Sierra Leone Telegraph: 10 February 2018
Ten of the seventeen registered political parties contesting the March 7 multi-tier elections in Sierra Leone, have condemned and opposed the decision by the Sierra Leone police to restrict vehicular movement on polling day, Ibrahim Tarawallie reports from Freetown,.
Last month, the Sierra Leone Police announced that they will be restricting the movement of vehicles on polling day, except vehicles belonging to the National Electoral Commission (NEC), the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC), polling observers, security agents and other essential services.
The move has attracted strong criticisms from certain sections of the public and political parties, who see the move as a violation of citizen’s human right to free movement.
According to the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), Coalition for Change (C4C), National Grand Coalition (NGC), People’s Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC), National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and National Progressive Democrats (NPD), among others, the move, without consulting with them, creates suspicion as to the intention of the police force as a neutral body.
Reading a resolution signed by the parties, Interim Chairman and Leader of the NGC, Dr. Dennis Bright said the move will undermine voter turnout, especially among the aged and people living with disabilities, as well as limiting people’s inalienable rights of freedom of assembly and movement guaranteed by the 1991 Constitution.
According to Mr Bright, the police have ignored the fact that not all polling stations are within walking distance from homes, both in urban and rural areas.
“Election Day should be like any other day, and people should have the right to move freely without any restriction. We hope that the police will adhere to our resolution,” said Bright, and added that the move cast grave suspicion on the credibility and integrity of the electoral process.
Dr. Bright said the parties also resolved that police officers that will be deployed on voting day, or those on patrols, should be visibly identified with name and number tags from 10-15 metre distance.
The ten opposition parties warned that if the police refuses to listen to their legitimate concerns, the matter would be taken to the Supreme Court for interpretation of the Constitutional provision that guarantees freedom of movement.
Writing on social media today, this is what political commentator – Dr. Sylvia Blyden said:
I, Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, Officer of the Order of the Rokel of the Republic of Sierra Leone, still stand by every sentence in my article I wrote over five years ago in November 2012.
Apart from my views expressed in that article, I had gone further to make repeated calls on Facebook for citizens to DEFY the gross illegality of Government and the Police.
I even engaged the then Bar Association and asked them to do their national duty. It was based on my intense pressure applied then which made the Bar Association come out to support my position.
Today, in February 2018, I raise my hands up high and hereby repeat that I stand by everything written in that my article first published in November 2012, over 5 years ago. I have also reproduced the article down below for ease of reference:
THE GOVERNMENT DOES NOT HAVE THE POWER – By Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden (Nov 5, 2012)
Section 18 of the Sierra Leone Constitution is an entrenched clause meaning it cannot be changed by an act of Parliament. It is so sacred that only a referendum of ALL voting citizens can tamper with it. It concerns the protection of freedom of movement within Sierra Leone. Section 18.(1) states:
“No person shall be deprived of his freedom of movement, and for the purpose of this section, the said freedom means the right to move freely throughout Sierra Leone, the right to reside in any part of Sierra Leone, the right to enter or leave Sierra Leone, and immunity from expulsion from Sierra Leone.”
This is why the arbitrary announcement from Government of Sierra Leone (Police & Elections Office) that citizens of Sierra Leone will have their freedom to move, forcefully curtailed on Elections Day, is ILLEGAL and of NO LEGITIMATE STANDING.
Let me make it clear upfront that I do not intend to obey that arbitrary, illegal and unconstitutional announcement curtailing my freedom of movement on Elections Day. I am also calling on all Sierra Leone citizens to RESIST such an unconstitutional announcement.
Government does not have such powers! Are we at war? If need be, we will go to the Supreme Court for an interpretation but we will NOT be restricted from moving around on Elections Day. It is totally ridiculous and undemocratic.
Elections Laws say there is a fixed perimeter distance around polling centers that should not be penetrated on polling day. Fine! We agree and will not go near polling stations after we vote. However, no law says the capital city’s residents should be restricted from freedom of movement.
I don’t even need to go into the myriad of reasons why our freedom of movement should not be curtailed on Elections Day; not least the fact that many of us registered at polling centers which were considerable distances from our residences because of the unfortunate ‘phased’ manner in which the Electoral Commission did this year’s registration by phases.
Curtailing the freedom to move around on Elections Day is a recipe for chaos and it must be resisted! Our Government does not have the power to contravene Section 18.(1) of our Constitution.
I hope reasonable legal minds can see the dangers in such an arbitrary announcement. Rescind it as being unconstitutional before some of us march to Supreme Court for an interpretation of whether the Government has not acted ultra vires our Constitution with such an announcement. May common sense prevail.
THAT ILLEGAL VEHICLE BAN: Arrogance of it all is Dangerous – By Dr. Sylvia O. Blyden (Nov 7, 2012)
I watched a Monday live TV and Radio discussion featuring the no-nonsense and fierce Assistant Police IG Al Shek Kamara, our dear sister Madam Barbara Bangura and Chukuemeka Taylor of PPRC.
They were discussing the vehicular ban which Dr. Christiana Thorpe and a bunch of short-sighted Sierra Leoneans are trying to pass off on this country during elections day.
Emeka was diplomatic with his words but Barbara was strenuously trying to insist that the country might go up in flames if vehicles are allowed to move around. She made poor sense in her argument so I just dismissed it.
However, I laughed when Al-Shek threatened on air that Police would be very rough with any journalist or person who might resist the ban.
