Sierra Leone Telegraph: 31 March 2018:
In just a few hours the people of Sierra Leone will be going to the polls to elect a new president. But already, there are fears the country’s elections body – the National Electoral Commission may be planning to violate a High Court order, which calls for manual counting of votes at ward and constituency levels, before the results are transferred to its national counting centre to be entered into a national spreadsheet for final tallying.
In a statement published in response to the High Court order, NEC says it “will be enhancing its existing process” for the delivery of the runoff election. But legal analysts say that this will be contrary to the ruling of the High Court.
The country’s body representing senior lawyers – the Bar Association, has made its position clear. This is what it says:
“The Sierra Leone Bar Association (hereinafter “the Association”) expresses grave concern over recent developments pertaining to ongoing proceedings in the courts of Sierra Leone to which the National Electoral Commission (hereinafter “the Commission”) is a party.
“The Association is particularly concerned by the position of the Commission as represented by some of its representatives to mean that it will only comply with certain orders handed down by the High Court presided over by the Honourable Justice A.R. Mansaray that are in its opinion not in variance with the Constitution of Sierra Leone, Act No. 6 of 1991 and the Public Elections Act, Act No. 4 of 2012.
“It is the view of the Association that this position may amount to contempt for the court orders by the Commission if indeed interpreted to mean that it intends to comply only with those orders which in its subjective view are in compliance with the Constitution and the Public Elections Act 2012, thereby implying that there are certain orders of the Court that it will not comply with.
“The Association outrightly condemns and frowns on any attempt by the Commission or any other persons to bring public disrepute to the orders of a competent court and undermine the rule of law in contravention of the laws of Sierra Leone, and reiterates that the orders of a competent court stand and must be complied with unless and until they are varied or quashed by another competent or higher court.
“Furthermore, by the provisions of Section 170 sub-section (1) of the said Constitution of Sierra Leone:
“The laws of Sierra Leone shall comprise-
a. this Constitution;
b. laws made by or under the authority of parliament as established by this Constitution:
c. any *orders*, rules, regulations and other statutory instruments made by any person or authority pursuant to a power conferred in that behalf by this Constitution or any other law; … [*Emphasis*]
“The Association therefore admonishes the Commission to comply with the court orders in carrying out the electoral processes of the March 31st Second Presidential Election, guarantee the credibility of the entire electoral process, not undermine the rule of law and facilitate the exercise by each citizen of his/her democratic franchise in a free and fair atmosphere.
“The Association calls on all registered voters to go to the polls on the 31st March 2018 to exercise their democratic franchise and on all citizens to continue to be law abiding, desist from acts of violence and cooperate with the security forces to maintain law, peace and order.
“Meanwhile the Association remains committed to the objective of its 2018 Elections Project of “Fostering a Credible Electoral Process in Sierra Leone”.”
It now remains to be seen whether NEC will fully comply with the High Court demands tomorrow, or face massive condemnation with revulsion, and most likely another court case that could lead to its leadership kicked out of office, if not arrested for contempt of court.