Sierra Leoneans across the country came out in their large numbers on Saturday, June 24, 2023, and participated in the sixth general multi-tier elections in a peaceful atmosphere.

The national returning officer of the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL), Mohamed K. Konneh, who has the constitutional mandate, on Tuesday, 27th June 2023, announced the final presidential election results and declared the incumbent, His Excellency President Dr. Julius Maada Bio, of the ruling Sierra Leones Peoples Party (SLPP) as the winner with 56.17 % of the total valid votes cast, thus defeating his main challenger, Dr. Samura Mathew Wilson Kamara of the main opposition, All Peoples Congress (APC), who secured 41.16 % of the valid votes.

As by law established, the ECSL national returning officer declared the incumbent, H.E Dr. Julius Maada Bio as duly elected president of the Republic of Sierra Leone for the next 5 years. The chief electoral commissioner stated that any citizen of Sierra Leone can challenge the validity of the result through the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone within 7 working days.

The 7 working days expired long ago, and despite their dissatisfaction with the result, the defeated Dr. Samura M.W Kamara and his APC party have failed to follow due process to challenge the result at the Supreme Court, which is the highest judicial court of the land. Instead, members of the main opposition keep on making wild claims that the elections were rigged in favour of President Dr. Julius Maada Bio and the ruling SLPP.

The APC, in a press release, stated categorically that they would not pursue due process through the court and that they would boycott governance as a way of protesting over the June 24 elections. In fact, some members of the APC have now gone to the extent of comparing our situation with the Jammeh situation in The Gambia, and therefore demanding for fresh elections to be held with a new national returning officer replacing Mohamed Konneh at ECSL. This is the most ridiculous comparison I have ever heard! In fact, in some opposition quarters, there are now abhorrent calls for the International Community to unseat President Bio from power if these demands are not met.

Now, to put the two political situations into perspective, the situation in The Gambia of 2016 was quite different from the just-concluded multi-tier elections in Sierra Leone. In The Gambia, the opposition parties formed a strong coalition, with Adama Barrow as the only challenger against the then incumbent president, Yahya Jammeh. This is quite the opposite in our just-concluded elections.

In fact, in the Sierra Leone situation, it was the second and third largest opposition parties, respectively – the National Grand Coalition (NGC) of Dr. Kandeh Yumkella and the Coalition for Change (C4C) party – who formed a progressive alliance with the ruling party of His Excellency Brig. (Rtd) Dr Julius Maada Bio. Moreover, some strongmen from the main opposition APC party -including veteran politician and former vice president of Sierra Leone Victor Bockarie Foh and the influential Hon. Alpha Abubakarr Kanu, who held top government positions under the Ernest Bai Koroma administration- declared their support for President Bio. These two political figures went as far as openly campaigning for the re-election of President Bio in their localities.

Secondly, in The Gambia, the chief electoral commissioner officially declared Adama Barrow, the candidate of the coalition of opposition parties, as the winner of the 2016 presidential election. After the announcement, the outgoing president, Jammeh, even called and congratulated the president-elect, Adama Barrow. In the case of Sierra Leone, the national returning officer of the ECSL announced the incumbent president, Dr. Julius Maada Bio, as the winner of the June 24 2023 elections.

Thirdly, in The Gambia situation, the chief electoral commissioner, few days after announcing the results, announced that some ballots in one particular area were added incorrectly which swelled Barrow’s vote but that the error did not change the overall outcome of the election. However, President Yahya Jammeh then rejected the result and called for fresh elections, which did not happen. The International Community, including the Africa Union and ECOWAS, mounted tremendous pressure and called on Mr. Jammeh to relinquish the presidency to Adama Barrow.

From the foregoing, it is crystal clear that the political crisis in The Gambia is quite different from our own elections conducted on June 24 2023. Whilst the United Nations, world and African leaders have congratulated President Bio, some opposition figures are deceiving their followers on social media with false claims that fresh elections would be held in 6 months or His Excellency President Dr. Julius Maada Bio will be given a travel ban and sanctions and subsequently removed from power through a military intervention.

Those holding such views should know now that Sierra Leone is a sovereign country whose governance architecture is governed by the 1991 Constitution and other Acts of Parliament. The Constitution also explains the procedures to be followed if citizens feel aggrieved by the election outcomes.

The SLPP faced similar situations in 2007 and 2012, but as a party, they did not boycott governance. In 2007, for example, the national returning officer of the National Electoral Commission (NEC), Dr. Christiana Thorpe, announced that a total of 477 polling stations in Kailahun which massively voted for the then SLPP flagbearer Solomon Ekuma Berewa were annulled. That decision by the then national returning officer caused Berewa to lose the presidency, which subsequently led Ernest Bai Koroma of the then opposition APC to be declared as winner.

The SLPP had legitimate concerns at the time because the electoral laws did not give Christiana Thorpe those powers to nullify the results of the 477 polling stations. But the SLPP did not boycott governance, and in fact, Solomon Berewa displayed statesmanship by even attending the swearing ceremony that was organised at State House the very day the controversial result was announced in favour of Koroma. Shortly before Koroma went for the swearing in that day at State House, he went to pay courtesy call on Solomon Berewa at the VP Lodge residence of Berewa at the time.

During the 2012 multitier elections again, the SLPP had slaint claims that the NEC commissioner, Dr. Christiana Thorpe rigged the election in favour of the then incumbent president Ernest Bai Koroma. When those concerns were raised, Dr. Thorpe dismissively remarked, “The SLPP should forward their concerns or reports to the police.”

Koroma’s main challenger at the time, Brigadier (Rtd.) Julius Maada Bio eventually accepted the outcome of the elections in the interest of peace, and further demonstrated his patriotism for Sierra Leone during a meeting held at State House on December 2nd 2012. In that State House meeting facilitated by two clergies of the Body of Christ, the then President, Ernest Bai Koroma had a close-door meeting with Brigadier (Rtd.) Julius Maada Bio, now the current President of Sierra Leone. This was what Brigadier (Rtd.) Julius Maada Bio said at the time before the said meeting:

“The SLPP and the APC are the oldest political parties in the country. We must think of Sierra Leone first. The SLPP is committed to peace, law, and order in Sierra Leone, “adding that he has issues with the outcome of the 2012 elections, which he believed were seriously flawed, noting that it was his legitimate right to seek redress through the legal means, as well as it is his democratic right to do so.

Strangely, the then NEC Commissioner, Dr. Christiana Thorpe went on to serve the Koroma regime as Deputy Minister of Education, Science and Technology; a position she held until the APC was voted out in 2018.

Elections all over the world -including the West, like the USA- have issues, but what is important is how such issues are resolved peacefully and legally through judicial means, and not the other way round like creating chaos or boycotting governance.

My message to the main opposition APC is that Sierra Leone is bigger than us, and this is the only country we call home. If you are dissatisfied with the election outcome, seek redress at the Supreme Court.

Dr. Samura Kamara, please remember the May 25, 2023, Commonwealth pledge you signed at the Bintumani Conference Centre in Freetown, which was facilitated by the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland. In the presence of the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union, ECOWAS, paramount chiefs, the PPRC, among others, you and your colleague presidential candidates pledged to uphold the country’s peace and resolve any electoral dispute through the courts.

Finally, the APC should change its strategy of boycotting governance as it would be a betrayal to the electorates as such action would come back to haunt them one day.
May common sense prevail.