Open letter to Sierra Leone’s elections chief – parliamentary opposition leader calls for more time for people to register

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 29 September 2022:

Siera Leone’s Leader of the Opposition in Parliament – Chernor Maju Bah MP (Photo above), has written to the country’s Chief Electoral Commissionner – Mohamed K. Konneh, calling for “a full breakdown of the registration figures by center and make this available to political parties and the public; ensure that all eligible voters – including First Time Voters, are accorded their constitutional right to participate in this process as provided for by the Public Election Act; decisively and satisfactorily address any political interference with the process; and extend the registration process, to adequately compensate for the time lost.”

This is what he said in his letter:

Dear Mr Konneh

PERSISTENCE OF REGISTRATION CHALLENGES, EXTENSION OF THE REGISTRATION PERIOD, AND PUBLICATION OF DISAGGREGATED FIGURES

On Saturday 10 September 2022, I released a public statement in which I acknowledged the efforts of the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL) in the ongoing Voters Registration Process (VRP); and highlighted my engagements with the leadership of the Commission.

While I drew attention, particularly to the difficulties First Time Voters were confronted with in their attempt to exercise this very critical civic responsibility; I also pointed out several logistical, human resource, and technical challenges derailing the process.

I further noted your Press Statement of Wednesday 7 September 2022, in which you acknowledged the challenges and assured the public and political stakeholders that the said challenges would be immediately addressed.

As you are well aware, the VRP is in its third week, yet some of the challenges still persist, particularly those relating to First Time Voters, who are currently not yet of the voting age but will turn 18 by June 2023.

As I have previously indicated, it is highly imperative for ECSL to lay a solid basis for the June 2023 elections to be credible, inclusive and representative of the people’s will. This should be done by ensuring that this VRP leaves no eligible citizen out in this process.

Unfortunately, Mr. Chief Electoral Commissioner, while some of the initial challenges still persist, new ones are also emerging. They include the Commission’s failure to publish by centers, the figures from the ongoing exercise; political interference with the process at various centers; and the intimidation of opposition representatives, community leaders and First Time Voters.

The latter is being done by declaring the identification documents of some of the First Time Voters as fake, seizure of such documents, and threatening the owners with police arrest.

While all of these initial and recent challenges have eaten up a considerable amount of the time stipulated for this process; ECSL’s insistence on publishing the registration figures by region rather than by centers, makes the data unverifiable, undermines the integrity of the register, and creates unnecessary suspicion of some wrongdoing.

This situation casts a dark cloud over the credibility of this critical electoral process and If not addressed decisively and comprehensively, the Voters Register, which would emerge from this problematic VRP, would have far-reaching ramifications on the credibility, peacefulness and acceptability of the June 2023 elections.

Therefore, in the interest of your own credibility, and that of the Commission’s, I kindly request you to do the following:

1. Break down the registration figures by center and make them available to political parties and the public;

2. Ensure that ALL eligible, including First Time Voters, are accorded their constitutional right to participate in this process as provided for by the Public Election Act;

3. Decisively and satisfactorily address any political interference with the process;

4. Extend the registration process, to adequately compensate for the time lost.

While I look forward to your prompt and satisfactory response, please accept the assurances of my support to the successful completion of this and all electoral processes.

Sincerely,

Hon. Chernor Maju Bah
Leader of the Opposition in Parliament

CC:

i) The Speaker of Parliament

ii) The Chairperson – Political Parties Registration Commission

iii) H.E. Ambassador Musa Ruhle

iv) The United Nations Resident Coordinator

v) The Head – European Union Delegation

vi) The British High Commissioner

vii) The Ambassador – The United States of America

2 Comments

  1. Whatever happened to the National electoral registration process , one thing we can all be certain about the process has attracted a lot of criticism , suspicious and doubt about the way it was conducted . Mr Bah is right to raised his questions and demands answers .Since the last presidential election in 2018, which has it’s own eventful of controversies , one would have thought the so-called independent electoral and boundaries commission body established by the constitution to conduct and supervise referenda and elections and anyother elections as prescribed by an Act of the Sierra Leone parliament and which makes their work cut our for them would have make it easier for both the ruling party ,and the opposition and the voting public this is democacy at it best . That is ,if all stakeholders adhere to the rules set by the Constitution .Thanks to Bio we are now practicing what I called “JUNGLE POLITICES “survival of the fittest .

    There is nothing democratic about jungle politics unless you are looking it from Bio’s lens .The national electoral Act itself is self explanatory .So there are no ambushse for the process to get trapped in political gerrymandering or brinkmanship for people like Bio that don’t respect the 1991 constitution :”To continuous registration of voters and revision of the voter’s roll :The delimitation of constitutencise and wards :The regulation of political parties process :The settlement of electoral disputes :The registration of candidates for elections :Voter education :The faciltation of observation , monitoring and evaluation of elections :The regulation of money spent by a candidate or party in respect of any elections :The development of the code of conduct for canidates and parties :The monitoring of compliance with legislation on nomination of candidates by parties .” And by all account the commission shall exercise it’s powers and perform it functions in accordance with the constitution and national legislation .”Fast forward now to the electoral quagmire we found ourselves , less than a year before the Presidential election , thanks to Mr Mohamed Kenewui Konneh the current chairman and chief electoral commissioner of the National Eletroal commision . His blind obedience to Bio and the SLPP government , have created a huge deficit of doubt in many circles from the oppsition parties , to concerned Sierra Leoneans and the international community that is already reaching for the alarm buttons , because of the direction of travel the electoral commision have unahamedly taken.

    So far what we’ve witnessed is Mr Konneh and his team are trying to frustrate and undermined the way previous elections were conducted that the irony of ironies bought Bio to power .The commision had four years to look at what works in the 2018 presidential elections and identify the necessary changes needed to make the smooth running of the next elections in 2023 .The new technology adopted was suppose to make the process work .But even with that we can see some warning signs flashing on the dashboard that it is not going to be a plain sailing. What we need from Mr Konneh and his team is transparency and accountability. That will restore a semblance of credibility which is very much in short supply right now .

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