One woman’s plea for justice in Sierra Leone – Is anyone listening?

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 4 July 2019:

Hariyatu Bangura is a young woman in Sierra Leone, fighting for justice, after her parliamentary seat won at the hotly contested general elections held in the country in March last year to represent her local constituency 116, was unconstitutionally taken away from her, and then handed to a ruling party candidate without any right to appeal.

According to the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) who filed a High Court petition against her electoral victory, Hariyatu had contravened the country’s constitution and was therefore unqualified to contest the election, on allegations that she did not resign her public service job at least twelve months before the election was held.

But investigations carried out by the Sierra Leone Telegraph, proves that Hariyatu was indeed qualified to contest the election.

Evidence was obtained by the Sierra Leone Telegraph, showing that Hariyatu had resigned her full-time paid job, on the 6th of March 2017, working for the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to become a politician – representing her community in the country’s male dominated parliament.

General elections were held in Sierra Leone on 7 March 2018, which means that Hariyatu had gone for at least twelve months, without receiving salary from the public purse. Yet, she is being unfairly accused of violating electoral laws, and worse – electoral fraud.

Sierra Leone’s parliament consists of a total of 146 members, of which only 17 are Women. Hariyatu’s dream was to one day become a member of parliament to represent her constituency and fight for the empowerment of women in public life.

Though her ambition was achieved on the 7th of March 2018, when she was overwhelmingly elected by her community as member of parliament for constituency 116, that dream was cut short by the High court and the ruling SLPP last month, based on what clearly appears to be falsified evidence presented to the High Court.

So, was Hariyatu unqualified to contest the 2018 elections? 

Section 75 of the 1991 Constitution says that: “Subject to the provisions of section 76, any person who is a citizen of Sierra Leone (otherwise than by naturalization); and has attained the age of twenty-one years; and is an elector whose name is on a register of electors under the Franchise and Electoral Registration Act, 1961, or under any Act of Parliament amending or replacing that Act; and is able to speak and to read the English Language with a degree of proficiency sufficient to enable him to take an active part in the proceedings of Parliament, shall be qualified for election as such a Member of Parliament”.

Hariyatu met all of those qualifications.

Secondly, the constitution also says that: “No person shall be qualified for election as a Member of Parliament; if he/she is a member of any Commission established under this Constitution, or a member of the Armed Forces of the Republic, or a public officer, or an employee of a Public Corporation established by an Act of Parliament, or has been such a member, officer or employee within twelve months prior to the date on which he seeks to be elected to Parliament.”

General elections were held in Sierra Leone on 7 March 2018 and Hariyatu ceased to be an employee of the state on the 6th of March 2017, according to a letter from her employer – the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission, certifying to that effect.

In order to ensure full transparency of the nomination process before elections are held, Section 62 of the 2012 Public Elections Act requires that: “A list of candidates delivered by a political party shall be accompanied by a statutory declaration made by the National Chairman and Secretary of that party, stating that– (a) each candidate has accepted his nomination in writing; (b) every candidate on the list is qualified to be elected as an ordinary member of Parliament under section 75 of the Constitution; and (c) no candidate on the list is disqualified for election as a member of Parliament under section 76 of the Constitution.”

Furthermore, Section 63 requires that: “(1) A voter of the electoral area in which a candidate intends to contest an election may at any time up to five o’clock in the afternoon of the last appointed day for the receipt of nominations, object to the nomination of that candidate on any of the grounds set out in subsection (2).”

The political party to which Hariyatu belong and under whose ticket she contested the 2018 election, had fully complied with the above legal requirement which was evidently accepted by the Electoral Commission.

Furthermore, other candidates contesting the same election had the opportunity to raise the Red Flag against Hariyatu’s nomination, if there was any irregularities. But they failed to do so, clearly because they had no evidence of wrongdoing.

The letter from the Anti-corruption Commission which clearly shows that Hariyatu had left her job at least twelve months before the election, was signed by the Head of the Anti-Corruption Commission – Mr Francis Ben Kaifala, who no doubt would have warned Hariyatu of any possible breach of the constitution, had she failed to resign her job with the commission, at least twelve months before the elections were held.

Was the Anti-Corruption Commission subpoenaed to testify before the High Court? No.

