Sierra Leone Telegraph: 9 June 2021:
Yesterday, Sierra Leone’s Chief Electoral Commissioner and Chairman of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) Mohamed Konneh, presented his annual report for 2020 and strategic plan for 2020–2024 to President Bio.
Mohamed Konneh said that the 2020 report reflected a significant milestone in the evolution of NEC because it shows not only an outlook of the year under review but also creates a bridge between the 2015-2019 and the 2020–2024 electoral cycle.
“In 2020, NEC conducted 11 elections in a violence-free environment across the country, including parliamentary, local councils, village heads and paramount chieftaincy elections,” he noted.
He further stated that the many reforms that recently took place at NEC were generally aimed at transforming the institution by creating opportunities for personnel professional growth on a valid career path and efficient delivery of electoral management services to the highest order of diligence.
He added that since 2018 NEC had continued to receive support from international partners and the government of Sierra Leone to undertake key activities.
Earlier, Chief Minister Jacob Jusu Saffa recalled that the purpose of every electoral cycle was to provide plans and strategies that would guide the entire electoral processes in the country, saying that the strategic plan would provide the right atmosphere for the conduct of free, fair and credible elections.
Receiving the report, this is what President Bio said:
“Let me start by thanking the Chief Electoral Commissioner for his very comprehensive presentation this afternoon. I also thank members of the commission and other stakeholders for their great work in consolidating our democracy by ensuring free, fair, and inclusive elections processes based on clear and predictable timelines.
As a government, we are also pleased that our development partners have kept the faith with us. Through their staunch support and commitment, they have demonstrated that they trust us and want to achieve the outcomes we have laid out for our elections and for our democracy.
Two weeks ago, Rosemary DiCarlo, the United Nations UnderSecretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, who is also the United Nations Focal Point for Electoral Assistance Matters, informed my government of the readiness of the United Nations to provide technical assistance to the National Electoral Commission for the upcoming local, parliamentary, and presidential elections.
I would also like to publicly thank the European Commission (EU). As the Chief Electoral Commissioner indicated in his statement, the European Union has supported elections in various areas since 2019 through the EU project, “Strengthening the Governance Sector in Sierra Leone.” Thank you.
My government also notes the remarkable progress the Commission has made in reviewing the 2015-2019 strategic plan, reflecting on the implementation of that strategic plan, and proposing effective measures to address gaps and other perceived areas of improvement.
Ultimately, my government is determined to ensure that every eligible Sierra Leonean is able to vote in a free, fair, and transparent electoral process, and every vote is counted. That is what enriches and sustains our democracy.
To us, as a government, democratic elections must be inclusive, peaceful, transparent, and credible, and its outcomes must be fully representative of the free democratic wishes of the electorate.
I note also, with great satisfaction, that for the entire duration of your tenure thus far, you have conducted peaceful, transparent, and fair elections at all levels, and that results have been widely accepted by all contestants and stakeholders.
Additionally, I acknowledge the work of the Elections Conflict Prevention and Mediation Group in that regard. I thank civil society and rights organisations, inter-religious leaders, women’s groups, youth organisations, and the fourth estate, for collectively calling for peaceful elections and for proactively engaging all stakeholders.
Peaceful elections and seamless transitions of power are indeed a sine qua non for a peaceful democracy. Let us all, as a nation, continue to pursue what is best for Sierra Leone. So the theme of the 2020-2024 Strategic Plan — “Strengthening Electoral Processes for Maximum Performance” – particularly resonates with the outcomes my Government believes this country deserves – inclusive, peaceful, transparent, and credible elections.
My government is fully committed to supporting the capital projects – infrastructural and logistical — you have listed, as they are critical to further bolstering our electoral system.
The National Election Sustainability Trust Fund has been designed to provide predictable and sustainable funding of core electoral programmes. I call on development partners to fully support this initiative. Thus, our electoral timetables and activities will be unaffected by funding constraints.
