The ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) has accused one of the leading civil society organisations in the country, National Election Watch (NEW) for showing aspects of partisan and dispersing misinformation.

SLPP made this accusation in a press statement issued on 30 June 2022 signed by their National Secretary General, Umaru Napoleon Koroma.

The entire piece titled: “Partisan Elements in Civil Society: A Concern for Democracy Building in Sierra Leone” is stated below 👇🏽

“The conduct of state institutions in the recent bye-elections reveals another strong indication that Sierra Leone’s democracy is maturing. The Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) joins many other compatriots to congratulate the winners of all of last weekend’s bye-elections and extends its appreciation to the Electoral Commission, the security forces and international election observers for the professionalism displayed during the exercises and implore them to keep up the high standards.

As our country celebrates the gains we are making in laying the foundation of democracy, the SLPP would like to draw the attention of the general public and the international community of the major obstacle to our efforts in building democratic society and culture that is, the partisanship of a civil society network- the National Elections Watch (NEW)

The SLPP has observed with keen attention that since the party’s ascendancy to power through a free and fair election in 2018, NEW, a local civil society that is supposed to be non-partisan, neutral and fair, chose to betray its core values and became a clearly partisan CSO working hard to discredit everything SLPP does. As far as the NEW is concerned, the skies fell on the people of this country when they elected President Julius Maada Bio in 2018.

The most recent pointer to the unacceptable conduct of the NEW came just before the recently conducted bye elections and immediately after. Just before the bye elections of Saturday June 25th, NEW hosted a Consortium of civil society groups in a conference intended to discuss the various allegations of financial fraud and the non-inclusivity within its own network. At the end of the conference, NEW ignored its own internal problems and chose to attack the SLPP instead. NEW released a report (unfortunately with an EU logo) claiming that civic space in Sierra Leone has been constricted since 2018.

“…there have been attempts, since the 2018 elections, to shrink the civic space using various approaches…” NEW wrote.
For a party that prides itself as a firm believer in democratic values, we were taken aback by this unwarranted attack and would like to know and make amends, if the SLPP led government has ever prevented any Sierra Leonean, be they journalists or CSOs from forming associations or raising issues with government. What surprised the party is the blatant omission of fact. NEW clearly understands that between 2007 and 2018 SLPP headquarters was burnt down twice, women were raped and beaten at the party office; our district offices were attacked in many parts of the country; our party meetings disrupted in places such as Kono and Makeni; some of our MPs were imprisoned; suspected SLPP supporters were summarily dismissed from jobs; a siting vice president was removed from office. How politically neutral is NEW to say, that it was only when President Maada Bio came to power in 2018 that civic space shrunk in our country?

Worst still, after hoodwinking some well-respected CSOs to be mentioned in the communique on the 21st day of June 2022, came the by elections of Saturday June 25th -five of which were conducted in the North and one in the East. NEW deployed observers who sent in their findings on the conduct of the elections. To the dismay of the SLPP, NEW totally ignored all genuine concerns and petition filed by SLPP relating to ballot stuffing and vote-buying which were confirmed by its very own observers in Constituency 056 election. The NEW leadership in Freetown chose to ride rough shod over the glaring evidence of election malpractices because they are against President Maada Bio’s party.

Trivial as these issues might appear, we raise this alarm because, peddling such a glaring misinformation and fake news by CSOS or election observers has the potential of undermining the integrity of electoral institution and by extension stability of the country we all love. The SLPP is not asking any CSO or election observers to support our party, but we ask that they play their role in upholding the standards of fairness to all players.

We know that SLPP cannot rebuild Sierra Leone all by itself. That is why we value the contribution of CSOs in all our programmes and respect the civic space that supports citizen participation; that is why we have repealed the obnoxious Public Order Act, abolished the death penalty, enacted the Cyber Security and Crime Act; that is why we are pushing the most progressive electoral reform since independence. That Sierra Leone qualified for the Millennium Challenge Corporation is a testament of President Julius Maada Bio commitment to openness and inclusion.

We encourage our CSO friends to bring their own fair share of contribution to democracy building by being neutral and refrain from acting as rogues undermining state efforts.”