• Election observation missions express concerns
From Olusegun Adeniyi in Freetown
Citing the powers conferred on him by the country’s constitution and the Public Elections Act, 2022, Chairman of the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL), Mohamed Kenewui Konneh, yesterday, announced what he described as partial results of the presidential election held last Saturday.
By the figures released, the incumbent President, Julius Maada Bio of the ruling Sierra Leonean Peoples Party (SLPP) topped the chart. He was credited as having garnered 1,067,666 votes while his strongest opponent, Dr Samura Kamara of the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC), was said to have polled 793,751 votes.
Mohammed Cherno Bah of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) who came third secured 14,829 votes. The remaining 10 candidates shared between them about 30,000 votes.
Although Konneh made it clear in his statement that the results “do not represent the complete outcome of the presidential election”, questions were being asked as to why the electoral commissioner was in such a hurry to announce an incomplete result for a crucial election that had put the country on edge.
The results announced, according to Konneh, “represent 60 per cent of total polling stations processed” while promising that the “final certified results will be announced within the next 48 hours.”
He added that the ECSL “is the only constitutionally mandated authority responsible to announce election results.”
Going by the figures released yesterday, President Bio was leading with 56 per cent of the votes while Kamara trailed with 42 per cent of the total, in an election in which an outright winner needed 55 per cent of the votes to cross the line. Otherwise, the winner would have to be decided by a runoff poll between the two leading candidates.
Meanwhile, foreign election observers have continued to express concerns by developments concerning the elections, especially as they related to the collation of results.
In their statement on last night, the European Union (EU) Election Observation Mission called on the ECSL to provide unhindered access to critical stakeholders.
“Considering the highly polarised political environment and prevailing mistrust, it is imperative that the ECSL provides full transparency during the tabulation of results in order to ensure confidence and trust in the electoral process,” the EU stated.
Also, yesterday, a joint statement by the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Election Observation Missions called on the ECSL “to stand firm and fulfill its duties, without succumbing to pressure”.
The Missions also urged the electoral commission to “uphold the credibility of the institution and be accountable to the people of Sierra Leone.”
Signed by both Hallemariam Desaiegne Boshe for the AU and Mohamed Ibn Chambas for ECOWAS, the statement further expressed “concern at the unofficial results by some political actors, and individuals.”
Chairman of the Commonwealth Observation Group and former Nigerian Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, yesterday, highlighted some of the “isolated critical incidents, including reported skirmishes, police arrests, attacks on polling officials and political party agents, and harassment of police officers,” that were observed during the elections last Saturday.
Osinbajo called on the ECSL to publish the results from the polling station level “to allow for cross-verification by party agents of all political parties, their leaders, and supporters.”
The former vice-president also urged the ECSL “to exercise maximum transparency in the days ahead, as its staff finalised the tabulation of votes and prepared to release final results.”
On Sunday night, there was an attack at the APC headquarters, following a press statement by Kamara, where he claimed that, “The people of Sierra Leone have spoken loudly, and the message is very clear in the results coming in”, urging the ECSL to declare him winner “to ensure that the decline of democracy in West Africa does not continue under their watch in Sierra Leone.”
A top government source told THISDAY that the police action at the APC headquarters was a “pre-emptive move”, alleging an attempt by the main opposition party to do a live press conference “where they would declare Kamara the winner and incite their supporters to violence.”
According to the official, APC leaders and their presidential candidate were not ready for the election, “so all their efforts were geared towards propaganda. They wanted the election postponed, just as it happened under the former president, who ended up spending 11 years rather than ten in office. But we checkmated all their plans. We were always one step ahead of them.”
Last night, President Bio made a public broadcast to the people of Sierra Leone, following the announcement of partial results that put him ahead.
“This afternoon, the Chief Electoral Commissioner of ECSL, has announced sixty per cent (60%) of the presidential election results. While we all await the announcement of the final results by the Chief Electoral Commissioner, I call on all citizens to keep the peace and continue to respect all public order laws.”
The president urged the people to avoid any action capable of inciting violence.
“For our sakes, we must avoid all provocative and retaliatory actions. We built our democracy from the embers of war. We should each be resolved to never go back to that dark chapter of our country’s history. Let us all continue to consolidate our democracy, respect our constitution, and maintain peace,” he said.