This, and Pillar 9, ICT infrastructure and results management, are critical. Implementing the goals of Pillar 9 broadly in time and to scale at the district levels will support more accurate, more transparent, and faster tallies.
With respect to recommendations and potential electoral law changes, we are committed to fully pursuing the procedure as laid out in all existing laws. We intend to be transparent and to fully communicate about every step of the process in order to avert dark rumours and unseemly conspiracy theories.
I want to particularly focus on Strategic Pillar 8 which deals with inclusion, participation, and equity. My government approaches that pillar from a rights perspective – that every citizen has an equal and inalienable right to fully participate in political life, to fully participate in political debate, to be consulted, to vote, and to be voted for. Gender, sexuality, disability, age, youth, levels of literacy must not be hindrances. They must be fully accounted for in inclusive democratic elections at all levels. The views and voices of every citizen must matter on how to move this nation forward.
My government will therefore work with all stakeholders and development partners in ensuring that the future of elections in Sierra Leone is fully inclusive.
Let me conclude by thanking the Chief Electoral Commissioner and the entire Commission for their continuing work. I hereby formally receive the Commission’s Annual Report for the year ending 2020 and formally launch the Strategic Plan for the 2020-2024 Electoral Cycle. I thank you.”
My senior brother, professor Abraham Amadu Jalloh, as you rightly pointed out, well polished and highly elusive speeches like this, given from time to time, by president Bio, are nothing but empty rhetoric. Anyone who have been following politics and closely paying attention to election activities since this regime came into power, will outrightly tell you that, when it comes to conducting election, this regime have no respect for our election laws, and have time without number used thugs, intimidations, backdoor deals, to disrupt and influence the outcomes of elections.
When it comes to NEC officials who by virtue are suppose to play a neutral role in ensuring that elections are conducted in a free and fair manner, it may surprise many to know that, these folks are just as corrupt as many of the top government officials. The thirst for mansions and other luxurious elements have transformed even this sector of our civil servants into extortioners. My chiefdom being among the newly amalgamated, my uncle was one of the chieftaincy candidate, garnering almost 70% support of the tribal authorities(the only individuals qualify to vote in Chieftaincy election).
For over 4yrs, we’ve spent thousands of dollars, with local government officials frustrating our efforts, cancelling polling day on several occasions, after reaching backroom deals with our opponents, who openly know that they were going to lose big if elections are allowed to take place. Upon discovering this scheme, my uncles on the ground were forced to pay homage to these corrupt bunch, with brown envelopes in order to have our chiefdom placed into the election timetable again. What flabbergasted me the most was, during the days leading to the polling, which I witnessed last week at our chiefdom headquarter town, NEC officials had the gut to demand 50 million Leones ($5000) from our campaign team else our votes could be given to the highest bidder. Upon hearing this, I protested, telling my uncles that, since our candidate is the most popular one, there was no need. To cut a long story short, my uncles ended up going into negotiation with these corrupt bunch, extorting from us half of the money they demanded. This is Sierra Leone folks, where everything is a farce.
Thanks my brother Young4na. Its always a pleasure to read your comments. One thing we can agree on , is that, Bio is an old school politician.He might appear young, but he knows exactly how to go about to keep himself to power. All this local and national election interference, is part of his grand efforts, to sore up his support base for the 2023 presidential election.He takes nothing for granted. Complacency, is not part of his game plans. Far from it. Bio is not as stupide as he looks. This an indept politicking. His finger prints are all over the place. He knows how to cover his tracks, so no one will caught him sleeping on the job.The president knows what he is good at. And as for his weaknesses, if he has any, he haven’t shared it with the public. But we know he is weak and out of thouch with the realities of every day life in Sierra Leone.
