Sierra Leone: Legal Link Raises Concerns On Electoral Process

By Ishmael Sallieu Koroma

Chief Electoral Commissioner Mohamed Konneh

Sierra Leone’s voter exhibition and verification exercise ended last week, but there have been growing calls from rights groups, citizens and even civil society organizations for the country’s electoral commission to extend the voter exhibition and verification exercise across the country.

Christian Lawyers Centre also known as LEGAL LINK is one of the leading human rights groups that has written a letter to the country’s Chief Electoral Commissioner Mohamed Konneh calling on him to extend the verification process in its 28th November letter whilst also calling on him to explain the deletion of 250,000 registrants in the voter registration data.

In a letter dated 5th December, the right group said that electoral body’s failure to extend the verification and voter exhibition is a violation of Sierra Leone’s Public Elections Act of 2012 which stipulates for a period of 14 days for the said process adding the five days given wasn’t enough.

The country will go into the polls on June 23rd next year which will see whether the citizens of the poor West African nation will vote Bio out or will vote him for his second time amidst rising inflation, unemployment and other issues.

‘’In the light of this blatant refusal, we are left with no option but to openly draw your attention and inform you that your institution (ECSL) is in violation of section 27(5) of the Public Elections Act of 2022 which requires the institution to do the voter exhibition and verification exercise for a period of 14 days,’’ LEGAL LINK said in the letter.

The group added, the voter exhibition and verification is to afford those who participated in the voter registration process an opportunity to confirm, correct, include or make objections to their records on the provisional voter register so as to prevent possible disenfranchisement and or disruptions on polling day.

‘’ And as such Mr.  Chairman, it would be safe to state that your institution has violated the mandatory provision of the Public Elections Act 2022 by your willful failure to extend the exhibition and verification exercise,’’ LEGAL LINK added.

The group noted that the voter exhibition exercise was gravely undermined due to the shortness of the time frame allocated to complete the exercise urging in the interest of transparency and integrity of the process for the electoral body to allow for the 14 days period to elapse as required by law so that the many problems that eclipsed the voter exhibition and verification phase will be fully addressed and dealt with accordingly.

‘’We at LEGAL LINK hold the view that the right to vote and be voted for in periodic elections is a fundamental human right to be enjoyed by all eligible citizens in a democratic society as guaranteed under section 31 of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone. Denying citizens therefore the enjoyment and or exercise of such fundamental human rights without justifiable limitations constitute a violation of both domestic and international law’’

Abu Kamara 31, a truck driver was unable to do his verification process but said, there was an error in his details when he went to look for his name at the center adding his name and address where missing and some of his details misspelt thus urging the electoral commission to extend the time to enable him correct the details in the electoral register.

’’I need that document. It’s not just for elections purposes, it will be used to collect money from the bank and a form of identification. I want to verify my details so that the mistakes on my details are corrected,’’ he said.

Istata Sesay 23, expressed dissatisfaction over the short period given by the electoral body adding that the body’s act could disenfranchise many Sierra Leoneans from voting in the upcoming elections due to mistakes and not been able to verify their details .

She therefore urged the electoral body to work inline as per the laws of the country which stipulates for a 14 days period for the exercise to allow every citizen enjoy the right of voter exhibition and verification.

Freetown’s Mayor Yvonne Aki Sawyerr also added her voice by calling on ECSL to extend the exercise so that so that all registered citizens will have the opportunity to ‘’verify and thus to vote’’

She said that, during her visit to some centers she witnessed minimal challenges with many of them not having the inclusion and correction forms.

‘’As we come to the end of the third day of verification process, I visited a number of registration centers in Freetown. Whilst there are some centers with minimal challenges, there are many which do not have the inclusion and #correction forms, where registrants are being directed to the NCRA office instead of having the forms completed and where the database of registrants is not effectively displayed or not displayed at all. There is also a low turnout as ECSL’s sensitization does not appear to have been adequate,’’ Mayor Sawyerr wrote on her official account.

Meanwhile the electoral body in a public notice called on all those that have been issued rejection form during the registration period to go to the inquiry center within the wards where they had registered for the hearing of their cases by the inquiry officer from the 4th -5th December.

 

 

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