Sierra Leone Telegraph: 23 March 2018:
Calls for a peaceful, free, fair and credible runoff election next week in Sierra Leone are growing, as well as condemnation of the increasing use of violence, intimidation and tribalism by political actors to deny voters their constitutional rights.
The President of the ECOWAS Commission – Mr. Jean-Claude Kassi Brou arrived in Freetown yesterday for a three-day working visit. He is holding talks with the outgoing President Ernest Bai Koroma and leaders of the two main political parties, ahead of presidential runoff election taking place on Tuesday, March 27th.
President Koroma told Jean-Claude Brou that he is committed to peaceful transfer of power through credible election. Political analysts say that should president Koroma believe that the elections are not credible, he is unlikely to hand power over to the winner. This could be problematic for the country’s peace.
The ECOWAS president is accompanied by the Commissioner of Political Affairs who is also meeting with the National Electoral Commission, civil society groups, the media and security forces to discuss the elections. His visit comes in the wake of violent clashes between the two main political parties and reports of police intimidation of Electoral Commission staff.
In another development, the Head of the African Union Election Observation Mission to Sierra Leone, H.E. Kgalema Motlan has expressed dismay at the worrisome prevalence of election-related violence which is increasingly becoming wide-spread across the country, including an incident that occurred in Bo City in which a staff member of the National Electoral Commission was reportedly injured.
Kgalema Motlan is condemning all acts of violence which are inimical to the holding of democratic elections. He is calling on the All Peoples’ Party (APC) and the Sierra Leone Peoples’ Party (SLPP) and their supporters to take immediate steps to avoid all acts of violence and intimidation, as well as acts and utterances that could undermine the credibility of the electoral process and the legitimacy of next week’s results.
Today, the Commonwealth Africa Initiative has issued a statement
This is what it says:
The Commonwealth Africa Initiative is gravely concerned at the incidences of violence and communal tensions in the Republic of Sierra Leone, over the course of the first round of the 2018 elections.
These issues must be addressed ahead of the presidential run-off election, scheduled for next Tuesday, March 27.
The manifestation of unlawful acts by a section of members across the political spectrum is unacceptable. The actions of the two leading political parties the All People’s Congress Party, the Sierra Leone People’s Party, as well as the government’s perceived inaction to deal with the situation has led to the loss of life and destruction of property.
It is incumbent on the government of Sierra Leone to ensure that civil society, media and opposition groups can participate in the electoral process without fear and intimidation.
The security agencies have a responsibility to act within the laws of the land as well as adherence to their professional codes of conduct. They should ensure that their actions in exercising their mandate remain within the dictates of the law.
We have learnt with dismay that there have been recurrent attacks and intimidation on opposition groups and the NEC ahead of the re-run election.
Rights groups also reported the loss of lives, injuries and destruction of property in acts of violence including a recent attack in Bio.
We also find the recent restrictions placed on freedom of movements during the elections in the country deeply troubling. These restrictions, intimidation and violence can only serve to undermine the rule of law in the country.
Additionally, the Commonwealth Africa Initiative continues to receive reports pointing to tribal hate speech from key political leaders in the country. These acts also undermine the electoral code of conduct signed by all political parties in the spirit of levelling the playing field and ensuring the delivery of a credible process.
The orchestrated campaign to divide the country along tribal lines must end and serve only to undermine the democratic process in the country. Such actions threaten the stability of Sierra Leone and indeed the ECOWAS sub-region.
The international community must take a firm stand against such efforts, and the intimidation of opposition parties, journalists and activists in Sierra Leone as the country prepares for the presidential run-off election later this month.
Indeed, it is high time the international community take meaningful action regarding the situation in Sierra Leone by calling an emergency UN Security Council meeting to address the issue. The international community must act now to prevent a repeat of civil conflict in Sierra Leone.
The Commonwealth Africa Initiative believe that the integrity of the 2018 electoral process hangs in the balance. More delays and a failure to hold accountable those parties who have committed serious abuses and malpractices will compromise the credibility of the government. Inaction will only dampen the international community’s ability and willingness to engage with the government of Sierra Leone. (End).
About the Commonwealth Africa Initiative
The Commonwealth Africa Initiative is a Pan Commonwealth organisation with a mandate to promote the interest of the African bloc of the Commonwealth of Nations and foster more opportunities for Commonwealth Citizens and Businesses from Africa. Through her scholarship program and exchange activities, the initiative helps to foster economic prosperity for Commonwealth Nations in Africa.
The initiative champions Sustainable development, economic prosperity, security and good governance across Commonwealth countries in Africa. CAFI works to achieve this mission by working in partnership with the Commonwealth, African Government, public and private institutions, as well as other regional and international development partners.