SLPP government accused of planning to rig Sierra Leone’s 2023 elections

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 26 February 2020:

A controversial decision by the Bio-led SLPP government to empower the National Civil Registration Authority (NCRA) to register every citizen living in the country by the end of March 2020 so as to be able to vote at public elections, has drawn fierce criticisms from sections of the media and the opposition APC and NGC parties.

The government is being accused of planning to rig the 2023 general and presidential elections, after the NCRA published its public notice last week, giving citizens one week to register with the Authority.

In its notice, the NCRA says that anyone failing to register will not be able to obtain their biometric card for voting at all public elections.

But some critics say that IT systems designed for use by the NCRA has been programmed to distort the registration figures to favour the ruling SLPP, by inflating the total number of people living in the ruling party heartlands, while reducing those registered in opposition strongholds.

(Photo: Sierra Leone government chief innovation officer and IT software specialist – Dr David Sengeh – thought to be the man behind the SLPP plan to rig the 2023 elections through the voter registration IT systems).

Others are accusing the government of usurping the powers of the country’s National Electoral Commission, whom they say has the sole responsibility for registration of voters, and publishing of voter lists locally for verification by local residents, in advance of general and presidential elections.

By giving an eligible voting population of over 5 million people just seven days to register, the NCRA is accused of being fraudulent, dishonest and irresponsible.

Today, the main opposition APC has issued this notice, calling a press conference to dicuss this latest development:

“The All Peoples Congress is hereby inviting all media houses to an Emergency Press Conference slated for tomorrow (Thursday 27th February 2020) morning at 9:30am at the APC National Headquarters, Old Railway LIne, Brookfields, Freetown.

“The topic to be discussed is the attempt by the National Civil Registration Authority (NCRA), to usurp the powers of His Excellency President Dr. Julius Maada Bio as well as usurp the functions of the National Electoral Commission (NEC).

“This invitation is also hereby extended to all Media, Public and Political Officers of all Diplomatic Missions stationed inside Sierra Leone. For adequate sitting arrangements, we ask those wishing to attend the press conference, to please kindly confirm their attendance by phone call or WhatsApp message to APC National Publicity Secretariat on ‪+232 78 849998‬.

“All Interested Comrades of the APC are also urged to be present so as to listen to the position of the APC on the very serious issues to be discussed.

“Signed: Comrade Sidi Yahya Tunis, National Publicity Secretariat, APC, Wednesday February 26th 2020.”

This morning, the Chairman of the National Grand Coalition party (NGC) – Dr Dennis Bright, informed the media that the party will be holding a press conference this Thursday to discuss this development. This is what he said:

This is the public notice published by the NCRA last week that has attracted widespread condemnation and accusations of skulduggery:

12 Comments

  1. We all knew how the former President Ernest Bai Koroma won his 2012 Re-election don’t we? My friends let’s talk about seriousness, stop playing games. So actually I personally admired our sister Aminata Conteh’s input, bless you sister. Guys, if there is an opportunity to move around, traveling to other countries, very essential. Let’s educate one and other. Wisdom is very important.

    Even in USA, you have to vote in a county where you’ve registered and pay your local taxes. Your civic registration number must be reviewed all the time, and you would never be allowed to vote in another county where you do not belong. Also who so ever made this false claim about SLPP preparing to rig the 2023 poll presidential election, just relax it won’t happen. APC tried it at the 2018 polls but never worked for them, so why should it work for SLPP?

  2. Due to the nature of human migration and the daily birth of new babies, the national database registration of citizens and non citizens should by all means be an open ended processes like its done in most civilized and advanced nations. The Bio regime has been advocating for the incorporation of information technology in aiding government MDAs to delivery services in a fast and efficient manner; so I see no reason why a time limitation has been imposed to carryout this vital exercise.

    A thorough and comprehensive database of people residing in the nation will serve as an invaluable tool for decision making process and the allocation of resources, especially in case of emergencies. In light of this, the exercise should never be politicize or use as a tool to disenfranchise citizens’ rights to participate in national elections.

  3. Aminata Conteh, before deriving conclusions as per your comment, it would be best to go back and review the the article again. It is not clear what you are trying to highlight: politicization of National Civil Registration, or your recent brief domicile experience in East Africa. What the Opposition Parties – APC, NGC, and C4C – are concerned about is the sudden stipulation (in this case order) in the time limit for the registration of ” … every citizen living in the country by the end of March 2020 so as to be able to vote at public elections, …”.

    This hasty time frame, is severely contracted to a week for any region in the country – Western Area, North, South, North West, and East – to come up with a ‘complete’ database of voters for the period ” … beginning with the 2020 Local Council elections”. Note that, some of these regions consist of 4 districts and most of them cannot boast of any reliable and efficient road networks; and it is highly likely that a greater proportion of eligible voters may not be able to afford the time and resource to travel to the respective registration headquarters or centres, within the unexpected time period.

    What is the motivation behind the sudden urgency, with the accompanying time constraint, in compiling a database of voters? Is the SLPP without any short and medium term priorities to think about? Like integrating the country with a modern road network; improve the production of the country’s staple food, rice, to at least a sustainable availability within the country; cater for the provision of affordable healthcare facilities, and seek to engage the populace in an aspiring, inclusive, and productive outlook.

    When one looks matters at face value, at times the attention to detail, or authenticity, is lost; and in this case, political sentiments seem to override emotions in a dishonest way. And here, one can see how the real issues are misunderstood in place of a superficial knowledge and experience of a unique and foreign civil registration system. Perhaps, a detailed analytical approach, void of any sentimental impulse, may be a definitive way forward.

