11 March 2019

Sierra Leone: Tonko Limba By-Election Marred By Malpractice

Kambia — The erstwhile Chief of Staff, Office of the President, State House, Dr. Richard Konteh had raised serious concern over the just concluded re-run by-election in Tonko Limba Chiefdom, Constituency 058, Ward 196, which he alleged was marred by series of malpractices, especially the one he witnessed at Mile 14 polling station 002.

Dr Konteh claimed that the Polling Centre Manager (PCM) at Mile 14 was compromised and that he connived with the ruling Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) to do ballot stuffing.

"By now the PCM should have been arrested and investigated. He presented two different sets of ballots papers-2018 and 2019. As you can see those ballot papers have just been weeded out during the counting and reconciliation period. My party agent reported that to me this morning, but NEC' Jonny dismissed it. The APC is not comfortable with the happenings here but we believe if the elections are free, fair and transparent, we will win because this is our stronghold," he said.

Meanwhile, there was some evidence of malpractices as police arrested three persons believed to be those that were involved in the said malpractices.

At Kargboto Kagbonko for instance, a voter was caught with five ballot papers at the voting screen. This happened at the time when there was already an allegation on ground that certain voters were issued with five ballot papers plus Le 100,000.

Polling Centre Managers at Kargboto Kagbonko- Kelfala Yansaneh, Gbessay Dumbuya and Momoh Samura, were among those that were arrested by the police.

The elections started in time but many voters abstained on the grounds that their lives were at risk.

At Masunthu village, where a 14-year-old boy was shot dead during the previous election, there was total quietness, as many voters were afraid to go out and cast their ballot due to the previous experience.

The PCM, Mohamed Y Kamara, said they were expecting voter apathy as most of the voters had gone into the bush two days ahead of the election.

"Even some of our NEC staffs didn't turn up. We have to hire other people we met on the ground. Everyone is scared for their lives," he said.

Assistant Inspector General of Police, Ambrose M. Sovula, who was in charge of the said Centre, said rumour mongers had instilled fears in the minds of the electorates that the entire village had been engulfed by police and military personnel.

"You know this is the place where there were lots of tensions and they succeeded in disrupting the process because the community was under-policed. But police presence is not as the way they are exaggerating it," he said.

The AIG said they had expected the voter apathy because lots of people might have either lost their voter cards or might not be interested in the process.

However, NGC's Dr Denis Bright, who was uncomfortable with the arrival of the Member of Parliament for 058 at the Kadalo Polling Centre, onboard a vehicle without a number plate, said it was worrisome for a lawmaker to be an outlaw.

He said the MP has nothing to do at the centre, as he hadn't got an accreditation.

"I don't know why he is moving around especially with that kind of vehicle. It raises suspicion. It is dangerous for our democracy. And I believe even the police have been compromised because they shouldn't have allowed him to even go through the gate. We brought three vehicles and entered right at the polling centre. For a very small election, these people are behaving like loosed cannons," he said.

Also, SLPP's Manso Dumbuya told our reporter that the claim about malpractices was a novelty to him and that his party had nothing to complain at the moment.

However, NEC was yet to issue any official statement on the said allegations, as they were still investigating.

As at press time, tallying at the National Election Commission Kambia District office was ongoing, although there was lots of grumbling as the APC demanded that they should go through all the ballot papers from the 17 polling stations to weed out the 2018 ballot paper, which they believed had been stuffed in favour of the SLPP.

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