Sierra Leone Telegraph: 10 March 2019:
The Chief Electoral Commissioner of Sierra Leone – Mr Nfa Alie Conteh early this morning declared the SLPP candidate winner of the hotly contested bye-election in the Tonko Limba Chiefdom – Ward 196, in the Kambia District.
Mustapha Kamara of the SLPP polled 46.92 %, with APC candidate – Alusine Kamara coming a close second with 46.49%, and NGC’s candidate Alusine Sesay trailing with 6.22%. This result closely mirrors the results of national elections held in March 2018.
The Bye-election was called following the death of the young APC Councillor Ibrahim Conteh last year.
In March 2018, the APC candidate Ibrahim Conteh, won the election with 83.69%, and SLPP’s James Dumbuya lagging behind in third place with 4.33% of the votes.
How soon politics and loyalties have shifted in just twelve months, with the ruling SLPP now commanding a slim majority in what used to be APC’s political heartland.
But there were hopes among supporters of the National Grand Coalition party (NGC) of Dr Kandeh Kandeh Yumkella, that with his resounding victory in the 2018 parliamentary elections which gave NGC four MPs in Kambia, the NGC would win yesterday’s polls in Tonko Limba Chiefdom.
Those hopes began to fade quite quickly, well before the closing of polling when it became obvious that the battle for control of Tonko Limba was between the ruling SLPP and the main opposition APC.
NGC were reduced to mere spectators as accusations and counter accusations of vote rigging, intimidation and electoral fraud were made by both APC and SLPP, prompting the APC National Publicity Secretary – Cornelius Deveaux to issue this public statement yesterday 9th March 2019:
“The All Peoples Congress (APC) party wishes to inform the National Electoral Commission (NEC) and the general public that it will not accept any result in the ongoing local council bye election in Ward 196 Tonko Limba that does not reflect the true will of the people.
“The party wishes to bring to the attention of the general public that SLPP party operatives have been caught red-handed in election rigging in Thonko-Limba, Ward 196 acting in connivance with staff of NEC and the Police.
“The Party is in possession of incontrovertible evidence that the SLPP and its accomplices have been engaged in massive ballot stuffing alongside streams of intimidating tactics to deprive the people of Ward 196 Tonko Limba from electing the candidate of their choice.
“The APC also brings to the attention of NEC, PPRC, our international partners and the general public that the SLPP is in violation of an MOU signed by the three political parties in contest for the Ward 196 seat that only one high-profile politician would be allowed in the Ward per political party.
“Nonetheless, the SLPP, acting in connivance with the Police and NEC staff has a barage of high-profile politicians and non-alien voters in Ward 196 for the purposes of voter fraud and intimidation.
“The Party has identified non-aliens of Tonko Limba who had been transported into the Ward by SLPP operatives way before the election today 9th March 2019 and have been distributed sparsely in all the 34 polling stations for the purpose of voting for the SLPP.
“The Party is also of the conviction that the Police and NEC are in collusion with the rigging process as such a complex daylight robbery of ballots cannot be possible in an election without collusion with Police and NEC authorities.
“Initial concerns relating to the abrupt closure of voting in Mile-14 have been released by the National Secretary General and the general public is further informed that our polling agents have made two arrests of people with extra pre-voted ballots in Mile-14 and Kagbonkoh but Police reneged on its duty to arrest and it’s reported that the perpetrators have escaped possibly with the aid of the police and NEC officials.
“Let me reiterate that the APC will settle for nothing other than victory in the Ward 196 bye- election and any attempt to deprive the people of their inalienable right to vote for the candidate of their choice will be stoutly resisted.
“The Party however implores its agents and other well meaning citizens alongside international observers to continue to observe the process with due diligence and vigilance. A full statement will be issued by the National Secretary General in due course.”
But these accusations by the APC were swiftly rebuffed by Lahai Lawrence Leema – National Publicity Secretary of the SLPP party. This is what he said:
“The SLPP notes with deem view, fabrications of the APC Publicity Secretary Mr. Cornelious Deveaux who is on a malicious spree of making baseless and unfounded allegations against the SLPP.
“The APC party via their publicity Secretary, Mr. Cornelius Deveaux, in a Press Statement he signed on 9th March 2019, vaguely alleges in such alarming manner that the NEC and the police are in connivance with SLPP operatives engaged in election rigging in ward 196 Tonko Limba.
“The APC also alleges on a speculative tone that the SLPP is in violation of the MOU for ward 196 bye-election. The MOU provides that only a high-profile politician for each political party should be allowed in the ward during the election.
“The APC claims to be in possession of an incontrovertible evidence to prove their allegation. The SLPP unequivocally denies all allegations fabricated by the APC and dare them to rely on their incontrovertible evidence to go to court.
“The SLPP in fact want to inform the general public that the APC may have been up to their usual game of vote rigging, violence and political intimidation but may have found it difficult to have their way as a result of the professional policing of the SLP to police the said bye-election in ward 196 in Tonko Limba.
“Unlike the APC, the SLPP wishes to inform the general public that there is nothing to worry about on its side because the SLPP is a democratic and law abiding party. Hence, the SLPP prides itself in free, fair, transparent and violence free election in ward 196.
“The SLPP also glorifies itself in its good work for this country. Hence, the SLPP takes advantage of its political message to win any election than the fabrications maliciously alleged by the alarmist, failed APC party.
“The SLPP calls on all stakeholders to do their job without fair or favour to ensure free, fair and transparent democratic election in ward 196 in Tonko Limba.
“The SLPP warns the APC to refrain from making baseless and unfounded statements having the potential to breach law and order in that part of the country.”
The APC too has had recent electoral success in SLPP controlled district of Bonthe, where they won local council Bye-election.
The SLPP are today saying that their party accepted the result when they lost in Bonthe against the APC, so why is the APC finding it hard to accept that they lost yesterday in Kambia. This is democracy says the SLPP.
This is the Electoral Commissioner announcing Bye-Election result early this morning: