ECOWAS Election Observation Mission Adjudges Sierra Leone 2023 Elections As Largely Peaceful
Freetown, Sierra Leone 27th June 2023
The ECOWAS Election Observation Mission to Sierra Leone’s 24th June 2023 General Elections said the polls took place “generally smoothly and in a largely peaceful atmosphere and eligible voters were able to freely participate in the process … despite some early challenges.”
The challenges identified by the Mission included the late arrival of polling officials and materials resulting in some voters being agitated, leading to the extension of balloting, with the counting and tallying of votes ending late in some polling centers.
“The (ECOWAS) Mission commends the sense of patriotism exhibited by polling staff, the security forces, the general populace, who collectively played their parts in ensuring a peaceful conduct of the 2023 general elections,” Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Head of Mission said in the Preliminary Declaration in Freetown on Monday, 26th June.
“The Mission, however, expresses regret that major political parties pre-empted the Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone (ECSL) by rushing to announce their “victory” in the polls before the official announcement by the ECSL,” the statement said.
The Mission, therefore, appealed “to all stakeholders, particularly the political parties, candidates and their supporters, the security forces and the general citizenry to remain calm and patiently await the announcement of the results by the Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone.”
It enjoined “candidates and political parties to refrain from making any statements that may lead to a breach of the peace,” reiterating that the ECSL remained the sole institution vested by the constitution with the authority to announce the results of the General Elections.
“The Mission further urges the Electoral Commission to diligently, but urgently, work to ensure the timely release of the results to avoid any tensions,” the statement said, while reminding “the candidates and the political parties of their commitment under the Election Peace Pledge to use only lawful channels in addressing any dispute that may emerge from the conduct of the 2023 general elections.”
The Mission praised “the patience and sense of patriotism so far exhibited by the vast majority of the electorate” and urged “same display of high sense of maturity, whilst awaiting the official announcement of the results by the Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone,” the statement added.
From the 60% provisional results of the elections released by the ECSL on Monday, incumbent President Julius Maada Bio of the ruling SLPP was leading the other 12 candidates having received 1,067,666 of the votes declared.
His closest rival, Dr Samura Kamara, the main opposition candidate of the APC, was credited with 793,751 votes.
The two candidates control about 98% of the votes but if no candidate gets the mandatory 55% valid votes in the first round, the two frontrunners will go into a run-off election two weeks after the official release of the first-round results.
Meanwhile, the Heads of International Election Observation Missions from ECOWAS, AU, and Commonwealth, as well as the AU Panel of the Wise and the West African Elders’ Forum, have intensified mediation and preventive diplomacy efforts to ensure post-election peace in Sierra Leone, which has now held five general elections with two peaceful transfers of power after 20 years since the end of its 10-year civil war in 2002.
The heads of missions met with President Bio and Dr Kamara, as well as the ECSL leadership and Coordinator of the Office of National Security, and civil society organizations before and after the elections, echoing the message of peace and conciliation for the consolidation of democracy in Sierra Leone and the entire ECOWAS region.
The ECOWAS Mission, led by Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas is supported by Deputy Head of Mission Amb. Ansumana Ceesay, Amb. Abdel-Fatau Musah, ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace, and Security, ECOWAS Resident Representative in Sierra Leone, Amb. Moussa Harouna, Mr Serigne Ka, Ag Head of ECOWAS Electoral Assistance Division, Dr. Onyinye Onwuka, Head of Division, Mediation and Coordination of Regional Political Affairs, and Mr Ebenezer Bruno Asiedu, Head of Division, Democracy and Good Governance.
The AU Mission was headed by former Ethiopian Prime Minister H.E. Hailemariam Desalegne Boshe, while former Nigerian Vice-President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo led the Commonwealth Mission.
Former Nigerian President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, led the West Africa Elders’ Forum, and Justice Effie Owuor, the AU Panel of the Wise.
ECOWAS deployed 15 Long-Term and 80 Short-Term Observers in 15 of Sierra Leone’s 16 electoral districts for the elections.
It also supported the electoral process with five hundred thousand US dollars (US$500,000) after dispatching a joint pre-election fact-finding Mission with the AU to the country in April to assess the political environment.
“India is a democracy. And as president Biden said democracy is in the DNA of both India and America. Democracy is in our spirit. Democracy flows in our veins. We live democracy. Our forefathers moulded it in words, which we call the Constitution,” he said.