President Koroma’s time in office to be extended at the expense of Sierra Leone’s democracy

Abdul Fonti

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 13 September 2017

Next year’s elections in Sierra Leone are now most likely to be postponed; the National Electoral Commission’s boss may face the sack; and president Ernest Bai Koroma will get more time in office. This is  my prediction, based on the sad political reality in Sierra Leone today.

And I equally submit that my prediction will come to pass before the beginning of 2018. Mark my words – this is not fake propaganda. But Before you rush to judge me or dismiss my assertions, let me give you my justification.

The government’s argument that President Koroma was ‘loud and clear’ enough in saying that  elections would be held on March 7 2018, is simply a fake propaganda aimed at exonerating the President from any blame that will emanate from the looming elections postponement.

Is this not the same President that was emphatically ‘loud and clear’ enough in saying that there will be a national referendum on constitutional changes, by September 2017? Was the referendum announcement not made alongside the March 7 elections date?

Are we not now in September 2017 with no sign of the referendum that was ‘loudly and clearly’ promised by the President?

What makes the referendum date assurance different from the election date assurance, especially as the two announcements were made on the same day, same speech, same President?

If His Excellency could promise referendum for September and we are already in September with not even a sign of the white paper for the referendum, can we please have some quiet on the propaganda that the President’s March 7 elections date is sacrosanct?

Is this not a pointer enough to conclude that the March 7, 2018 election announcement may have been done under pressure and not out of sincerity?

This is the grand 2018 election postponement plan:

In my view, the plan to hold elections beyond March 2018 started long ago – possibly some two years back – while the opposition, media and civil society were literally sleeping on their wings.

Apart from the presidential ‘more time’ campaign which was initiated and propagated by friends of President Koroma, the more time plan started assuming its proper shape with the late announcement of an election date.

The unnecessary delay in announcing the date for the 2018 election, not only disenfranchised certain politicians from pursuing their ambition, but equally left the National Electoral Commission with a very tight – some would say impossible, elections calendar schedule that makes no room for eventualities.

As the electoral calendar stands today, there is no space to accommodate any mistake or challenge that will emanate from the work of the NEC.

Voter register trap

Let us take for example the voter registration calendar and its accompanying legal provisions. It is by law that the voter register must be ready six months ahead of the election.

With the March 7 elections date, it simply means that the voter register should be signed and sealed and even dusted and ready for elections, latest September 7, 2017 – which is exactly six months into elections.

So, how on earth will this be possible when exhibition of voter registration which comes with objections and clarifications and amendment of data collected from the registration process, only ended some three weeks into the expiration of the conditional deadline for the register to be ready by September 7?

What magic will the NEC use to correct irregularities in the voter register, including missing data within three weeks, so as to meet with the legal provision to complete the voter register six months ahead of elections?

And as if to make the work of the ‘more time’ for President Koroma campaigners easy, the NEC boss confirmed to Parliament on Monday, that the voter register is still being processed with hopes of completing it by November or December 2017.

This means that the voter register will only be ready some three or two months to elections, in total contravention of the legal provision of six months.

With this reality, a March 7, 2018 election with such voter register can only be null and void – unconstitutional. In other words, the NEC boss has confirmed that an election to be held on March 7 with the current controversial data that is still being processed, will be unconstitutional.

It would seem like the ‘more time’ plan includes an electoral calendar that made no room to correct such situations that were bound to arise from the registration process, and the NEC boss has conveniently succumbed to that grand plan.

Rotten voter registration machines

As if to perfect this grand plan, the electoral commission was supplied with registration machines that were evidently faulty or rotten. And to compound the situation, the voter registration was blended with the national citizen identity registration process, for the first time in the history of the world, though I stand to be corrected.

Before we start to argue as to who supplied NEC with the rotten voter registration machines, we should equally ask ourselves as to why the NEC accepted the machines supplied, without insisting that the procurement of electoral machines should be done by NEC itself.

Or better still, NEC should have hired its independent technicians to check and certify the supplied machines before accepting them.

What if the machines were already programmed to reject data as part of the presidential ‘more time’ grand plan, and the NEC raised no public objection that the machines were supplied by government?

Competence of the NEC Boss

That brings us to the question as to the competence of the NEC boss and/or his team, with respect to independently conducting an election.

At least the ruling APC operatives are now using this missing data occurrence to their advantage, even though it would seem such an  occurrence was actually orchestrated by the government or the president, by delaying the announcement of the elections date and supplying rigged electoral registration machines to the NEC.

Now that the NEC boss has conveniently landed into what will appear as a government or ruling party or President Koroma bait – hook. line and sinker, the ‘more timers’ are now jubilating over their ‘more time by default success’, though the default in this case appears to have been well orchestrated.

