Sierra Leone: Opposition Parties, CSOs Reject Annulment of By - Election Result

Civil society organisations and opposition political parties who participated in Saturday's rerun by-election in Constituency 110, Western Rural District, have rejected the decision taken by National Electoral Commission (NEC) to cancel the result of the said election.

The main opposition noted in a press statement that they will not accept the verdict of NEC to 'illegally' cancel the results that they have been able to win at huge cost to their party.

They called on the international community and all peace-loving and patriotic Sierra Leoneans to bring pressure to bear on NEC to reverse their 'arbitrary' decision in the best interest of peace and stability in Sierra Leone.

"The APC wishes to emphatically make it known that we shall not accept the verdict of NEC to illegally cancel the results that we have been able to win at huge cost to our party," the statement reads.

The statement issued and signed by the APC scribe expressed dismay and disappointment over the content of the press release from the Chairman of NEC, cancelling the results of the 24th August 2019 re-run elections.

NEC cancelled the result of the re-run by-election on the grounds that it was marred by violence which undermines the credibility of the outcome.

But Ambassador Osman Foday Yansaneh said the action by the NEC Chairperson was the highest degree of provocation and injustice, adding that his party will explore all options available to them to ensure that such gross abuse of power and disenfranchisement is not allowed to continue unchecked in Sierra Leone.

The release claimed that the APC supporters witnessed the most extreme forms of intimidation and harassment by elements of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) led nicknamed "Arata" that went on the rampage across the constituency during polling day.

The statement claimed that the attack by thugs was done under the watchful eyes of the Sierra Leone Police and Military Officers.

Also,Unity Party (UP) candidate, Femi Claudius Cole, posted on her Facebook page that the incident that took place during the re-run election was a cause for concern, thus describing it as 'worrisome'.

"What happened in 110 should give us all sleepless night, the voting process was going on smoothly, until SLPP thugs in convoy (with 2 vehicles with no No. plates) entered Sarah Model school and destroyed the voting boxes, scattering ballots all over the floor, despite the heavy police presence no one was arrested," the post reads.

Madam Cole alleged that the 'hooligans' led by one 'arata' also entered Ahmadiya School armed with cutlasses, but that the senior officer who was present apparently coaxed him to leave instead of arresting him.

"This was a by-election. May the God help us in 2023. International and local observers pay attention,"

Hon.Kandeh Yumkella of the National Grand Coalition (NGC) party charged that: "Today we witnessed another diabolical attempt by NEC to kill the democracy that has been nurtured and built in our country through the blood and sweat of many, especially those who lost their lives during the decade long civil war. After the Tonkoh debacle, a few months ago, today NEC demonstrated further contempt for the Sierra Leonean people. Today was daylight robbery."

Meanwhile, the Executive Director of Campaign for Human Rights and Democracy International (CHARDI), Abdul M. Fatorma, noted during the 'Gud Morning' programme on Radio Democracy 98.1 that there have been no changes in the political system in the country, despite the ruling party, whilst in opposition, campaigned on the platform of change.

Another Civil Society Organisation, Citizens Advocacy Network (CAN) notes that NEC and its National Returning Officer were not empowered by law to cancel an entire electioneering process on grounds of violence in just a polling centre.

"CAN further notes that NEC in its press release dated 25the August, 2019, cited sections 33 and 39(1) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone, Act No.6 1991 and sections 69(1) and 70(1) of the Public Elections Act 2012. CAN wishes to state that the referred sections do not in any way support the decision of NEC," the statement reads.

The statement issued yesterday stated that the decision by NEC to cancel over 134 polling centres on allegations of an isolated incident of violence in just one polling centre, was 'illegal, absurd, unconscionable and undermines the country's nascent democracy.

Thus, the rights organization called on the NEC to immediately retract the pronouncement of cancellation of the rerun bye-election at Constituency 110.

However, the National Publicity Secretary of the ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party, Lahai Lawrence Leema, denied claims that the party hired thugs to disrupt the election.

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