By PAUL EJIME –
The ECOWAS Observation Mission in Saturday’s Presidential and Parliamentary elections in Sierra Leone have met with the Presidential Flag Bearers, expressing deep concern over reported violence in parts of the country.
Head of the ECOWAS Observer Mission, Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, met separately in Freetown on Thursday with Sierra Leone’s presidential candidates or their representatives, as well as officials of civil society organizations, and underscored his appeal for peaceful elections on Saturday.
Accompanied by the Deputy Head of Mission, Amb. Ansumana Ceesay, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace, and Security Amb. Abdel-Fatau Musah and the ECOWAS Special Representative to Sierra Leone, Amb. Moussa Harouna, Dr Chambas met with President Julius Maada Bio at the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) headquarters.
The ECOWAS delegation later met separately with Samura Kamara, candidate of the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC), after meeting with candidates or their representatives from the other political parties.
The Head of Mission and his delegation also met with Civil Society Organizations, including the National Youth Coalition, Citizen Advocacy Network, League of Democracy Advocates, Civil Society Organizations’ Working Group on Elections and Human Rights, and the Citizen Forum for Democratic Accountability.
Meanwhile, the ECOWAS and African Union Observation Missions have in a joint statement expressed “concern about the violence and intimidation in some parts of the country ahead of the 24th of June 2023 General Elections, noting that such incidents have the potential to mar the peaceful conduct of the elections.”
“In order to preserve the peace and stability of Sierra Leone, before, during and after the elections,” the ECOWAS and AU Missions stated as follows:
- Political parties, candidates, and their supporters should be guided by the spirit of consensus building based on the rule of law and adhere to the political parties’ code of conduct.
- The security forces must remain apolitical and maintain professionalism in the discharge of their duties toward all citizens cognizant of the rights of all under the constitution of Sierra Leone.
- The Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone must continue to remain impartial in the execution of its mandate, in the greater interest of all Sierra Leoneans.
- And citizens and civil society groups must continue the pursuit of initiatives aimed at promoting peaceful elections and national cohesion.
“The two Missions will continue to avail their good offices to all stakeholders in the elections in a bid to ensure that the elections are conducted in conformity with national, regional and international standards,” the joint statement said.
It may be recalled that the APC reported the burning of its offices and attacks on some of its officials, especially in the eastern Bo District, one of the SLPP strongholds.
Sierra Leone’s Office of National Security (ONS), in a statement on Wednesday, condemned the violence, while the police said they have arrested some suspects in the Bo incidents.
This would be Sierra Leone’s fifth electoral cycle with two transfers of political power from the ruling party to the opposition since the country’s civil war of 1991-2002.
President Bio is seeking re-election, and among the 13 candidates fielded by the seventeen registered political parties, he and Kamara are the frontrunners in Saturday’s contest, as in 2018.
Some 135 Parliamentary and 493 Mayoral and Local Council seats will also be in contention on Saturday.