no section 93 subsection (4) as per the Public Elections Act, 2022. Therefore, I am not incorrect to say that the hurriedly passed law made laws that are not in the law.
But let us endeavour to forge ahead and assume that it is a de minimis just so we can move and unravel the myth behind the ECSL’s refusal to publish the June 24 multi-tier elections, now dubbed as the broad day light electoral robbery of the electorate’s rights. And let us further assume that it is a typographical error that meant to state section 92 subsection (4), which has as its marginal note ‘Certificate of result by District Returning Officer’ and it states : The National Returning Officer shall, upon receipt of the summaries referred to in subsection (3), cause those summaries to be tallied and computed and shall at the end forthwith declare the result of the election or elections as follows –
- in the case of the election for a President held the same day, in the manner prescribed in section 51, and ensure that the statements of the result of the polls and the sealed packages containing the voting papers and all other documents relating to the election, including all forms whether used or not, are securely kept by the Electoral Commission; and
- in the case of an election of the Member of Parliament, the number of votes cast for each constituency candidate.
For ease of reference, sections 51 and 52 of the Public Elections Act, 2022, and as well as the constitutional provision as referenced i.e., section 42 subsection (2) paragraphs (e) and (f) of the Constitution gives clear perspective of the problem that has emanated from the ECSL’s refusal and denial to publish the June 24 elections.
Section 51 with the marginal note ‘Declaration of election result’ states in 51 (1): A Presiding Officer shall, after the expiration of the time fixed for polling, count the votes, polling station by polling station, certify the result of the counting, stating the number of valid votes cast in favour of each presidential candidate to the District Returning Officer, who shall in turn certify the result to the Regional Returning Officer and the Regional Returning Officer shall in turn certify the result to the National Returning Officer.
51 (2): As soon as possible after receipt of the result of the counting of votes under subsection (1), the Returning Officer shall tally and compute the results certified to him by various Presiding Officers and shall after that declare the result of the election.
Section 52 which has the marginal note ‘Certification of election and publication of result’ states: The National Returning Officer shall, after declaring the presidential election –
- subject to paragraph (e) and (f) of subsection (2) of section 42 of the Constitution, issue to the successful candidate a certificate of election in the form prescribed in Form B in the Fifth Schedule; and
- as soon as possible, cause the result of the election to be published by notice in the Gazette and in any other manner that he may think fit. [***Please, please, please take your time to take note of this special paragraph for the purpose of this article and read it in tandem with section 54 (1) of the PEA 2022. ***]
Section 42 of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone provides: 42 (2) (e): no person shall be elected as President of Sierra Leone unless at the Presidential election he has polled not less than fifty- five per cent of the valid votes cast in his favour; and
42 (2) (f): in default of a candidate being duly elected under paragraph (e), the two candidates with the highest numbers of votes shall go forward to a second election which shall be held within fourteen days of the announcement of the result of the previous election, and the candidate polling the higher number of votes cast in his favour shall be declared as President.
From the above statutory and constitutional provisions, it is clearly spelt out that the elections results MUST be published.
In fact, it is in the laws that the elections results must be published by notice in the Gazette as soon as possible. So, for those who say and still think that the laws of Sierra Leone do not provide for the ECSL to publish the elections results must stop deceiving themselves.
Those who are deceiving themselves must also be mindful of the phrase regarding the publishing of the results which states, ‘as soon as possible’. This phrase has been abused by ECSL (* this is a serious matter for the Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate pursuant to sections 42 and 43 of the Anti-Corruption Act, 2008, dealing with abuse of office and abuse of position respectively) as it has taken almost two months since the elections were held and said results are yet to be published.
Section 42 of the Anti-Corruption Act, 2008, deals with the abuse of office states: 42 (1) Any public officer who uses his office to improperly confer an advantage on himself or any other person commits an offence. 42 (2) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (1) shall on conviction be liable to a fine not less than thirty million leones or to imprisonment for a term not less 3 years or to both such fine and imprisonment.
Section 43 of the same which deals with the abuse of position states: “A public officer who knowingly abuses his position in the performance or failure to perform an act, in contravention of any law , in the discharge of his functions or duties has commit an offence and shall on conviction be liable to fine not less than thirty million leones or to imprisonment for a term not less than 3 years or to both fine and imprisonment.”
In publishing the elections results, the National Returning Officer i.e., the Chief Electoral Officer must note that a summary of the results should be clear enough to capture the picture of the entire results in its disaggregated manner taking cognizance of the works of the Districts and Regional Returning Officers functions and duties to the declared results.
In other words, the summary results must fully capture the certified results that are supplied to the relevant elections stakeholders as per section 92 subsection (2) of the Public Elections Act, 2022, which states: “Certified copies of the summary compiled under subsection (1) shall be supplied to observers or counting agents present at the office of the District Returning Officer.”
It must be noted that the District Officer upon receipt of the results of the polling stations in the district under his/her supervision, is mandated to compile a summary of all the statements of the results from the polling stations concerned; and certify as many copies as may be required of each summary to the Regional Returning Officer showing the number of votes cast for each constituency candidate or, as the case may be, each candidate in any other election held on the same day.
Looking at what the law states, it is becoming obvious that the ECSL has deliberately refused to publish the elections results to favour the SLPP candidates as against the other candidates.
This wrongful action/inaction by ECSL has led to the swearing into offices of persons who undeservedly took oath of office in hope that the ECSL action/inaction will not be challenged and would not be reversed.
The ECSL action/inaction is a dangerous recipe for trouble in Sierra Leone, and this must not be allowed and must be stopped at all costs, otherwise if the ECSL’s decision is allowed to stay and not corrected now, then Sierra Leone is doomed for trouble, and it would have killed the country’s hard earned and fought for democracy.
In Part Two of this series, I will explain why the ECSL hastily made the announcement that has been dubbed ‘rigged elections,’ without providing evidence to substantiate the veracity of its announcement.