Sierra Leone General Election: Ruling Party Claims President Has Been Re-elected, Opposition Kicks

Presidential candidate of the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC) in last Saturday’s presidential election in Sierra Leone, Dr Samura Kamara, has vowed not to accept “any skewed, manipulated and unverified results.”

Kamara, who yesterday alleged rigging, however, assured his “supporters and the citizens of Sierra Leone that the APC was on an irreversible path to an overwhelming victory.”

His statement came against claims by the ruling Sierra Leonean Peoples Party (SLPP) that from preliminary reports, the incumbent president, Julius Maada Bio “is confident of a landslide victory.”

According to the SLPP National Secretary General, Umaru Napoleon Koroma, “Results tabulated in our party centres indicate that there will be no run-off. The people have spoken overwhelmingly and have done so by entrusting President Bio with the nation’s fate for a further five years.”

Ahead of the declaration of results today, there are fears of protest by the opposition.

For some weeks now, APC members had organised street protests, calling for the removal of Mohamed Kerewui Konneh, as Chairman, Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL), after alleging bias in favour of the ruling SLPP.

When he voted in the Freetown neighbourhood of Lumley last Saturday, Kamara complained about the congested nature of the polling unit, saying, “Don’t be surprised if there is confusion.”

Yesterday, Kamara called on the ECSL to tally the results using projectors. “This is also best practice. However, the ECSL is fiercely resisting to use projectors, making it extremely impossible for us and other political parties to compare, reconcile and verify the RRFs as recorded at polling centers,” he said.

According to Kamara, “The people of Sierra Leone have spoken loudly, and the message is very clear in the results coming in. We, the APC, therefore, urge the ECSL to respect the due process, adhere to international best practice as well as to what we agreed at Bintumani on the transparent, inclusive, and accountable counting and tallying of results.”

The opposition candidate alleged that the ECSL was deliberately putting obstacles before the party. “At the Northwest Regional Tally Centre in Port Loko, the Northern Regional Tally Center in Makeni, and at the Western Regional Tally Centre at Wellington, our representatives have not been allowed into the main halls and therefore unable to monitor the tallying process. With our representatives being subjected to observe the tallying behind a glass barrier and without the results being projected,” he claimed.

While vowing not to accept defeat, Kamara called on the international observers, especially those from ECOWAS in particular, “to ensure that the decline of democracy in West Africadoes not continue under their watch in Sierra Leone.”

Countering Kamara’s claim, the SLPP accused the main opposition party of instigating violence. “Despite the relatively peaceful conduct of the elections, the SLPP wishes to draw the attention of the public to the unprovoked attacks of its polling agents by top-ranking members of the APC,” Koroma alleged, saying, “These attacks sought to undermine the peaceful conduct of the elections.”

After casting his ballot at the Wilberforce Barracks in Freetown Saturday morning, an upbeat President Bio, had encouraged Sierra Leoneans to participate peacefully. “Go out and vote – it’s your right,” he said, adding: “Vote safely. If you win, celebrate safely.”

In the March 2018 general election, Bio had contested against Kamara, then Minister of Foreign Affairs as candidate of the then ruling APC. No presidential candidate received the mandatory 55 per cent of total votes cast in the first round of the election. Bio led others with 41 per cent of the total votes cast followed by Kamara with 40 per cent. Bio was subsequently elected with 51.8% of the vote in the second round of the poll.

Announcement of results commenced yesterday, and the process continues today. Besides the presidency, elections were held for 135 parliamentary seats, 22 Mayor/Chairmen of Council and 493 councilors. Independent candidates can contest in any of the elections except the presidency.