Sierra Leone elections crisis peace talks start today

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 16 October 2023:

A team of mediators from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the African Union (AU) arrived in Freetown last Friday to commence the long-awaited post-election crisis talks between President Bio’s ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), the National Electoral Commission and the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC) party.

The two-day dialogue is expected to end on Wednesday 18th October.

Brokered by the country’s Independent Commission for Peace and National Cohesion, the talks will be facilitated the Commonwealth Secretariat.

It is hoped that the post-election dialogue will bring an end to the current political impasse that has gripped the nation, since the controversial June 24 election results were announced by the National Electoral Commission.

Meeting President Bio at State House last Friday, and speaking on behalf of the ECOWAS and AU mediators, the former Vice President of The Gambia – Aja Fatoumata C.M. Jallow-Tambajang said they are in Sierra Leone to listen, understand the key issues, and support the post-election peace process in the best way possible.

President Bio welcomed the delegation and said that dialogue is an important hallmark of African governance process.

Last week, the Independent Commission for Peace and National Cohesion (ICPNC) Board Chairman – Rev. Shodankeh Johnson, wrote to the leadership of the opposition APC, laying out plans for the peace talks which starts today.

The AU and ECOWAS mediating team says they will engage in separate consultations with the government and the APC, but concerns are being raised that the mediation process seems to be leaving out the two key players in the conflict – the ruling SLPP and the National Electoral Commission.

The conflict is certainly not between the main opposition APC and the government.

It’s the ruling SLPP that contested the June 2023 elections and not the government. It’s the National Electoral Commission that is refusing to publish all polling station results as demanded by the opposition APC and international election observers, not the government. And its the National Electoral Commission that is being accused of rigging the election results, not the government.

So, it is absolutely crucial that the talks are held with the key players representing the ruling SLPP, the main opposition APC, and the Chief Electoral Commissioner to establish the facts and seek a resolution to this dangerous post-election crisis.

The talks are being held this morning in Bintumani Hotel in Aberdeen, Freetown.

Expectations across Sierra Leone and abroad are high. At the very least, all parties to the conflict must resolve to publish all the polling station results so that confidence can be placed in the decision of the Chief Electoral Commissioner to declare President Bio the winner of the Presidential election and his SLPP party’s parliamentary victory.

Any outcome short of this resolution will not only be unacceptable to the people of Sierra Leone, but will be seen as a travesty of justice by the international community who have invested billions of dollars in salvaging the country’s democracy after a long and brutal civil war.

President Bio needs to salvage whatever is left of his credibility as a democrat, along with his appalling human rights record, after over one hundred citizens were slaughtered in cold blood in his last five years in office by the security forces with impunity, under his watch.

Announcing and publishing the results of all polling stations will go a long way to returning Sierra Leone to its rightful place among nations that respect and uphold democratic freedoms, justice and civil liberty.

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