Did the High Court examine the evidence from Hariyatu’s Bank? No.

The only evidence considered for judgement by the High Court, was that which was brought to the court by those who wanted to grab Hariyatu’s hard won parliamentary seat. And with the help of the High Court, they succeeded.

All the evidence investigated by the Sierra Leone Telegraph regarding Hariyatu’s case, suggest a gross miscarriage of justice and a serious violation of the country’s constitution that must be overturned very quickly, as justice delayed is justice denied.

But it was the behaviour of senior officials of the country’s Parliament that has raised eyebrows and brought much disrepute to the institution, after they hurriedly sworn-in ruling party candidates, who were replacing those MPs whose seats had been taken away from them by the decision of the court, including Hariyatu.

The swearing-in of those ruling party MPs benefitting from the court’s ruling, just hours after the ruling was announced, was a mistake, unnecessary, unconstitutional and a provocation to the opposition parties who felt injustice had been done.

So, was the speaker of parliament right to immediately invite ruling party MPs to fill those annulled seats without the completion of legal due process through the court of appeal?

According to the Public Elections Act 2012: “If the High Court determines that a candidate returned as elected was not duly elected and that the election was void, then the candidate’s seat shall become vacant from the time of the notice of decision of the High Court and if notice of appeal from that decision has been given within fourteen days, the seat shall remain vacant for the period until the determination of the Court of Appeal is given on the appeal or the appeal is abandoned.”

Clearly the Speaker of parliament was wrong to have filled those vacant parliamentary seats before the Appeals Court hearing.

So how does Hariyatu feels about this miscarriage of justice?

This is what she said to the editor of the Sierra Leone Telegraph – Mr Abdul Rashid Thomas:

“I Hariyatu Ariana Bangura of Constituency 116 was duly elected as member of Parliament – polling 15,884 votes, representing 63.1%, has been thrown out of parliament on the erroneous submission to the court that I have been receiving salary from the consolidated fund up to 23rd April, 2018 against the laws guiding elections.

“Sad to say that even where never a thing like that occurred, a fake document was presented to the court making that assertion. The Bank statement presented in court is not mine.

“Pay slips from the ACC and letter from the ACC Commissioner Mr. Francis Ben Kaifala which I have sent to the Sierra Leone Telegraph for investigation, clearly states that I last received public salary in February 2017. So where did this mischief come from?

“Why should somebody be so cruel to destroy my determination and the people’s mandate to represent them and give the leadership we deserve? Do I deserve a bad reputation nationally and internationally for choosing to serve my constituency and the people of this country – more especially the women folk?

“Justice is all I ask for now, trusting that God will intervene on our behalf.”

This is Hariyatu speaking to Abdul Rashid Thomas:

 

11 Comments

  1. How can the complainant get the letter from the Anti-corruption Commission which clearly shows that Hariyatu had left her job at least twelve months before the election, was signed by the Head of the Anti-Corruption Commission – Mr Francis Ben Kaifala, who no doubt would have warned Hariyatu of any possible breach of the constitution, had she failed to resign her job with the commission, at least twelve months before the elections were held.

    First of all, was Mr Kelfala the seating anti-corruption chief in March 2017 when the plaintiff should have tendered her resignation letter or was it Mr Ade Macauley? When was Mr Kelfalla sworn in as chief anti corruption boss was it in 2017 or 2018 or was his signature based on records available?

  2. The Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) have always been a ROGUE PARTY, and they will ever be so. It is highly unlikely for them to win national elections with their less than 40% constituent base. This is the critical phenomenon that the All Peoples Congress (APC) party, including other opposition parties, have to watch for in the next elections. All opposition parties should be very alert at all times, and not be complacent.

    Apparently, it doesn’t look like Mr Bio wants to leave State House after his mandated period. Now, he is wasting the country’s resources visiting some of the current dictators in Africa with the pretext of learning. What is he learning about – the art of monopolizing power, like his new friend, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda?

    Perhaps Mr Bio and his crooked gang should think again … that Sierra Leone is unique from most African countries with respect to her regional demographics.

    The SLPP pretend to eradicate corruption even though they are the most corrupt party in the country. Imagine, disenfranchising the people of 10 constituencies, all in the name of a technical fraud engineered to beef up their numbers in parliament – to what level of corruption would one equate this horrendous and filthy act?

