Tonko Limba Election… SLPP – We Won APC – We Won NGC- N’fa Alie Must Go NEC – SLPP Won   -PPRC Calls For Peace

The dust has finally settled after the titanic clash between the two traditional political parties in the country in the keenly contested Tonko Limba Chiefdom Ward 196 Local Council bye-election conducted on Saturday 9th March, 2019 by the National Electoral Commission (NEC).

As with all such democratic contests conducted on the basis of first past the post after the votes are counted and tallied, only one party emerges as winner. In this case, it was the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) candidate that was declared winner of the bye-election on Sunday 10th March, 2019 by NEC.

The SLPP National Secretary General, Umaru Napoleon Koroma Esq. was quick to issue a press statement when the results of the bye-election were announced by the National Returning Officer, Mohamed N’fa Alie Conteh.

The SLPP scribe praised the peaceful conduct of the bye-election by all the stakeholders and participants, adding that the party received news of their candidate’s victory with joy and glee.

He thanked the people of Ward 196 and Tonko Limba for showing that they believe in the development that SLPP epitomizes. This, Lawyer Koroma said, is clear sign that our society can rise above mundane tribal and regional politics.

The SLPP victory, he also said, is sign that the people have heeded President Julius Maada Bio’s call to do things differently to develop the country to improve the lives of its citizenry.

The SLPP scribe thanked the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) for arranging pre-election political dialogue in Ward 196, NEC for their hard work, diligence and dedication to ensure free, fair and transparent election that was conducted without any major hitch or administrative lapse.

Lawyer Koroma also thanked the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) for effective professional policing of the bye-election, as well as party supports and stakeholders for thorough preparations and robust strategies that were carved out to snatch victory in what he called an ‘unlikely area with a perceived bias for the party’s opponents.’ This, he said, shows that with development for all and concrete steps to ensure visible achievements are accomplished, every Sierra Leonean will join the Pa-o-pa train to make our country a better place.

The APC National Publicity Secretary, Ambassador Osman Foday Yansaneh is however not cheerful and jovial as the SLPP scribe is with regards describing the outcome of the Ward 196 bye-election.

In a tone that reeks with displeasure and frustration, the APC National Publicity Secretary, Cornelius Deveaux laments that NEC in active cooperation with SLPP connived, and aided and abetted by the SLP to rob APC of victory in their stronghold. He described SLPP’s win as ‘fraudulent.’

“As a party,” Mr. Deveaux said, “we believe that after going through the due process of voting, we were able to win the election but between 12:00a.m. and the morning of 10th March, N’fa Alie had announced results that did not reflect the will of the people. We believe we won and that our candidate Alusine Sesay is the duly elected councillor.”

To support their party’s claim, Mr. Deveaux said the National Grand Coalition (NGC) and the National Elections Watch (NEW) have issued similar statements condemning the process. NEW, according to him, stated that the way NEC conducted the Local Council bye-election in Ward 196 in the Tonko Limba Chiefdom has demeaned the country’s democratic credentials as the results announced were very similar to the ones announced for the 31st march, 2018 presidential runoff election results. “We will not go by his (N’fa Alie) announcement,” the APC National Publicity Secretary challenged.

When quizzed that it is NEC that has the final mandate to decide on all election matters in the country, Mr. Deveaux retorted that even though N’fa Alie announced otherwise, the circumstances on the ground clearly showed that APC was cheated out of victory. He pointed to the discovery of un-reconciled Result Reconciliation Forms (RRF), the testimonies and collations of their party agents and the figures arrived at by the party’s Election Coordinator, Dr. Richard Konteh were contrary to NEC’s figures. “All evidence available, irrespective of massive ballot stuffing and the votes exceeding the threshold of 100 percent shows that APC won the bye-election,” Mr. Deveaux asserted.

Asked why they have not made the evidence public, the APC’s official spokesman said they have various options to express their dissatisfaction. He accused the ruling SLPP of having the penchant to undermine the foundations of the country’s democracy, citing the MoU that was signed by the three parties that took part in the bye-election with PPRC.

While APC will pursue a legal option, Mr. Deveaux said, the party will not allow any group of citizens to undermine the democratic gains Sierra Leone has made after emerging out of the ashes and rubble of the eleven-year-long civil war.

“N’fa Ali and his caboodle at NEC should resign,” Mr. Deveaux opined. At the same time, he said the APC as a constitutionally mandated political entity will hold the government accountable. Their options for bringing the government to its senses, he said, include asking their elected Members of Parliament and Councilors not to participate in any government functions including parliamentary and council sittings.

“Enough is enough,” the APC national Publicity Secretary said, adding that, “Integrity and honesty are not part of SLPP.” Citing alleged violations of constitutional provisions, Mr. Deveaux said the ruling party is transforming the country into a dictatorship.

Asked if boycotting government is good for national development, Mr. Deveaux replied rhetorically as to whether all the alleged constitutional aberrations by the SLPP government are good for national development. “Views of other political stakeholders in a democracy must be respected by the party in power, but that is not the case with the SLPP,” he alleged.

On its part, the NGC in a press release issued yesterday, Tuesday, 12th March 2019 raised thirteen issues as its position on the conduct of the Local Council bye-election, one of which was the call for the resignation of the Chief Electoral Officer, Mr. Mohamed N’fa Alie Conteh.

“In the light of the above, the NGC calls for the intervention of Government and the International Community to ensure the immediate resignation or removal of the Chief Electoral Commissioner, and the establishment of an independent judicial investigation into the conduct of the 9th March Tonko Limba Ward 196 election,” excerpt of the press release signed by the party’s National Chairman and Leader, Dr. Dennis Bright states.

Also in a press release following the announcement of the election results, NEC stated that it conducted the Ward 196 Local Council bye-election in accordance with the relevant legal framework. Polling in 17 stations started at 7:00a.m. and counting started immediately after polls were closed. The final results were announced by the Chief Returning Officer on Sunday 10th March, 2019. NEC however admits that contentious issues arose during the polling, counting and tallying of the votes. The request by APC and NGC for recount of some polling stations was granted at the Tally Center in the District Office but this did not alter the final count and will of the people in Ward 196.

NEC agrees that the 29th September, 2018 ballot papers were discovered at centers 08056 and 08057 but were not reconciled or counted as valid votes. Five persons suspected of election malpractices – four polling staff and one voter – were arrested and handed over to the police for investigation. NEC says it is preparing a comprehensive report of the election in Ward 196 and will make the report available to stakeholders and the public. In the interim, it declares that everyone involved in the election has a right to redress in a competent court of jurisdiction if aggrieved with the electoral process.

NEC assures the public of its continued determination to conduct all elections in the most free, fair and credible manner reflecting the will of the people. It also guarantees to uphold and preserve the country’s post-war democratic gains and that nothing has happened to derail such progress.

On the conduct of the election, PPRC says that pursuant to Section 6(2) of the PPRC Act of 2002, it commends the leadership of APC, NGC and SLPP for the peaceful manner in which they conducted themselves. PPRC is pleased with their absolute compliance to the MoU signed on 26th February. The regulatory body appeals to all to exercise restraint and to channel all concerns to the appropriate authorities and refrain from any action that will undermine the peace and security in the country. It calls on the three parties to independently and collectively promote peace at all levels in the interest of Sierra Leone.