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: