Sierra Leone Election 2018: Potential Landmines To Avoid

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President Koroma -- nation needs free, fair, credible vote

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My Fellow Sierra Leoneans and Patriots of our beloved country, I am not a candidate for any elective or appointed office in Sierra Leone.

I am also not a member of any registered political party in my country of birth. Instead, I am a patriotic Sierra Leonean who from time to time feel compelled to share my opinion on the most important, compelling and critical issues facing the present and future of the Republic of Sierra Leone.

One of those critical moments for me centers around the often talked about 2018 Presidential elections that the country’s leaders are preparing for with the support of such international organizations like the European Union, the United Nations and others etc.

In the first place, allow me to provide this unsolicited opinion that every candidate seeking office in the Republic of Sierra Leone must concern themselves with in anticipation of the 2018 elections as noted below;

Ensuring the accuracy and eligibility of the nation’s VOTER ROLL- Without a proper vetting and qualifying of eligible voters throughout the country that could participate in voting, the process stands the unfortunate problem of “VOTER FRAUD”.

Studies of independent voter monitoring agencies have indicated that neighboring African countries are engaged in a little publicly known process of “RENTING VOTES”. This practice simply exports a large segment of “friendly outsiders” residing in neighboring countries to take up residence in countries and vote for potential candidates of interested parties.

One way to track such an insidious practice is to audit the number of new arrivals that are becoming citizens of those countries two or three years before a major election. I have no proof that such a practice is taking place in Sierra Leone but just informing the electorate that such a practice is common in many African countries during Presidential elections.

An example of such practice is in Gabon where by every account, the incumbent President was alleged to have lost the election to the opposition candidate but remains in power through the barrel of the gun. Another example is the registering of eligible voters in Ghana by simply possessing an “insurance identification card”.

No matter how international observers converge on these countries to monitor these elections, common sense must inform them that they need to demand the voter rolls as an important part of the monitoring process.

More often than not, the ruling party appropriates and compiles the census for elections that hardly ever have any outside oversight. At the minimum, these voter rolls must be equally vetted by the opposition party to ensure transparency. I must add that through the census, new lines are drawn to appropriately effect the creation of new electoral districts that would most likely favor the ruling party.

VOTER SUPPRESSION has become a common practice in the electoral process in several African countries. The process is often done by government in power investing in huge cache’s of munitions and hired mercenaries that are deliberately designed as a warning and scare tactics to suppress and intimidate voters.

Over the past few years for example, the government of Sierra Leone bought a large cache of munition at a time the country was not at war. Only recently did the country dispatch a peace keeping force to the UN peace keeping efforts around the world.

One would wonder, whether these militia are dispatched to start an effort to hone their sharp shooting skills in readiness for any eventuality in Sierra Leone during an election season. The jury is still out on this important peace keeping effort at this time. While there is no evidence that this gesture for deploying Sierra Leone armed forces is intended to suppress and intimidate voters, particularly the youths and other party stalwarts, it serves as an honest reminder that there may be cause to keep an eye on these developments during a time when Sierra Leone does not face an imminent threat of war from any outside country.

Registration And Qualifying Of New Political Parties - More often than not, the country is going to see the registration of new political parties in mass. Some of these parties may be aligned with either party as a deliberate effort to siphon votes in very close elections.

Sierra Leone saw this practice unfold when both EBK and Solomon Berewa went into a run off only for Mr. Margai to throw his support behind EBK thereby costing the SLPP the election. As many political parties are re-tooling their base and electing new officers, while other new parties are also busy gearing up to produce credible alternatives to the major political parties in Sierra Leone, one just have to follow the money and see who is funding these group of aspirants.

Adding to this horse-trading is the current set of elected officials who will soon jump ship if and when they see their party sinking into oblivion. These practices are common place as one of my wise friends told me some time ago that “POLITICS MAKES STRANGE BED FELLOWS.”

But the saying I like best on this issue is the one I use often to describe politicians and to some extent when I am speaking about Sierra Leone politics: "I have no permanent enemies but permanent interests." This is my attitude regarding all political parties and aspirants seeking to lead our country in the 2018 Presidential elections.

When Sierra Leoneans begin to put Sierra Leone first ahead of political party affiliation or alignment with a particular candidate based on tribe or family loyalty, our country will no doubt produce public servants that will produce leaders that will serve the collective interests of all Sierra Leoneans.

The Rule of Law by insisting on an independent judiciary – Perhaps the most daunting and challenging issue facing the 2018 Presidential elections is to guarantee the independence of the Judiciary system in the country.

