Voter registration ahead of next year’s elections in Sierra Leone marred by faulty computers

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 05 September 2022:

There was frustration and anger in various electoral registration centres across Sierra Leone last weekend, as voters were unable to register because of faulty computers. (Photo Credit: Kerefala Janneh/Xinhua).

In several centres in the capital Freetown, voters queued up for many hours waiting to register, only to be told by officials that they were experiencing technical problems. Other centres in the north, east and south of the country experienced similar problems.

“Look at the video evidence below. You certainly can’t call this a VOTER REGISTRATION exercise. Take note that they took over US$8.5 million to prepare the technology for this voter registration exercise. The politicians from all political parties should be ASHAMED of themselves for trying to deny ordinary citizens their constitutional right to vote,” says Chernoh Alpha M. Bah, of the Africanist Press, USA.

Before the announcement of the voter registration process, there were fears the exercise could face similar technical problems experienced during the 2021 population census, with reports of widespread logistical difficulties. The World Bank withdrew its support for the census process, complaining of widespread logistical and technical problems that remained unresolved.

(Photo Credit: Kerefala Janneh/Xinhua)

Arriving at her local centre to register to vote and accompanied by the British High Commissioner to Sierra Leone – Lisa Chesney, Mayor of Freetown – Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr said that people had queued for several hours unable to register.

 Last week, the chief electoral commissioner and chairman of the electoral commission issued this statement, to declaring the start of the registration process:

“Fellow compatriots, the Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone will begin voter registration as scheduled on Saturday the 3 rd. September in readiness for 24 June 2023 Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Council elections.

“The voter registration process will be in two phases. Each phase takes 15 days and at every phase, the designated registration centers will be opened at 07 a.m. and closed at 5 p.m. across the country in every constituency and ward. The first phase will start on 3rd September and ends on 17th September.

“The Commission will need two days to mobilize equipment and staff across the country to start the 2nd phase on 20th September and ends on 4th October 2022. I encourage every eligible Sierra Leonean including those who will be 18 years old on 24th June 2023 to turn out in your numbers and present yourself at the registration center where you intend to vote and update your details.

“Documents required for registration are a valid Sierra Leonean passport, previous Voter ID card, a National ID card, certificate of registration from NCRA, or Sierra Leonean birth certificate. At the same time, we warn all those who intend to do or encourage double or underage registration not to attempt because they would be caught and prosecuted. The Commission is working in collaboration with the Security sector to ensure the safety of lives and property.

“The Commission is also working with EMB’s, local and international partners to ensure best practices and credibility of the process. We will continue to work within the legal framework to ensure that citizens have unhindered access to the registration centers and be registered. The Commission has established a Situation room at the ECSL Headquarters to respond to public concerns during this period. The public can call on a toll-free number 838 on Africell, Orange and Qcell networks. Thank you for contributing toward a peaceful voter registration process for the June 2023 multi- tier elections.”

The cause of the computer glitches is yet unknown, and Sierra Leone’s Electoral Commission is keeping tight-lipped as it faces another embarrassment that could add to the public’s distrust of the country’s electoral administration.

Questions are being asked about the millions of dollars poured into the electoral body for procurement of new computers. With reports of computer failures across voter registration centres last weekend, there are calls for investigation by the Anti-Corruption Commission into how the millions of dollars earmaked for computer purchase was spent.

Presidential, general and local elections are taking place on June 24th next year.

This is Mayor Aki-Sawyerr encouraging voters to go out and register:

 

3 Comments

  1. First, there was the scandal of a much-decried census whose results amounted to barefaced statistical fudge and fakery. Now, there is the scandal of a voter registration exercise that is patently a joke from the word go. You should therefore be forgiven if you think that on President Bio’s watch, Sierra Leone is synonymous with chaos: a country run by mad, hopelessly incompetent men.

    But at bottom, there is a method to the chaos, madness and incompetence on display. I call the method political skulduggery; it is being deployed to achieve what will essentially be a political crime committed in broad daylight: come 2023 and come what may, the Paopa regime must win again. Democracy? Yes, democracy. Paopa-styled.

    I hope Sierra Leonean voters see the scheming Paopa regime’s sham democratic electoral theatre – theatrics? – for what it is.

  2. Computer glitch is a common phenomena that can affect all sectors of our social , economic, and political life. So what does computer glitch mean? “A glitch , in technical terms, refers to a small and fleeting error in a system that occurs due to unknown causes .While the actual cause of a glitch is unknown , it can potentially cause serious harm to the system including power failures, temporary loss of service or data loss .” The important thing here is for the Sierra Leone national electoral commission to launch an immediate and verifiable investigate as to what happened and published the results of their findings transparently , so there is no room left for conspiracy theorists including government ministers that likes to peddle their lies and promote disunity in a country that is fractured on party political affiliation. Computer glitch can affect large copprrations, medium size companies and even government ministries . Even the most advance economies in the world are not immune from this sort of developments . The most important thing is to ensure the system works for what it was intended to do .Some times it can be cause by State actors or none State actors that are difficult to identity never mind brought to book to account for their unhinged actions .

    Majority of governments around the world are aware of malware actions by hostile parties , so they take the necessary precaution to advice their citizens and copperations to be vigilant against this cyber attacks .Smetimes these glitches can go unreported and no one make a fuss out it .But it is a whole different story when computer system glitch occurred in the middle of a political season , when countries like ours are trying to carry out mass registrations for the up coming presidential elections , and coming soon after one of the deadliest riots our country have experienced .Politicians of all colors should refrain from using this computer glitch as a political weapon of choice to promote disquiet amongst their diehards supporters for party political purposes .Not long ago Chicago , in the United States was experiencing similar computer glitches during their elections for the Governoship and State elections.

    Coming after the charge of 2016 US presidential elections interference by Russians hakers , which Putin and the Russian Fedration strenuously denied , we Sierra Leoneans have nothing to fear for any foreign interference in to our election process.The only people we should fear are our unappologetic and corrupt politicians that will stop at nothing to claim our electoral process is being compromised by keyboard warriors in the daospora that is out to cause mischief or make our country ungovernable .So the Bio government is now sowing the seeds of doubt , so if he and his one directionless government is shown the Red card come 2023 presidential elections they will always look back at this particular moment and blamed it on the way the registration process was carried out .Bio knows in a free and fair election , despite all his bluster he will be shown the red card .And for all his worth , he more than deserve it .Right now more than ever we have to be vigilant and treat any statement from Bio and his supporters with grain of salt. He has been a total failure and undermined the democratic credentials of our country .Our country deserves better than the current headless chickens we have as our leaders .

  3. If anyone ever thought that the registration process would proceed without a hitch they didn’t have their thinking cap on. Maada Bio and his team know that they are in serious trouble at the polls, they are ready to do anything to hold on to power come 2023; they have looked into the pit of defeat and they don’t like its features. In the coming days I suspect that the voter registration problems will become more intense and widespread in areas where SLPP know they don’t stand a chance of winning, particularly Greater Freetown. By registering fewer people in Freetown while doing the reverse in SLPP strongholds, Maada and his gang believe they can tip the balance in their favour come June 2023.

    But the two major parties (SLPP and APC) have another worry : NGC have now made inroads into the hearts of the electorate, thereby creating a real retarding force for both SLPP and APC – the days of a two- horse race between the two major parties are over. I smell a coalition government when the dust settles in 2023. It may well be the moment when we truly regain our independence because we will have men and women in power who “put Salone foss” with Dr Yomkella leading the charge.

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