The NEC boss has now found himself in a deep mess that may not only result in his sacking, but which will equally witness a postponement of the 2018 Presidential and Parliamentary elections.

With the aforementioned and more, I will confidently reiterate here that the March 7, 2018  elections would be postponed, President Koroma will get his more time, and the NEC boss may be replaced.

At the expense of democratic progress – I said progress, because I don’t want to mention peace and stability – in Sierra Leone, this is the sad reality.  And less than six months to elections the NEC is literally broke, with a major funding gap. In point of fact,  the least talked about this the better.

In as much as this is a win for certain politicians in the ruling APC party in particular, and the opposition in general, Sierra Leone is at the losing end – a very big loss for the country and its fledgling democracy. But posterity is the best judge.

Editor’s Note

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  1. The APC party is in a desperate tug of war to retain power at all cost. Following the emphatic rejection by the general populace of the “more time” campaign by some of their idiotic and sycophantic supporters, I will not be surprised if the APC Party is still scheming to come up with a plan to postpone the election in order to prolong their stay in power.

    But my hope is that the people of Sierra Leone and the international donors, who will be spending their money to conduct our election will see through this charade and not fall for it.

    The 99 APC tactics and strategy is beginning to finally unravel. The announcement of the Voter Registration result by the NEC boss may have caused a lot of discomfort and belly ache among the rank and file of the APC supporters.

    It must be recalled that many people in Sierra Leone, including the Press and Civil Society groups questioned the accuracy of the census result. This new voter registration result as published by the NEC boss, notwithstanding the so-called missing data has renewed that debate because it is at variance with the skewed and overblown census result.

    And if the intention of the APC Party is to manipulate the election result using the pretext of the boom in population growth in their strong hold, now they have a lot of explaining to do.

    It is quite clear that the ruse has been exposed, and what better person to hold responsible for this than the NEC boss, who in their eyes has been nothing more than a mole for the SLPP, because he is conscientious and has refused to toe the line of the “more time” mantra.

    This APC government and especially their President Ernest Bai Koroma should know that any attempt to subvert the will of the people will be met with the strongest resistance, and if any death or destruction should occur; because it is bound to happen, it will rest squarely on the shoulders of Ernest Bai Koroma.

    The people of Sierra Leone are sick and tired of being treated with disrespect and they are willing to fight to restore their dignity.

  2. President Koroma and his allies may be taking us for granted after all they removed a sitting Vice-President and got away with it. But this issue of the election will be their Achilles heel.

    It seems they are not gauging the public mood when it comes to this all important matter. Even within his own party the APC, there is a growing dissension about the way he has gone about the process of selecting a successor and deliberating allowing every Jack and Jill to aspire for the leadership, with the sole aim of dividing the contenders.

    This is to achieve his grand master plan which can be clearly seen and this is why some of them have not even bothered to resign, because they are part and parcel of the chicanery and players in the political drama that is unfolding.

    I pity the innocent ones who have already spent and continue to spend a fortune campaigning to succeed him, only to realise in the end that a vacancy did not even exist in the first place.

    We should take comfort in the fact that there are precedents in the sub region and beyond, for Presidents who have tried this. President Koroma may have soon forgotten that the power he enjoys today was from the people, and ‘people’s power’ can bring down a Government.

    No amount of threats guns or teargas will succeed in stopping the ‘people’s power’ when they have had enough. We will be watching as this unfolds.

  3. I am very upset about the way Sierra Leone is being governed. How can electoral registration machines be used in an atmosphere in which nobody else knows how to use them, except the ruling APC – just to steal the votes so that the incumbent leader can still continue ruining the country.

    The machines they are using were made for a highly developed country. Sierra Leone as a grass root country cannot match with the country they got the machines from.

  4. From your analysis done for the election not to be held on March 7, looking at the role of NEC boss in displaying the result for the final voters registration, is completely wrong.

    This is because the result for the final voters registration has been displayed on September 6, last week. So if this is one of the reasons that you want to embark on we will prove you wrong.

    Secondly, the missing data has also been found by the NEC boss and he has announced this openly to the general public through their public relations officer.

    Truly my brother, I am quite convinced that the elections will hold on March 7, looking carefully at the procedures the NEC boss is demonstrating now.

  5. I strongly hold the same views. The APC Government wants to hold onto power and will surely not conduct elections until October/November, 2018.

    They have created 2 more districts and one region in the North so that they will have more seats in Parliament. I want all to know that there were other districts which colonial masters created in the South and East but President Koroma did not regard them.

    These are Sumbuya and Koribondo in the South, and Panguma in the East. It is better we consider Sierra Leone as a nation and stop regional and tribal divide.

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