  3. If the findings are true, then let justice prevail. We have the courts to decide, not biased party individuals. Let Mrs. Hariyatu Bangura continue to fight her case in the courts and of course with the help of the media and the support of every peace loving Sierra Leonean. We as Sierra Leoneans badly need good and professional institutions, independent of political influence.

  4. JUSTICE MUST PREVAIL

    For Sierra Leone to prosper and enjoy the blessings nature has granted us, our attitudes must be based on the truth, fairness, God fearing, and unconditional respect for our Magna Carta at all times, with due regatd for the feelings and rights of others. Our actions must be God centred!! Let me borrow this paragraph from the WHOLY WORDS TEACHINGS:

    Countries and people that help fulfill what could be called God’s supreme command – proclaiming the truth based on the divine principles and accomplishing the divine plan of God – will become places and people that are granted inexplicable miracles, will flourish and fortuitously encounter the sublime time of heaven. (prosperity).

  5. There are thieves that steal items of value that can be replaced, and there are others whose specialties are to ruin,and destroy lives completely,without feeling any remorse at all.Is this what this inept,fabricated,false entity, now in power calls strengthening the pillars of Justice, promoting, and enhancing the Rule of Law? Is it right, and proper to cheat,and rob others of what rightfully belongs to them,through underhanded,shady ways,and the blatant abuse of sovereign powers?

    Is it an honorable altitude for someone to twist,and manipulate the law to give themselves the political advantage over others? Listen,the worst kinds of criminals,are those who do things in a hurry,from fear of being caught. See how they robbed Ms Bangura,and 10 other MP’s and hurriedly ran as fast as they could to swear their own into office. Goodness gracious!

    These people are corrupt to the innermost core of their incompetent selves. On what sensible,lawful grounds can you legitimately,declare invalid,a massive turnout of 63 percent voter approval for Ms Bangura who has done no wrong? What about the people who choose her to represent them? Do they have a say, or don’t their opinions matter to you? That is a plain,and outright malicious act of disenfranchising voters. Terrible!

    Why not have a fair,and impartial Rerun? Truth is, they didn’t even consider it,because these are men in a hurry,trying to make good their escape,with what they had craftily stolen. The SLPP should be ashamed of themselves,for tainting their reputations through broad daylight robberies. Whatever happened to dignity,and integrity in service to the nation?

    They should organise Bye Elections quickly,and settle the matter respectfully,and peacefully, or give Ms Bangura,and others their parliamentary seats back. Geez! They brag about fighting corruption,and they are corrupt to the bone. Come on guys,Give the lady back what rightfully belongs to her,and quit taking advantage of the vulnerabilities of women.

    Show some amount respect,for once to diligent,thoughtful,hard working women – Shame on the SLPP government,for not practicing what they are preaching from rooftops,but totally the opposite.Since when did cheating become a widely acceptable norm in leadership,and national governance -Fight them tooth and nail,Ms Bangura,until Justice is served,Fight them,tirelessly,many of us willl always be on your side..Rising Sun Will Rise Again.

  6. Ever heard someone say convincingly,that the truth always have a special fragrance attached to it that resembles the sweet smells of Jasmine,peppermints,aloes,and soothing lavender oils,and lotions? That subdues and incapacitates lies,like a Lion,its frightened prey?

    Thank you Sir, for putting Mr Sandy where he belongs,in the dark,deceptive valleys of deceit. Election Facts Checker – keeping opponents in check, nullifying, and invalidating all possible threats against the truth – Checkmate!

  7. APC parliamentarians lose seats. A historical perspective may shed light upon this case. After the 2012 harmonized presidential and general elections, the APC party petitioned 2 already sworn in and seated SLPP parliamentarians (the number does not matter, it’s the principles).

    At trial, Justice Showers, the presiding judge in the case, at the time in question, had dismissed the petitions against the two SLPP candidates (now seating parliamentarians), as having no legal and judicial basis in fact and declared them to be no more than political grand standing, and or political maneuvering against the elected SLPP parliamentarians – Ansu Lansana of Constituency 05 and Captain Hafiju Kanja of Constituency 15 respectively.

