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.
Hon. Chernor Maju Bah
Leader of the Opposition in Parliament
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