The Institute for Legal Research and Advocacy for Justice (ILRAJ) has issued a strong condemnation of the irregularities and violence that occurred during the Sierra Leone Bar Association’s (SLBA) Annual Conference in Kenema.

In a notice dated May 20, 2024, ILRAJ called for urgent reforms, accountability, and fair elections to uphold the rule of law and democratic principles.

The ILRAJ notice highlighted several serious concerns about the events that transpired at the SLBA conference, held on May 17th and 18th, 2024.

The conference, which should have complied with Section 186 of the Companies Act by presenting financial statements, directors’ and auditors’ reports, and conducting elections for directors and the Audit Committee, failed to meet these statutory requirements. Instead, the focus shifted to a contentious and politicized election for a new president.

Key irregularities noted by ILRAJ include:

Agenda Manipulation: The conference agenda was altered unilaterally to expedite the presidential election, bypassing the prescribed order of business.

Politicization: The election process was heavily influenced by political affiliations, creating a polarized atmosphere.

Obstruction and Intimidation: Supporters of candidates Ms. Wara Serry-Kamal and Mr. Augustine Marrah faced significant obstacles, including hotel bookings in Kenema being monopolized by the opposing camp and road blockages allegedly orchestrated by supporters of Tuma Adama Jabbie.

Undue Influence: ACC Commissioner Francis Ben Kaifala assumed the role of electoral commissioner and was accused of partisan conduct, including selectively distributing ballot papers.

Police Conduct: The Sierra Leone Police were accused of ignoring security requests from certain candidates and using pepper spray to disperse members, further contributing to the chaos.

ILRAJ issued several declarations in response to these events:

•Condemnation of the conduct of the elections and the disregard for procedural norms.

•A demand for a fresh election conducted by independent senior members of the Bar.

•A call for politicians to refrain from interfering in the Bar Association’s affairs.

•Condemnation of any lawyers involved in violence, with a call for disciplinary action.

•Expressing concerns about ACC Commissioner Francis Ben Kaifala’s ability to lead an impartial fight against corruption following his conduct during the election.

•Highlighting broader concerns about anti-democratic forces threatening the rule of law.

•Recognizing the conference events as a wake-up call to raise standards within the legal profession.

Urging all legal professionals to uphold their duties to the rule of law and justice.