    It must be noted that both of these cases were brought forward by the defeated APC non-elected parliamentarians, Hon. Macarthy and Dr B.M. Kamada in cohort with the larger political APC organization, who often brags about having unlimited supply of political acumen in winning elections, with 99 tactical electoral manoeuvrability.

    However, the learned Judge? through a non-surprising combination of judicial misconduct, cowardice or incompetence had dropped the proverbial “ball” into the wrong hands. There goes the Sierra Leone judiciary, indeed.He had, by all accounts, either design, or by simple distraction or disinterest in judicial proceedings, which he may have been trained in, abdicated his moral, ethical or legal responsibilities, to the rogue, then National Electoral Commission Chairman, who was apparently in the pocket of the ruling APC government.

    She then became judge and jury, by declaring these two constituencies null and void. And she didn’t just stop there. The two petitioners were then sworn in as the new Parliamentarians for constituencies they clearly did not win. She was later to be handsomely rewarded and compensated as, no less, Minister of Social Welfare and Children’s Affairs, a failed department of the government.

    This department seems to be a reserve for political hacks. Witness the “Mammy cuss of yester years?”. Mrs. Christiana Thorpe, has earlier nullified the entire electoral votes, legitimately cast in the Kailahun district, a very, very, stronghold of the SLPP party in order to give the victory to the APC party, who clearly did not win the 2012 election, had the Kailahun District votes been legitimately included and counted towards the national electoral tally and thus were included in the final results. Unfortunately, it was never to be. Every body knew that. The world knew that.

    That indeed was the beginning of the defeat of the APC party, come 2018. The APC party had even blamed foreign interference abstemiously, to tilt the election towards the SLPP. The former president of Ghana, an appointee by the Commonwealth Office to monitor the election in its behalf, would not escape such a crude characterization.

    Recall the loud and vociferous so-called rebranding mouthpiece, now almost defunct Sommerset, New Jersey based Newspaper, Cocorioko, whose publisher was appointed Minister Plenipotentiary at the United Nations, no less in New York, effectively placing him on the government dole. But the die has already been cast long time ago since 2012, well before 2018 elections.

    Then Mrs. Thorpe, without due process: calling for elections as mandated in the Sierra Leone constitution, went on to order the National Electoral Commission to nullify all votes cast in favor of both Ansu Lansana and Captain Hafiju Kanja in the parliamentary elections because of a breach of court injunctions.

    I sympathize with Hariyatu Bangura, the petitioner in the current case for remedy, but where was she when all this happened, Ironically, she was even working for the ACC and she must have known better by speaking out at least as a civic responsibility.

    This is how the defeated APC parliamentarians became seating APC parliamentarians. So here we are today and this is how we came to this point.

    On a wider environment, this is indeed, a clear case of electoral malfeasance that permeates the entire electoral landscape of almost all African countries, where election rigging, by whatever means necessary is the order of the day and the only way most current governments are indeed in power today or maintain their ignominious hold onto power.

    So Mrs. Hariyatu Bangura must move on and wait for the next election. Sierra Leone is not Kenya. It’s never going to happen.

    • Murray Sandy, APC did not petition SLPP election candidates in 2012. Thats false information and an attempt to twist the facts to cover up SLPP’s current injustices against APC. This is what really happened:

      SLPP Parliamentarian Hon. Sam May Macarthy had dragged SLPP/John Benjamin/Sulaiman Banja Tejansie/Ansu Lansana to Court on 8th October 2012 on a Writ of Summons filed by famous Human Rights Lawyer, the late J.B. Jenkins Johnston, saying Macarthy’s human rights and right to his SLPP membership had been abused by SLPP, fraudulently presenting Ansu Lansana as an SLPP Member and faking SLPP Receipts for him; and also that Lansana had not resigned from a paid Government office where he had been appointed by the APC on a Bank’s Board of Directors.

      So Macarthy asked for an Injunction to be placed against the SLPP as a party; against John Benjamin as Chairman; against Banja Tejan-Sie as Secretary General; against Ansu Lansana as proposed SLPP candidate so as for Macarthy’s human rights to continue to be the SLPP parliamentary candidate was looked into and upheld.

      The High Court ordered that until the complaint was concluded, they ordered for Ansu Lansana not to contest the elections under SLPP, given the seriousness of the allegations that he/SLPP had abused the rights of Macarthy.