Therefore, the appointment of an independent electoral commission that is insulated from political party interference is not only necessary but most definitely required during the 2018 Presidential elections. I am not a fortune teller but I want to predict that the 2018 Presidential elections will predictably wind up in court. Here are some of my reasons for your consideration;

Both the governing party and Opposition are engaged in fierce power struggle in selecting a standard bearer for their respective parties. This lack thereof a consensus is hampering the ability of both parties to settle and rally around a consensus candidate. While the competition for standard bearer in the APC is a bit less pronounced than the SLPP, the latter is still going through charges and counter charges amongst their ranks in selecting a standard bearer.

This war of words and threats amongst supporters of aspirants for potential standard bearer, particularly of the SLPP has the potential of lessening the party’s chances for raising money and mounting an effective campaign that will win them the Presidency. An equally important observation could also be made of the APC where the President EBK has yet to anoint a potential successor to his Presidency, thereby throwing the entire contest into a free fall. The recent plan for the President to amend the Party constitution whereby he can remain as Party Chairman throws another monkey wrench in an already chaotic situation. These issues may most likely end up in a court of law, which by past examples leaves the situation to an unpredictable outcome.

The recent rumblings that the fired Vice President Hon. Samsumana has or in the process of filing a law suit against the sitting President Hon. Ernest Bai Koroma in the world court could pose serious problems for President Koroma in the short and long term.

The most recent MAMBA TV I REPORTERS investigations on the much touted road constructions in Sierra Leone will drive a serious wedge between regional leaders that may ultimately result in a serious voter backlash against the present governing party. The report details the disparity in the allocation of resources to address the issue of needed public works projects in the country.

The iron clad EBOLA fund audits that are yet to hold anyone to account has continued to erode the public trust in the EBK Administration. The same issue could be likened to the vast alleged amounts of business dealings with outside entities that several high officials in e government have been accused of engaging in. The jury is still out on the veracity of these allegations.

"Tribalism" and sectional politics and governance- This issue of "tribalism" and sectional political practice in Sierra Leone has resulted in a divided nation.

There is no justifiable reason for any political party in Sierra Leone to distribute cabinet level appointments in government solely based on tribe and regional considerations. Our history as a nation has put the blame squarely on the doorsteps of both major parties. Such a practice has understandably undermined the country’s inability to attract the best and brightest public servants in serving our country. We must do better by guarding against this national disaster.

Youth violence intertwined with joblessness- The proliferation of gangs and youth violence is an ever present stain on our country. The high numbers of unemployed youths is creating a time bomb that would soon explode if the nation’s leaders do not make a conscious effort to address this cancer. It is unthinkable to have all of these ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT and investment initiatives pouring into the country when there are hardly ample opportunities for job placement or training for the youths in our country.

I am always reminded that any nation is judged by the way they treat their most vulnerable members of their country. Our youths are the future of our country and every effort should be made to provide employment opportunities for them. As we call them in the United States, the “Millennials” are now becoming a formidable voting block that can no longer be ignored. Perhaps, the Sierra Leonean youths must begin to mobilize themselves as an independent movement that could work with whoever seeks their interests not “promises” that amount to naught.

Education both advanced and primary- My friends, a nation that was once the citadel of incredible academic achievers has fast declined into low performance decrepit buildings with little or no educational supplies that are conducive to learning. Student unrest and teacher protests and dissatisfaction are now a growing problem in the country.

Academic freedom is no longer available as law enforcement professionals are often directed to suppress their freedom of speech and expression. Until the powers at be recognize that they were once students themselves, whose success in life was intricately tied to the good education and freedoms they once enjoyed during their student days, therefore by not investing in education will surely be a lost opportunity that will take eons to rectify. Education is an investment into our future as a nation therefore undermining that investment will undoubtedly rob our nation of our future leaders of the Republic of Sierra Leone for generations to come.
In conclusion my dear countrymen and women, I am not suggesting or even pretending to provide a prescription for the way forward for Sierra Leone.

What I am attempting to do in this article is to highlight some small fires that could probably ignite the canister that is waiting to explode into a much larger and uncontrolled fire in the Republic of Sierra Leone. As students of history, we are always reminded of the several coupe d’etats that our country has gone through. My preference will and shall remain a government by which civilians run our government for the people and by the people not a military dictatorship by decrees. God save our country and long live the peoples in the Republic of Sierra Leone.

Sidique Abou-Bakarr Wai
President and National Spokesperson
United African Congress
USA

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