Well, though I have already been assured that I will receive an exemption as a journalist, this agitation is not on my personal behalf but for other voiceless citizens. Police better prepare to arrest many citizens because let me assure the architects of this illegal ban on vehicles that I am speaking on behalf of the majority of Sierra Leoneans who have been contacting me in droves to thank me for my highlighting of the nonsensical agreement of Thorpe and the political parties.
Dangers inherent in such a ban are many. They can cast slurs on credibility of the elections itself if people are geographically disenfranchised by such abuse of their human rights on the basis of something that is NOT “reasonably justifiable in a democratic society”. We are not at war.
This Government does not have such powers to contravene Section 18 of our constitution. If the Police is just too inept to police on that day, bring out the gallant Soldiers but do not touch our rights to freedom of movement.
The arrogance of Dr. Thorpe, Sierra Leone Police and the misguided political parties is galling! No-one will stop our freedom of movement on Elections Day. We will drive our cars; we will use our vehicles. We will not rely on a clearly inept police administration to provide Government buses ‘plying the routes’. Finally, bogus civil groups should agitate against this illegal act.
I am totally against the police ban on people’s freedom of movement on polling day. We have heard lots of reports that the ruling party has printed ballots in China and intend to use them on polling day to give them a landslide victory in this 2018 election. This goes to say that some evidence have emerged as we saw several Chinese nationals and vehicles belonging to Chinese companies in APC campaigns.
That simply tells us that these same Chinese and their vehicles can be used to ferry those voting materials they have already brought into the country to influence an APC victory. If these Chinese have the guts to physical be present in APC campaigns, they can also have the guts to interfere in our elections.
Therefore, banning citizens’ free movement on election day is premature and wrong decision. 2007 election went well and free from any ban on citizens movement. We saw lots of APC party supporters moving from polling station to polling station, and there was no police ban and election went well. APC won that election against the ruling SLPP, so what is wrong if other political parties can freely move around?
This election is a make or break for Sierra Leone. There are lots of beak away parties and those parties want to create an impact in this election. They cannot accept any election result that is not credible. What Ms Blyden is saying in my mind is right. Whether she is looking for fame or not, its equally her right to freedom of speech. But the truth must be laid.
Restricting people’s free movement on election day is dangerous and a post election chaos can be imminent. I advice that the police use printed T-shirts with a special combination name on election day. Let’s take examples from neighboring countries like Guinea in their first and second presidential elections, no one was banned on those days.
Why Sierra Leone with our long history of voting that dates back to 1960s can disenfranchise citizens? If APC thinks that they have done good job, free the masses to go vote and then go about their normal business. Remember hundreds of thousands if not millions of Sierra Leoneans live in poverty on a daily basis. So how do police expect them to get their daily bread on that day, or will police give them handouts for the day in question? Please leave people alone.
The last time I checked, Sylvia Blyden was not the spokesperson for any political party vying for the March 7th 2018 elections or is she trying again to seek attention? APC and President Koroma, your Ariogbo is warning the voters to pay attention so I’m personally warning you to pay attention to your creator.
Although it is the right of people to enjoy Freedom of Movement and Assembly, it is also the constitutional duty of the Sierra Leone Police to police the people. And that entails taking all necessary measures either proactively or reactively that would forestall any activity or individual that could disturb the Peace of the majority of the people.
Ahead of the 2018 Elections, we have seen the tensions here and there. If the Police with the resources available at hand, has intelligence that there are people who would cause mischief on the day of the election, the police are constitutionally mandated to map out strategies that would mitigate such disruptions to the peaceful conduct of the election. Therefore, the police are not asking for too much. They are not taking our freedom for more than a day.
Most people are not going to work on that day. Is it not right for peaceful citizens to support their police to police then on a day that could turn chaotic if not properly managed and policed? Is it much to ask for the people to curtail their unnecessary movement all over the place on such a delicate day?
Any citizen clamouring for the people to resist the instructions from the police in this kind of venture is not acting patriotically and likely does not have the people at heart. Such persons would be the first and the same to cry foul tomorrow if something props up that would overwhelm the police to provide adequate protection for all and sundry.
For goodness sake, we are talking about a country where we have one police officer for almost every 80,000 people. How effective will the police be in all corners of the country at the same time, if grey areas like the big cities are not proactively secured?
We are not a developed nation where even with CCTV and cameras everywhere, the police are sometimes overwhelmed with large-scale activities like conducting elections – not to talk about a country like Sierra Leone, where some people especially so called politicians clad in journalistic coats see politics as a do or die activity.
The price of peace is not cheap. Sometimes it involves, sacrificing some basic human rights for a single day so that you can live in peace for a long time. It is very disgraceful when people who have packed bags with already bought flight tickets, and a place to flee to talk about human rights records when they know that if push comes to pull, they will be the first to vacate the shores of the land leaving behind the same people they are instigating not to comply with measures that would ensure their continuous security.
Dr. Blyden likes to seize upon opportunities that looms her image. Sometimes she gets it so wrong and then she tries to reinvent herself. Please do not allow her to use your safety to boost her failing fame and power.
If the police in their infinite wisdom have assessed the security situation and have concluded that restricting unnecessary movement of people on polling day would help them police us better, so be it. That is the price we have to pay for peace. We want Peace.
You are such a good writer but when you decided to serve as a politician, you left us hanging and now you want to come back to doing what made so many people loved and respected you for, but there is a little problem of two face kind of a person lingering in people’s minds as to what to believ coming from you. I will keep reading your post. I will read between the lines of your messages because I want to know if you are for real this time.