16 September 2012

Sierra Leone: 'Elections Will Consolidate Peace'

Freetown: His Excellency Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma has declared that the pending presidential, parliamentary and local council elections will be used as a tool to consolidate peace in not just Sierra Leone, but also in the Mano River Union (MRU) basin.

He made this declaration during a courtesy call on him at State House by a high powered MRU Elections Commission delegation led by the Secretary General of the MRU, Haja Dr Saran Kabba.

"I am of the view that elections are one of the tools that can be used to consolidate peace," he said, and therefore urged that it was the responsibility of all MRU citizens to ensure "peaceful free, fair and transparent elections".

The Chief Executive also noted that, to have peaceful elections depend on the electoral process, and guarantee that it is participatory and all-embracing. He called for more experience sharing between and among member states as a way of mapping out the way forward for the future of the basin.

"We have had a terrible past as a basin, considering the common history of violence, the period of wars we had experienced. While we are thankful that we have come out of it, we equally have the responsibility to consolidate peace, and I believe that a good number of us have had elections in the past after our difficulties. We have now started making progress but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in ensuring that we consolidate the progress we have made".

In further applauding the MRU experience sharing initiative, President Koroma disclosed that member states have laws that vary from country to country, and that it is in the best interest of the sub-region to standardize the practice, and in so doing; "we must adopt the best practice".

He described the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) system as one of the acceptable practices, as well as having an independent electoral commission, adding that it is only when the commission is perceived to be independent by everybody, then members of the public will be able to accept its processes.

On the issue of funding, he noted that for an electoral institution to be independent, it was critical that it has adequate funding, and for a country's electoral process to be independent it must be able to fund its own elections.

He also said that there was a lot to benefit when member states work together, as elections are not conducted in the sub-region at the same time, but varies from country to country, and from one layer of government to another. He therefore encouraged the delegation to further consolidate their proposals so as to minimize electoral expenditures among MRU states.

According to President Koroma, although our circumstances are peculiar and our history, culture and traditions are unique in the sub-region", we do not seem to be practicing the same system of governance at all, and where we are as well as where we find ourselves today is enough to let us conceive a system that is workable for transforming the lives of our people.

He added that the MRU secretariat should continue with such initiative to make sub-regional democracy work, and get everybody involved in the democratic process, which he referred to as a great challenge which must be confronted.

Reassuring President Koroma of sub-regional electoral security, the MRU Secretary General Haja Dr. Saran Kabba said the violent incidents that took place in the elections held in Ivory Coast, Guinea and Liberia will not occur in the approaching presidential, legislative and local council elections in Sierra Leone, as the union has already put the necessary structures in place to ensure that the process is fully secured; to give the entire electioneering business credibility.

She lauded the efforts of President Koroma for working inclusively with the opposition parties, citing the Head of State's visit to the British Parliament, where he went along with the Sierra Leone People's Party Minority Leader in Parliament, and further reiterated that the minority should be always included in the management of state affairs.

Dr. Kabba said that it was resolved at the peace and security meeting held with the United Nations family in Sierra Leone, that member states should form a network of electoral commissions, to exchange ideas and share resources.

The MRU Deputy Secretary General Mrs. Linda Koroma briefed President Koroma on their meeting held a few days earlier, where they deliberated issues bordering on non-violence in elections. She said they also came up with recommendations to ensure that elections held in the MRU basin were free from violence, noting that the delegation resolved that when once elections results were announced they would be accepted by all and sundry.

Mrs. Koroma informed the President that they also touched on how member states electoral commissions should be funded in the sub-region, so that they can maintain their independence and carry out their activities without governments' interference.

Statements by the electoral commissioners of Guinea, Lusanie Sannoh, and the Liberian electoral commission climaxed the MRU delegation's courtesy call on President Koroma.

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