The Sierra Leone Bar Association (SLBA) has released its findings and recommendations in the just concluded multitier elections.
Save for the few challenges, which the SLBA believes did not materially affect the outcome of the 24th June 2023 multi-tier elections, the SLBA notes the June 24th, 2023 multi-tier elections were free, fair, and largely peaceful.
The SLBA, therefore commends the ECSL and the security personnel for their selfless service.
In the above regard, the SLBA congratulates His Excellency Dr. Julius Maada Bio on his re-election as President of the Republic of Sierra Leone.
The report reads as follows: “The Sierra Leone Bar Association (SLBA) is a professional body of legal practitioners in Sierra Leone. Part of the mandate of the SLBA as contained in paragraph 3(g)(h)(i)(s) of its Memorandum of Association is to consider all questions of law affecting the interest of the State and provide information on legal subjects including all matters affecting the public.
2. In light of its mandate and to have a free, fair, and peaceful election on 24 June 2023, the SLBA at its Annual General Meeting on 17th March 2023, facilitated the undertaking by all key stakeholders in the electioneering process including but not limited to the incumbent Sierra Leone People’s Party and main opposition party the All Peoples Congress to commit to a peaceful, fair and fair electioneering process through the signing the York Declaration.
3. Two (2) weeks before the day of the polls and as part of efforts to promote voters’ education, SLBA implemented “KNOW YOUR LAWS” Series from 9-23 June 2023. The objective of the series was to roll out a nationwide sensitization of citizens about the “dos and don’ts” of all electoral laws in Sierra Leone. This was climaxed with community engagements in Freetown, Bo, Kenema and Kono on both electoral laws and peace messages. The SLBA was of the view that these exercises would help promote and achieve a free, fair, and non-violent elections.
4. The SLBA was accredited by the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone to observe the June 24th 2023 multi-tier elections. Accordingly, the SLBA deployed 63 observers in all the 16 districts in Sierra Leone for the June 24 Elections. One (1) week prior to the elections day and as part of strengthening collaboration with other election observation groups, the SLBA had productive engagements with various International Election Observation Missions such as European Union Election Observation Mission, Commonwealth Observer Group and Carter Center.
SUMMARY OF FINDINGS
5. The SLBA notes that the Public Elections Act 2022 was enacted with the objective to address the gaps identified in the Public Elections Act 2012, as raised by political parties, election. observers, civil society groups and other stakeholders following the previous public elections in Sierra Leone. The Public Elections Act 2022 complements the Constitution of Sierra Leone, Act No. 6 of 1991.
6. The SLBA notes that the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL) in the election process has not acted at variance with the applicable law.
7. The SLBA observed that citizens who were to embark on pilgrims were allowed to exercise their franchise and were thus allowed to vote on the 15th June. 2023. The SLBA notes that the process met the standard required by the applicable law and acceptable national practice.
8 The SLBA observed that media Regulations and Codes of Conduct were adhered to and Journalists were largely Professional . However , the SLBA observed the blatant misuse and abuse of Social media with serious misinformation , disinformation, falsehood posted and circulated across major major Social media Platforms such as Whatsapp, Facebook, twitter, Instagram, Tik Tok, and among others were fueled by political agents, leading to heighten political and ethno-regional tension.
the SLBA observed that late start in voting was recorded in all 16 districts of Sierra Leone . However, a high voter turnout was also observed , and voters were not prejudice by the late start of voting. All eligible voters that wanted to vote in the June 24 multi-tier election had the opportunity to do so.
Identification of ECSL Personnel
10. On polling day, the SLBA observed that not all ECSL personnel had ECSL personnel ID cards. Upon enquiry, the SLBA learnt that late distribution was the reason for the lack of identification cards. However, in most polling centers save for few the ECSL personnel put on the ECSL overcoat. However, because of the lack of ECSL ID cards, the voters faced some difficulties in sufficiently identifying ECSL staff from possible imposters.
11. The SLBA notes that party agents were well represented in all polling stations and tally centers across the country. They were vigilant in all the electioneering process on the polling day to the tally centers. Though the SLBA notes that there were some isolated cases of strong disagreements, those differences were quickly resolved. Security personnel
12. The election was not heavily securitized, but the presence of security forces was visible. At polling stations, there were unarmed security personnel which emphasized the civil nature of elections. At some polling centers security personnel were responsive to potential breach of the electoral laws.
13. The SLBA further observed that security personnel who were deployed in polling stations were not disadvantaged from voting, even when deployed in stations where they did not register. Voting and counting of ballot papers
14. As noted, the voting process started late (ie., around 9 a.m.) in most polling centers, but the voting period was extended until the last individual in the queue voted. The SL.BA observed that after the close of polls, counting of ballot papers were done transparently in the presence of all political parties agents and observers. Where there are discrepancies, the ECSL personnel availed opportunity for verification. Though in few stations the RRFs were not enough, the information was written on a sheet of paper and party agents and observers were allowed to take evidence of same. The SLBA notes however these challenges did not hamper the election, nor does it affect any contesting candidate. Freedom of movement
15. Movement was largely a challenge in the previous elections. However, during the 24th June 2023 elections there was free movement of persons and vehicle which contributed to high turn- Page 3 of 4 out of voters this time. The SLBA commends the security sector, noting the importance of the judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of Augustine Sorie-Senghe Marrah v The Inspector General of Police (2022 unreported). Unofficial body announcing the outcome of the elections
16. The SLBA observed that there were some unofficial bodies accredited by ECSL to observe the 2023 elections that wrongly held a view and misinformed the public about the outcome of the 2023 elections before the official announcement by ECSL. This created unnecessary political tension and appeared to deliberately undermine the credibility of the electoral process.
17. The ECSL should improve on logistics planning to ensure early and effective distribution of election materials to designated polling stations. This will reduce late opening of polling stations.
18. The ECSL should provide adequate essential election materials for all polling stations to prevent delays during voting.
19. The ECSL should ensure that all ECSL staff at polling stations are clearly and adequately identified to prevent imposters and facilitate smooth voting process on election day,
20. The ECSL should improve on its communications with the public to address misinformation and disinformation which have the potential to undermine the credibility of the institution.
21. Election observation groups should refrain from announcement of election results because it is not only a usurpation of the constitutional mandate of ECSL but also it heightens political tension. Where concerns are raised by any election observation group or political party, the issues should be determined in a court of competent jurisdiction.
22. Save for the few challenges which the SLBA believes did not materially affect the outcome Conclusion of the 24th June 2023 multi-tier elections, the SLBA notes that the June 24 2023 multi-tier elections were free, fair and largely peaceful. The SLBA therefore commends the ECSL and the security personnel for their selfless service.
23. In the above regard, the SLBA congratulate His Excellency Dr. Julius Maada Bio on his re- election as President of the Republic of Sierra Leone”