Sierra Leone Telegraph: 12 February 2023:
Minister of Local Government and Rural Development – Tamba Lamina has written to all elected Mayors, Chairpersons and Councillors across the country, telling them to leave office on the 1st of March 2023, ahead of general, presidential and local council elections taking place in June 2023. (Photo above: Local Government Minister Tamba Lamina and President Bio).
According to Section 137 of the Local Government Act 2022, “All local councils shall stand dissolved at the expiration of a period of five years commencing from the date of the first sitting after the last General Election, at any date not later than the date of the dissolution of parliament in accordance with the provisions of Section 85 (1) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone.”
But according to Freetown City Council records, the five-year anniversary of the first Council meeting is in June 2023, and the first sitting of parliament after the last elections was on the 25th of April 2018.
Therefore, all Local Councils were expected to be dissolved on the 25th of April 2023 the latest, as opposed to the minister’s enforced date – 1st of March 2023 expressed in his letter to councils last week. (Below is Clause 137 of the Local Government Act 2022).
President Bio is now being accused by the opposition and critics of dissolving local councils prematurely ahead of elections taking place in June 2023 contrary to law, so as to gain electoral advantage at the polls.
This accusation comes on the back of criticism of the former military junta leader’s attempt at destroying Sierra Leone’s democratic space and pluralistic values, by coercing and bribing opposition leaders to either join his ruling SLPP party, or form coalition ahead of what is going to be a fiercely contested election in June 2023..
On the 8th of February 2022, just over a year ago, the parliament of Sierra Leone debated and passed into law – The Local Government (Amendment) Act, 2022.
The aim of the 2022 Act is to amend the Local Government Act of 2004 by extending the period for local council elections from four years to five years; extend the tenure of chairpersons, Mayors and elected councillors from four years to five years to reflect the tenure of other elective public offices; and also according to the government, to reduce costs of running local councils.
Presenting the Bill to parliament, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Tamba Lamina (Photo), said at the time that “the Local Government Amendment Act 2022, will make local council elections permanent and conducted in line with the general elections – every five years.”
A year on, it seems the minister under the direction of President Bio is now using his powers to curtail the authority of elected councillors and Mayors, long before elections are held in June 2023.
Speaking to the Sierra Leone Telegraph, a senior official in the Ministry of Local Government said that by dissolving local councils early, opposition councillors and Mayors will not be able to use State resources to campaign.
But critics say that this is hypocritical of the government, as ministers and ruling SLPP politicians will use the power of incumbency to fully gain access to State resources as well as finance, to bankroll their election campaign.
According to the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL), a large number of electoral seats will be up for grabs under the new proportional representation system ushered in by President Bio a few months ago: 135 parliamentary seats; 493 local councillor seats; and 22 local council chairpersons and Mayors across the country.