Sierra Leone Telegraph: 29 October 2021:
Norbert Neuser – a Member of the European Parliament and the EU Election Follow-up Mission and his team, held discussions with former President Koroma – the outgoing Chairman and Leader of the main opposition All Peoples Congress (APC), at his residence in Freetown on Tuesday.
Neuser said that the Mission was in Freetown to follow up on the EU recommendations made after the country’s 2018 elections.
The EU has been a regular and very strong supporter of Sierra Leone’s Democratic process. One of its main activities is strengthening electoral management through provision of experts, logistics assistance and elections monitoring. Following such monitoring, the EU usually presents a report inclusive of recommendations.
After the conclusion of the controversial 2018 elections which the SLPP won by a very narrow margin of about 3 percentage points, the EU made 29 recommendations – “chief amongst which include improving on gender representation in elective positions, the management of elections particularly on the tallying and computation process and the general transparency of elections,” said the Mission’s Team Lead – Electoral Expert, Dominic Howell. (Photo above: Norbert Neuser, member of the European Parliament and the EU Election Follow-up Mission and his team meeting president Koroma last Tuesday in Freetown).
President Koroma reiterated his support for the implementation of the recommendations. He also shared his vast experience in the conduct of elections in Sierra Leone and Africa in general, and pointed out issues regarding transparency, integrity and credibility of elections.
The statesman emphasized that those are critical for acceptable and peaceful electoral outcomes.
In another development, former President Koroma also held a closed door meeting with Ambassador David Reimer, the American Ambassador to Sierra Leone. (Photo).
“I am very pleased to have met Ambassador Reimer; we had a great and frank discussion”, said former President Koroma.
Writing today about the high-level meetings former president Koroma has had with the international community this week, this is what Titus Boye-Thompson said:
Pressure continues to mount on the Sierra Leone Peoples Party’s Paopa government to accept what is expected to be the democratic outcome in the 2023 general elections and more particularly to have regard for the choices that the people would make in those polls by allowing for a level playing field and to create the conducive atmosphere for this to happen.
These sentiments appear to be the evocative statements being made by the flurry of diplomatic approaches and gestures toward the former President by almost all of the top development partners in Sierra Leone.
Continuing on from a couple of weeks ago when the EU Ambassador and the British High Commissioner visited the former President at his residence in Freetown on the same day, the EU Follow-on Team arrived in Freetown this week to assess progress made after the 2018 elections on the recommendations of the then EU observer team.
The EU Election Follow – Up Mission, led by Norbert Neuser, a member of the European Parliament held discussions with the outgoing Chairman and Leader of the All Peoples Congress Party, Dr Ernest Bai Koroma, at his residence in Freetown, Friday 29th October 2021.
According to a Press Release from the Europe Union office in Freetown, “the purpose of EU Election Follow Up Mission is to undertake a technical assessment of the state of implementation of the 29 recommendations made by the EU election Observation Mission back in 2018.” It is believed that the implementation of these recommendations would enhance the integrity, inclusiveness and transparency of the elections process in 2023, It will be recalled that one of these recommendations was for a fixed date for elections so that the habit of restructuring the electoral cycle is avoided as a means of adding extra time to presidential terms.
Following their deliberations with the APC Chairman and Leader, the EU delegation admitted that their intelligence speaks of decreasing trust in the essential institutions that would ultimately be responsible for the forthcoming 2023 General Elections , naming the Judiciary, NEC, PPRC and the Police.
These institutions have been identified as critical to a democratic process and the EU Follow-on team underpinned the importance of trust as a necessary ingredient to enable these institutions to do the right thing under the Constitution of Sierra Leone otherwise failure would result in a breakdown in the foundations of the democratic systems necessary for the credibility of the elections in 2023 to be maintained.
Addressing the EU Follow-Up Team, former President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma weighed in with support for the EU Observer team’s recommendations to be implemented. Drawing on his vast experience of elections management in Sierra Leone and Africa, the erstwhile African statesman pointed out issues that go directly to matters of transparency, integrity and credibility of elections and also touched on how these precepts relate to the import for peace, stability and an enhanced democratic dispensation within nations.
In another engagement, former President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma met with the Head of the US diplomatic mission to Sierra Leone, Ambassador David Reimer, after which the former President referred to their time together as being spent having “a great and frank discussion.” The American Ambassador was also upbeat about their engagement and is quoted as saying that the USA had a duty to the country, to see democracy flourish and as such, would not support one party over another.
Political observers have been rather apprehensive that these incessant calls for democracy, inclusiveness and credibility of the electoral process in Sierra Leone do indicate that the international community is applying mounting pressures on the ‘Paopa’ SLPP government of President Bio because they see that the record of this regime has been less than convincing of any ability to manage or supervise a free and fair electoral process in 2023.
The prospects of a regime change seem more and more plausible for what is seen to be a failing and wasteful government.
On the other hand, one could surmise that the development partners are reaching out so openly to the former President as the Chairman and Leader of the APC, the largest political party in the country, to demonstrate their acceptance of a continuing role for Dr Ernest Bai Koroma at the head of the Party as he continues to build a career as an African or Regional statesman.
These moves indicate that it would not be amiss to see the APC Chairman and Leader continue in the new role of Party Chairman under its new Constitution because of his demonstrably expert way of managing the affairs of the Party due to his vast experience of deepening democracy and upholding peaceful principles in the country. In short, Sierra Leone needs a stable hand to guide it through the rough times ahead!