    • Alimamy Turay, did you read the press release or just the article by the Editor? The press release indicates two things: Those who are registered to confirm thier details; and to register those who are not registered.

      I have my national ID card. Some unfortunately do not. The press release also indicates that the national registration is for many things. The right to vote in elections was just one of those benefits mentioned. Now you politicians are blinded to the benefits of an up-to-date civic registration for all, whether you are of voting age or not.

  4. This is not new to people like me. I have said it several times in the past that the Bio Administration is very deceitful and are planning to win the next election by hook or by crook. Just imagine from squatting people’s homes during the junta part one and part two days, to the land grabbing and a massive election rigging strategy for 2023 in junta part three days. Can you imagine? Sierra Leoneans will not let that happen. That I will assure everyone.
    The main aim of setting this so called innovation department or whatever at State House, was to implement rogue innovation election tactics to rig the 2023 general election. If it was not for rigging the elections in 2023, this not fit for purpose department would not have been established. Just a waste of taxpayers money.
    The fact that the APC and the NGC have sound alarm bells on this rogue strategy, I believe, this rogue registration policy will be scrapped. The Bio Administration and their team know very well, they can’t win any election without rigging. Also, let’s not forget about the NEC if the present chairman is to retire or if the PAOPA administration asks him to pack up his suitcases and go away. They would just select another rogue to help rig the elections in 2023. Again, that will not happen. God bless the APC and the NGC. To be continued.

    • “The main aim of setting this so called innovation department or whatever at State House, was to implement rogue innovation election tactics to rig the 2023 general election.” Sahr Matturi

      Interesting. Sierra Leone is now so polarized politically that opposition surrogates have become suspicious of anything and everything that can lift the country from the stone age status that the APC left it.

      Dr. David Sengeh could have been making a bag full of money working in America. He has advanced degrees from Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). But he deliberately decided to return to his country to uplift it in the age of technological development.

      Yet here we have an APC apologist who cannot even fix a bicycle if it had a flat tire accusing the learned scientist of an attempt to rig elections. Is it really difficult to blow away the dysfunctional and thieving APC at the polls?

  5. The war in Sierra Leone brought a lot of changes in Sierra Leone’s voter registers. The electoral commission office has to be well equipped and supported to do their job, including the national statistics office. People are paid to do their job to register the citizens. The voting registers are being improved to avoid discrepancies. People are very alert this time. You can’t pick and choose who meets the criteria to vote. We cant sit down this time and be fooled again. Enough is enough. If people don’t have a job but are eligible to vote, hope you don’t disqualify them for that.

  6. It’s about time for a change of parties, and change of Leadership for the benefit of every Sierra Leoneans. APC and SLPP have been in existence for donkey’s years, Sierra Leone doesn’t belong to 2 parties only. All these rotten policies need to be changed. If you can’t perform well in your first 5 years, you have failed the citizens. We don’t have time to waste. Sierra Leone has nothing to be proud of since gaining independence, Now things are getting worse. We definately need change to put Sierra Leone first. We have had enough.

    • Then you should really hurry up to make these changes come. “Things can only get worse” after they have been getting bad.

  7. “Why politicized everything in Sierra Leone?” Aminata Conteh,

    Ms. Aminata Conteh,

    The answer to your lustrous question is simple – the guilty are afraid. APC has a lifelong reputation of rigging elections. That is the only way it can win. But APC folks have now come to conclude that there is no way they would rig the 2023 elections because they are not in power. Thus, seeing a big and comprehensive butt kicking in the horizon, APC folks, in fear and guilt, have started to come up with excuses.

    APC is not a serious organization. A time like this demands organizational input into the national development process. But the APC being the impish and mischievous organization that it has always been, elections are the only thing it is concerned with. Yes, rig the elections, assume governance and steal from the public coffers. This has always been the hallmark of APC politics.

    APC’s attempt to bring the name of Dr. David Moinina Sengeh into disrepute is reprehensible and a blow below the belt. The young Sierra Leonean scientist has always been on the right side of history. Correspondingly, all that the man has always been interested in is to bring his country to the forefront of technological progress in Africa. This would represent the transformational growth that Sierra Leone badly needs. So, why smear a good man’s name?

    The SLPP will not indulge with the APC in its foolishness. Since the present times call for maximum effort in the development process, the SLPP has more important things to accomplish than to engage an opposition party whose activities are always rooted in palpable mediocrity.

    When 2023 comes, the SLPP will be ready to humiliate the APC and its tired and spent forces of Ernest Koroma, Minkailu Mansaray, Osman Yansaneh and Samuel Samsumana at the polls. There will be no runoff presidential elections in 2023.

  8. In Sierra Leone everything is politicized. National civil registration is not just for election purposes. Every citizen or resident in the country should be registered and accounted for. In East Africa where I was domicile recently, you cannot even get a phone number if you do not produce your civic registration number. After producing the civic number, the service providers still have to obtain your biometric details before the Sim card is registered to you. The same goes for passport and health Insurance. Recently, in Rwanda you cannot even register a child in a school say in Kigali if your civic and local council numbers are for another district.

    Why politicized everything in Sierra Leone? Having a national registration number is not a voter card. However, the civic registration number is part of the requirement to obtain a voter registration card. In addition to the civic Registration number, you have to meet other criteria to obtain voter registration card and these include, attaining the voting age, submitting biometric details to the election authorities and registering in an area where you are domicile and paying local tax.

    We should oppose where necessary and not just become suspicious about everything. The last census gave numbers to certain region, many of whom were ghost persons.

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