      However, NEC/Dr. Christiana Thorpe allowed Ansu Lansana to contest in flagrant violation of the High Court Orders. It created discombobulation. What would have been best was for the Elections to have been postponed.

      The Law gave all powers to Dr. Christiana Thorpe to have postponed that Election in that particular constituency. Why she allowed that Constituency Election to go on; with SLPP contesting those elections in flagrant violation of the High Court Orders, is something that has always left many perplexed.

      Rather, they ALL (SLPP/NEC/Ansu) openly defied the Judge and went on to contest! Some say it was because Ansu was a friend of President Koroma. But there is also the strong belief in some quarters that Dr. Christiana Thorpe may have believed the SLPP was going to win the 2012 Elections. So instead of postponing that particular Election, she allowed the SLPP to contest in complete defiance of the Court Orders!

      The Judge, Justice Adeliza Showers, was naturally upset that her Court Orders were flouted and when giving her final ruling, she used the chance to enforce the powers of the High Court and why High Court Orders should always be obeyed.

      So she said since NEC/SLPP/Ansu Lansana had gone on with the Election and allowed Ansu’s face to be on the Ballot in violation of her Court Orders, she was ordering Christiana Thorpe to now do what she had said and not count any ballot on the Nov 17th 2012 elections that had Ansu Lansana’s face on them. She said no matter what happens, when a Court gives an Order, it should have been obeyed.

      Ladies & Gentlemen, this is the honest truth of what happened in the 2012 elections, which SLPP are now using (bonically – PAOPA) as a precedent.

      THE EXACT SAME SCENARIO UNFOLDED IN KENEMA between SLPP Honourable Brima Kamanda and SLPP’s Capt. Hafiju Kanja. Same story that Kamanda dragged SLPP to court saying SLPP illegally gave symbol to Captain Kanja who was still in the military less than one year to elections. Same rest of story. Same defiance of the High Court orders by the SLPP candidates; and instead of NEC simply postponing the elections. Same suspicions that Thorpe may have believed SLPP was going to win those 2012 Elections so she ignored the Court Orders. Same Justice Showers Court ordered for the Votes of the defiant candidate to not be counted. So the person with the highest votes actually counted, Leonard Fofanah benefitted from SLPP fighting SLPP.

      It was not an Elections Petition but a Human Rights Writ of Summons between SLPP and SLPP, with SLPP accusing SLPP at the High Courts of fraudulent, illegal behaviors and gross abuse of the human rights of their members!

      So please let us get our facts right.

  8. Based on the first quotation from the constitution which says “Seeks to be elected to parliament” to my knowledge does not necessarily mean election day but the entire electioneering process including nomination day. If that’s what that quotation means then the candidate in question is not qualified due to the fact that nomination day fell within the stipulated one year period prescribed by the constitution.

  9. Thank you very much M. Abdul Rashid Thomas for bringing this injustice inflicted unlawfully by the courts on not only Hariyatu Bangura but on all those 10 APC MP’s whose parliamentary seats were taken from them and automatically handed over to their opposition SLPP rivals. Even AUTOMATION as TECHNOLOGY is not as rapid as what happened.

    I am not a lawyer but believe that the court was responsible for this miscalculation. If the courts should have added only a simple statement like ‘ The decision to nullify those seats will be followed by a bye-Election’ then, we should not have been in such a disgusting, disastrous and disgraceful MESS.

    I don’t blame the speaker because he performed his job because of what he received from the courts who should know better and fair to everyone with their judgements. They just cooked the rice with CASDADA LEAVES, COW KANDA mixed with COW MILK and gave it to the SPEAKER. DISGUSTING!

    It just tells you that our judiciary, electoral and political systems are in a complete MESS which needs to be fixed. The system is just broken and no one cares.

    This matter will not go away. We will voice out our anger responsibly until Hariyatu Bangura’s entitlements as the LEGITIMATE holder of her parliamentary seat is restored. I hope the COURTS and the SPEAKER will resolve this matter as soon as possible.
    GOD BLESS YOU HARIYATU BANGURA. The ILLEGITIMATE JOKER will handover your seat very soon.

  10. Bravo, my support for your fight from far away. But now, who is behind this scandal? Who will demand an account with all consequences?

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