Sierra Leone Telegraph: 29 July 2020:
Parliament of Sierra Leone yesterday voted by a majority to approve the newly appointed Chairman of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) – Mohamed Kenewui Konneh, despite strong protests by the main opposition APC party and others, including the PMDC, claiming that Mr Konneh is constitutionally unqualified for the role.
But the minority opposition NGC party – led by Dr Kandeh Yumkella, voted with ruling SLPP party MPs to make the approval.
A total of 78 Members of Parliament voted in favour of approving the new NEC Boss, with 51 voting against.
Speaking on the motion to approve, Bashiru Silikie MP, described Mohamed Kenewui Konneh (Photo) as a man who had successfully fought against corruption nationally and internationally; adding that such a man would not preside over a corrupt electoral process. He referred to him as a man of competence and integrity to superintend over the affairs of NEC. In light of provisions in the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone, he said Mohamed Kenewui Konneh is qualified for the role.
Hon. Shiaka M. Sama, an independent MP from Pujehun described Mohamed Kenewui Konneh as a good replacement for his predecessor. Adding that the nominee is a disciplined and an energetic man who believes in teamwork.
Hon. Alpha Bah of APC referred to the minutes of the excerpt report regarding deliberation and resolution, citing constitutional provisions which makes Mohamed Kenewui Konneh unqualified for appointment as the NEC Boss. “Mr Konneh is not qualified,” he said.
Hon. Hindolo M. Gevao of SLPP said that Mohamed Kenewui Konneh is qualified, citing precedents for appointments to public offices established by the immediate past government. He also informed the House that the nominee is not seeking for election to Parliament, but rather an appointment by the President to serve as the Chief Electoral Commissioner of NEC .
Hon. Abdul Karim Kamara of APC thanked President Bio for appointing one of his constituents to serve in high offices of State. He described the appointment of the new NEC Boss as controversial and has the tendency to undermine the law and the House’s credibility.
Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Hon. Sengepoh Solomon Thomas recalled that the approval of past Chairmen of NEC had not gone without scuffles but said that Mohamed Kenewui Konneh is qualified for the position, after he had been nominated by President Bio.
Hon. Saa Francis Bhendu of C4C questioned the voter registration ID of the new NEC Boss and requested to see the evidence that he is on the voter register.
Hon. Ibrahim Ben Kargbo of APC said the future and the stability of the State lies primarily on the electoral process, and that the Chairman of the Electoral Commission “is someone in whom they should be certain”. He argued that Mr. Konneh is not qualified for the position and described his appointment as “an embarrassment” because Konneh was occupying a statutory office at the time of his appointment by the president which he said is unconstitutional.
Hon. Kandeh Yumkella of NGC described the NEC as the foundation and key institution that will ensure the will of the people is adhered to. He said that the NGC has presided over electoral violence and fraud, and discredited, as he called on Mr Konneh to do his best to change the narrative and image of NEC. (See video below).
Support Mohamed Kenewui Konneh appointment, Yumkella said that Mr. Konneh is not affected by Section 76 (1b) of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone in so far as his appointment to head the NEC is concerned, but said also that those who think otherwise should go to the Supreme Court for interpretation.
Leader of C4C, Hon. Saa Emerson Lamina said Mr. Konneh is “competently qualified to serve as the New NEC Boss”. He also said the appointment of Mohamed Kenewui Konneh would allay the fears of donors and instil confidence in the electoral process.
Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Chernor Bah made reference to a statement published by his APC party condemning the lack of consultation prior to the appointment of Mohamed Kenewui Konneh. He said the nominee is a public officer and that he is not constitutionally qualified for the position. He said previous Chairmen of NEC were appointed after proper consultation with all political parties.
Leader of Government Business, Hon. Mathew Nyuma recalled how the APC had abrogated the constitution by bypassing Parliament and unconstitutionally sacked the former Vice President, Chief Alhaji Sam Sumana. On the appointment of the new NEC Boss, he said consultations were made; adding the constitution did not specify the mode of consultations. He described MPs as good legislators, but expressed disappointment relating to interference by outsiders whom he referred to as “pseudo politicians”. He informed the House that Mohamed Kenewui Konneh is qualified and competent to lead the NEC.
Immediately after parliament’s vote to approve his appointment, Mohamed Kenewui Konneh drove off to meet the president at State House where he took his oath of office. (Photo above).
After the swearing-in ceremony, the new NEC boss said that he is deeply humbled and honoured by the opportunity to chair the country’s Electoral Commission, an institution entrusted with the responsibility of preserving the constitutional democracy through the conduct of free and fair elections.
“Your Excellency, I thank you for having faith in my abilities to discharge this vital national duty. I am deeply grateful too to Parliament and other political parties in Parliament for their support for my appointment.
“I am fully aware of the weight of the responsibilities and expectations that I am entrusted with, as Chairman of NEC. I am ready, willing and I have the competence to discharge these responsibilities with professionalism, integrity, and commitment to our country and all its citizens,” he said.
President Bio congratulated the new NEC boss for his successful approval in Parliament. He also reminded him of how difficult the new role is but noted that he has been meticulously chosen. He assured of his government’s support in helping him accomplish the task ahead.