The United Nations iResident Coordinator in Sierra Meine, Babatunde Ahonsi has called for prompt investigations into political violence in the north of the country, where several people were reportedly injured and properties destroyed in campaigns for a by-election.
UN Resident Coordinator further called on the authorities to ensure that all those found wanting are brought to justice.
Mr Ahonsi made this call in a statement his office issued on Friday, June 10th, while calling for dialogue to ensure a peaceful political process.
The clashes occurred in Bendugu Town, Sambaia Chiefdom in Tonkolili District, ahead of the by-election for the Parliamentary seat in Constituency 056.
The election was necessitated after a vacancy in the House of parliament created by the election of Alhaji Musa Bamba Foray Kulio Jalloh as Paramount Chief of Sambaia Chiefdom. Jalloh occupied the seat under the SLPP ticket. He was elected to his new office on June 3rd last year.
The by-election which is scheduled for Saturday, 24th June is being contested by the two largest parties in the House the governing Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), whose candidate is Tholley Foyoh, and the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC), whose candidate is Jawah Sesay.
The contest is crucial in that it will determine who has the highest number of seats in Parliament.
Both SLPP and APC currently occupy 58 seats each in the House, which also comprises eight and four seats each for the smaller opposition parties C4C and NGC, respectively, and three Independent seats.
The true cause of the violence which erupted on Tuesday, June 7, is unclear. Both parties accused each other of causing the violence which occurred during a rally by the APC.
The UN country offices says dialogue is important and offered to provide support towards that. In his statement, he also called on the authorities to ensure prompt investigation and to make sure that those who are found wanting are brought to justice.
“The United Nations deeply condemns all forms of violence and calls on all parts of society including political leaders and party supporters, traditional and religious leaders, national and local institutions, and citizens in general to commit to a spirit of tolerance and to work together to maintain peace in Sierra Leone”.
On Sunday electoral authorities imposed a temporary ban on all political campaigns in the constituency election.
A joint statement from the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) and the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL) said effective Monday, June 13th, all political party rallies are banned until further notice.
“Both Commissions deem this unfortunate event with distaste and in contravention of instructive provisions of the constitution, the political parties Act, the public elections Act and the code of conduct for political parties, candidates and supporters,” the statement reads.
The electoral authorities also say that the campaign calendar earlier issued by the ECSL remains valid, noting however that parties can only be allowed to campaign on certain conditions, including sticking to their respective dates in their designated locations, and to inform the police at least 24 hours prior to a rally.