23 November 2012

Sierra Leone: NEC and the Final Results Announcement


The National Electoral Commission (NEC) Chairperson, Dr. Christiana Thorpe and her commissioners in the various regions should speed up the announcement of the results nationwide. It has become evidently clear that Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma is on a commanding lead and may call the first ballot, even if it ends up to be marginally. NEC should officially hasten the announcement of results as virtually all the political parties are now privy to the results. Any delay may result in further heightening of tensions that may result in unnecessary fracas. Observers, both local and international, diplomats and members of international organizations and missions in the country, have now known the results. NEC should, as a matter of urgency, officially release them now!

Sierra Leone is too small a country for elections results to be officially announced in 10 days or so! In Nigeria or Ghana, elections results are announced within 3 to 4 days. As vast as Nigeria is, about 40 times the size of Sierra Leone, and 30 times its population size, why should it take Sierra Leone about 10 days or so to announce elections results but could only take 3 days for Nigeria to officially announce its own results.

NEC has all what it takes to quickly announce the results. Vehicles and other logistics are in place. Collating technicians, their work tools and equipments in tally centres have finalized collation of results. NEC should quickly release the results and let the country move forward. Isolated incidences should not impede the overall successful outcome of the elections. The ECOWAS press conference gave a pass mark of the elections, so also are other international observers who only referred to isolated cases of hitches, which do occur in virtually all elections in Africa and beyond.

Elections are not 100% perfect, even in the best of systems. Sierra Leone is an emerging, developing democracy enmeshed in a take-off stage economically. Let's take a quick look at elections announcements in West Africa and do a quick, clear-cut analytical survey. In Nigeria, Professor Attahiru Jega and his team at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) only took an amazing 3 to 4 days to announce to Nigerians and the world the outcome of the elections that brought in Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to power in 2011. That election was internationally acclaimed to be free, fair and transparent.

Let's be mindful that a single state in Nigeria is the size of the entire Sierra Leone and there are 36 states, plus the capital Abuja, in Nigeria. The same could be said of Ghana and other West Africa countries about the timeliness of results announcements. In my humble assessment, it should not take more than 2 days to announce the Sierra Leone elections results, with all the logistical problems faced by NEC.

The beauty of early announcement of results by NEC is to allay the fears, tensions and hullaballoo (real or threatened) that might envelop or snowball into impending crisis, especially from the opposition forces that might feel aggrieved. Christiana Thorpe, as a matter of urgency, should announce the results to the world and annul the results of the stations that are questionable. Any further delay may further jeopardize the peaceful and democratic manner Sierra Leoneans have demonstrated on the voting day, which at the moment has put the country positively among the international comity of nations as a country worth emulating. I have written in previous commentaries, both for local and international publications, that foreign investments into Africa are massively flourishing from the Asian countries of China, Malaysia, Singapore and even Russia that is fast transforming into a liberal economy. I recall successive elections in Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon and even in the Democratic Republic of Congo, presently at war in the east with the M23 rebels, elections results are rapidly announced, electoral malpractices at polling centers are quickly and swiftly addressed and punitive measures are put in place by the electoral bodies. This could also be done successfully in Sierra Leone.

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