Freetown — While the 2018 presidential election in Sierra Leone is almost similar to that of Liberia's 2017 presidential election as the All People's Congress (APC) of Samurai Kamara, which is the political party of current President Ernest Bai Koroma, appears to be in a dilemma the head of the ECOWAS Observation Mission, Prof. Amos Sawyer has appealed to Sierra Leoneans to persevere to the end in peace.
APC's candidate, Dr. Samura Kamara, is having problems because many Sierra Leoneans believe that his victory would mean a continuation of President Koroma's rule and, therefore, they are in favor of regime change. They point to the APC having been in power for more than 15 years.
Many Sierra Leoneans interviewed believe the development of their country would depend on bringing in new leaders, something which bears a similarity to the just ended 2017 presidential elections in Liberia, in which the opposition was viewed more favorably than the ruling Unity Party that had been in office for the last 12 years.
Isatu Koroma, 28, of Aberdeen Beach Road told this newspaper that her country is rich in terms of natural resources, yet the citizens are suffering due to the apparent lack of development by the APC government. She explained that she wants a new party to continue the development of the country, and not the APC.
"The life which we are living in Freetown is just from hand to mouth in the sense that there are not many jobs created by the APC government for the people, and things are expensive. The only way to make ends meet is when you have a job," she said.
James Bangura, 35, of Congo Cross in Freetown, said, "We thank Ernest Koromah for the work he has done in the past 10 years. He was able to focus on roads and said that he will not refuse to leave power if he was elected because of his military lifestyle. If we take a look at things, Maada Bio has too many disadvantages; educationally he does not have a terminal degree, so we still consider him as a student. He betrayed several of his men during the NPRC time; he was part of the team which gave the order to kill plenty of his military men. He has a bad record, but we prefer to vote him so we can see the change he will bring to the country."
In another development, the Sierra Leone Supreme Court postponed the election to the March 31 in its ruling on Monday.
Sierra Leone's National Electoral Commission has urged all citizens to remain peaceful as the Commission will do all it can to conduct a free and peaceful election on March 31 as mandated by the Court.
The tension-packed and much-anticipated presidential runoff elections in neighboring Sierra Leone have deferred to Saturday 31st March. The runoff was earlier scheduled for Tuesday, March 27, but it has been delayed due to an injunction issued by a Freetown High Court.
The new date was therefore decided on yesterday following an agreement by the two political parties and the National Electoral Commission (NEC), at a meeting facilitated by Heads of International Observers.
Like its neighbor Liberia, the Sierra Leonean 2018 runoff presidential election is being contested by the incumbent political party, the All People Congress (APC) of Dr. Samura Kamara and the nation's most popular opposition, Sierra Leonean People's Party (SLPP) of Julius Maada Bio.
However, initial observation seems to favor the opposition so far making it a little difficult for the ruling party to cling a third term. Several Sierra Leoneans interviewed by the Daily Observer have called for change.
According to them, the growth and development of the country depend on change thereby stating that they are not in a position to elect APC to rule the country for 15 or 20 years as president.
Meanwhile, the meeting that led to the setting of the new runoff date was facilitated heads of observation missions including Prof Amos Sawyer (ECOWAS); John Mahama (Commonwealth); Goodluck Jonathan (EISA, Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa), and Kgalima Motlanthe (AU).
The flag bearers Dr. Samura Kamara of the ruling APC and his opposition counterpart rtd Brig. Julius Maada Bio, who are contesting in the run-off vote, led their parties at the meeting, while NEC officials were led by its chairman Mohamed N'fah-Alie Conteh.
The meeting, which also addressed contentious issues, followed the vacation of an interim injunction issued by a Freetown High Court suspending the vote earlier fixed for March, 27.
It was also agreed that NEC complies with the High Court order on the ballot tallying and result management and with cooperation of all stakeholders for the conduct of a peaceful and credible election.
With the vacation of the Court injunction and the consensus by the key political stakeholders, NEC is expected to put the process in motion to ensure a successful electoral process.
These are Sierra Leone's fourth elections since the end of its 11-year civil war in 2002 and the first time national authorities will assume full responsibility for an electoral process since the withdrawal of the UN Mission in 2014.
The two presidential candidates emerged runners up from the first round general elections of March 7 and the winner will replace outgoing President Ernest Bai Koroma, who is completing his constitutionally allowed two mandates of five years each.
In his appeal to Sierra Leonean electorates, Prof. Amos C. Sawyer, head of the ECOWAS Elections Observer Mission to Sierra Leone, said, "At the end of the day, it is one Sierra Leone, the consolidation of peace and democracy in the country and the ECOWAS region."
He enjoined political actors to resolve their differences using diplomatic and legal channels, noting that Sierra Leone and Liberia had passed through a recent difficult period, and "there is the need to encourage and support Sierra Leoneans to get it right with the on-going electoral process."
Prof. Sawyer commended the exemplary leadership demonstrated by the four African statesmen in swapping roles as election observers and political mediators, to ensure that all political actors and stakeholders in Sierra Leone were on the same trajectory (course).
"This is consistent with the ECOWAS protocol on democracy and good governance, the fact that election is not a single event, and also that regime change is only through the ballot box and the will of the people," the head of the ECOWAS mission said.
He noted that the Heads of Missions held wide consultations with stakeholders, including leaders of the two political parties, the National Electoral Commission (NEC), Sierra Leone civil society and out-going President Ernest Bai Koroma.
Meanwhile, at the instance of NEC, the Supreme Court on Wednesday validated the March 31st date for the run-off vote.
According to judicial sources, this decision forestalls any possible legal action over the legitimacy of the poll in view of the constitutional provision, which stipulates that a run-off must take place within two weeks after the declaration of the results of the first round of voting.