the African Bar Association (AFBA) has voiced its deep concern over the contentious conduct of the 2024 Annual General Meeting and Conference of the Sierra Leone Bar Association (SLBA), which included the election of new officers.

Reports received by AFBA indicate serious irregularities and abrupt changes to the conference agenda, leading to significant disenfranchisement of the majority of SLBA members.

The AFBA’s statement highlights the conflicting accounts of sudden alterations in the conference agenda and election procedures, which were allegedly conducted in violation of established regulations and principles of good faith. These actions have reportedly resulted in widespread dissatisfaction among SLBA members, exacerbating tensions within the legal community.

Further complicating the situation, the AFBA Secretariat has noted the disapproval expressed by past presidents of the SLBA. Their collective dissatisfaction centers on the numerous irregularities that tainted the electoral process. The past presidents’ statement underscores the gravity of the situation and their concern for the integrity of the association’s democratic processes.

The AFBA’s leadership emphasized the crucial role of an independent bar in upholding the rule of law, democracy, and good governance. They reminded SLBA’s leadership and members that a responsible and independent bar serves as the voice of the judiciary and the citizenry, advocating for justice and equality. The statement calls for concerted efforts to establish a united and independent SLBA, free from the influence of opportunistic individuals and groups.

To restore credibility and trust, the AFBA urged the SLBA to set a precedent by organizing free, fair, and transparent elections, ensuring that the new leaders are genuinely and freely chosen by the majority of Sierra Leone’s legal professionals. This, they argue, is essential for fostering a robust and independent bar that can effectively champion the cause of justice and uphold democratic values.

In their appeal for calm, the AFBA implored the outgoing SLBA executive to collaborate with past presidents and other relevant authorities within the legal profession. The aim is to bridge the divides, soothe tensions, and work towards a unified bar association free from resentment and discord.