His attitude, and attention to details has no macth in the current political sphere in Sierra Leone.We wish he can use the same attitude or attention to details and hammer out a way forward for our country. The same hair brush treatment he gave to my Father, and his Fula Community in Falaba, in electing the tribal headman of his choice, never mind the community’s preference, is been replicated in your Uncle’s bid for the Chieftency. To the unsuspecting, our concerns are just lousy way of thinking. What does it matter,if president Bio throws his weight around, and forced a candidate of his choice over the people? They might objects to it, until he they realise, tbis is not a game of chickens, or who blink first. Because if they insist, he won’t be applying the carrots but the stick, until he gets what he wants.Maybe the election of a local Member of Parliament might not exircise people that much . People will say good on him. At least the SLPP party will have a majority in Parliament.
But to many, who really don’t understand the thinking behind Bio’s interfering on local elections, like Chieftency, or paramount chief, or a Tribal headman, here is your answer. Any of the above is worth thousands votes that can swing a presidential election in his favour , than one elected MP. Since majority of people are illiterate, and they usually vote with ink on their right thumb, they hardly know what party they are voting for, never mind the Candidates name. So it is left to the local chiefs to direct them who to vote for.Back in the days, would be voters will come and ask my Dad which party to vote for. Well Iam not going to spill the beans on which party my father use to recommend to his people. But that is the crux of Bio’s tentacles spreading in anything that has to do with election, like an octopus, because he knows he stands to gain politically if the local paramount chief, or the tribal elder is parachuted by him in this communities. Bio’s candidates will bring the votes.
When the occasion calls for, no one will accuse President Bio of not saying the rigth thing, at the right time , and for the right audiences.Privatly, if he is in his own turf, surrounded by his diehard SLPP supporters, I wonder how far he is ready to go to tell them to respect elections outcomes. We’ve seen after the 2018 Presidential election, the president and his supporters, constantly moving the goal post to influence constituency by – elections out comes in the western area of Freetown, and its environs. And for Bio trampling on our electoral process was by no means it ends there.That is just following the rule book of how to suppressed elections outcomes in your favour. As residents in a village in the Southern part of the country , electing a local paramount chief was rudely awaken to, and reminded in Bio’s ways who is in power. A young man lost his life.
Same in 2018,the election of a Fula tribal head in Falaba chiefdom, the same old hand twisting tactics were applied with precision, like a hitseeking missiles. And the outcome was a forgone conclusion. My village community were clearly perturbed by Bio and his Vice President power grabbed mentality. Never mind what my Father and the locals think of the whole rigged up process.They were instructed to follow the process. Now if thats what we call democracy under this one direction government, I fear what is the definition of undemocratic elections outcomes under Bio. Only the deployment of our own very vice president Juldeh Jalloh, Bio made sure they got there man the job. Regards to Bio’s conversion to open, free and active participation of every citizen, I will take it with a pinch of salt. His speeches are full of antidotes, and sound bites. How he says it, when he says it, and who his targeted audiences are. After his speeches, if you harbour any doubts about his intentions and interigty, that is left to the talking heads to discern, and everyone is entitled to come up with their own interpretation of the meaning of it all.
I certainly was left dazzled by his speech , dazed and confused. I don’t know what to believe. And that is precisely the point of it all. Our international partners, one of the captive hostages in this mantra of his government respecting the out come of elections, both local and national, trying selling that message to the ten elected APC members of Parliament, that were ejected by the Sierra-leone police, after their election were declared null and viod. Pillar 8 of this report, which the president said he will work to respect, that is citizens participation on our election process, and if we take that one strand of the report, we can clearly see the president meant active participation only for citizens within the country. For those of us Sierra Leoneans in the Diaspora, are froced to observe our elections from the relative safey of Europe, Australia, United States, United Kingdom, China, Canada, and Middle Eastern countries. All the same we are always asked to cough off to support our families, due to your failing economic policies. Where is the fairness in that. You want our monies to support the underperforming Sierra Leone economy, which we are happy to do, but electing the leadership that will bring meaningful changes in country,we are treated like foreign aliens in our own country.