From Paul Ejime In Freetown Sierra Leone |
The Heads of six International Election Observation Missions (IEOMs), including ECOWAS, Tuesday in Freetown, called on all Sierra Leone stakeholders to ensure peaceful and credible elections on Wednesday March 7.
In their two-page joint statement on the eve of the crucial presidential, parliamentary and local Council polls, the IEOMs – ECOWAS, African Union (AU), The Commonwealth, Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA), European Union (EU), and The Carter Center (TCC), also urged the political leaders, parties and their supporters to respect the rule of law during balloting and through the results tallying process.
They further urged them to uphold their commitments under the ‘Freetown Declaration’, which was signed by presidential candidates on 28 February.
The IEOMs “encouraged the candidates to accept the outcome of the elections in line with Article 9 of the ECOWAS Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance (2001) and, in the event of complaints or disputes, encourage candidates to seek redress through legal channels whilst at all times refraining from acts of violence and intimidation.”
They called on the National Electoral Commission (NEC) and party polling agents “to conduct their duties in a professional manner,” to ensure that “the elections are transparent, credible and conducted in accordance with prescribed laws and regulations.”
The Missions “Look to the government of Sierra Leone to uphold its constitutional obligations to provide a secure environment that guarantees the safety of candidates, voters, NEC officials and electoral materials,” and urged the security personnel to demonstrate professionalism and enforce the law in a neutral and proportional manner.”
The meeting was attended by Prof Amos Sawyer, Liberia’s former Interim President and Head of ECOWAS Mission, South African former President, Kgalema Motlanthe, Head of the AU Mission; Ghana’s former President, John Mahama, Head of the Commonwealth Mission; Nigeria’s former President Goodluck Jonathan, Head of EISA Mission; Ms. Jean Lambert, Head of EU Mission and Mr Larry Garber, for The Carter Center.
Also present was the ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Gen. Francis Behanzin, who is leading the ECOWAS Commission’s Technical Support Team for the Prof. Sawyer-led 65-member ECOWAS Observation Mission.
The IEOMs, which have deployed more than 250 international observers across Sierra Leone’s 16 Administrative Districts, wished the “citizens of Sierra Leone well in the exercise of their democratic rights; and pledged our unequivocal commitment to support the people of Sierra Leone to ensure a peaceful and credible conclusion of the electoral process.”
Sierra Leone’s 3.17 million registered voters out of an estimated population of seven million, will cast their ballots in 11,122 polling states across the country on March 7, to elect a new president to replace outgoing President Ernest Bai Koroma; and 132 members of the 144-seat Parliament.
The civil society under the umbrella of the National Election Watch (NEW) is deploying one citizen observer to each of the 11.122 polling stations in 3,300 Polling Centres nationwide.
These are the fourth elections since the end of the country’s devastating civil war in 2002, but the first time that Sierra Leone authorities would take charge of the electoral process since the departure of the UN Mission in 2014.
Sixteen candidates including two women are vying for the presidency, while 789 contenders, including less than120 women are competing for the parliamentary positions.
Meanwhile, the National Electoral Commission (NEC), Sierra Leone said on Tuesday that all was set for successful elections on Wednesday adding that all essential and non-essential materials had been distributed with the Commission would deploying some 84,000 polling officers to the 3,300 polling stations nationwide.
Speaking at a press conference in Freetown NEC Chairman Mohamed N’fah Alie-Conteh urged political parties to respect the electoral laws and refrain from political campaigns, which officially ended on Monday.