UAC, Leading Diaspora Group, Calls For Unity and Transparency as Sierra Leone Votes

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Presidential contenders Julius Maada Bio and Samura Kamara.

Statement by the United African Congress on the eve of the runoff election for the President of Sierra Leone

 

The on-again off-again runoff election to elect the President of Sierra Leone has created uncertainty and anxiety among our brothers and sisters in the Sierra Leone Diaspora.

Many are fearful the situation could degenerate into chaos unless handled with deliberate care, calm and political maturity by the contesting parties in order to create a peaceful environment for the people to exercise their constitutional rights to vote for the leader of their choice with confidence in a fair and legal process.

The United African Congress (UAC), a Pan-African organization representing the interests of millions of continental Africans in the United States is fully supportive of the efforts undertaken by Sierra Leone nationals in the United States led by Sidique Wai in their appeal for a democratic and fair electoral process, as well as patriotic unity and peacefulness, in the period leading up to, during, and after, the runoff election, when the people’s choice for president will be known. The United African Congress is not an uninterested bystander in this situation as it has long been advocating for the strengthening of democratic institutions, defending human rights, and good governance practices, throughout our Mother Continent. The people of Sierra Leone have endured much trauma, including a long civil war, a protracted viral epidemic, and a massive mudslide, all of which claimed thousands of lives and unsettled an already fragile economic and social state.

The people are presently struggling to recover physically, economically, environmentally and emotionally. Given this situation, it is even more urgent that this election be conducted without corruption and in a peaceful manner.

The UAC knows that an immediate appeal, in situations like those and in the current election situation, can result in a positive outcome. For example, when the devastating Ebola epidemic struck the Mano River Commission countries, and thousands were dying in early 2014, with apparent indifference by the international community, we became among the first to raise awareness – by convening a forum at the United Nations – and to take action, by calling for an immediate global response to the devastating public health crisis in the establishment of a health emergency response team by the UN. This was successful in that the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) was created by then-UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon within weeks after our call.

Similarly, when the mudslide occurred, we took immediate action, mobilizing support and encouraging others likewise. And just last Sunday, we convened a press conference and public forum, with experts and religious leaders, to explicate the situation of the election and to call for non-violence. In that vein, we recognize the high value that Sierra Leoneans and the extensive Diaspora place on the maintenance of peace and justice at this time, as well as the importance to strengthen the democratic institutions in the country. Thus, we wholeheartedly endorse the call for patriotic unity at this critical juncture in Sierra Leone history. Peaceful transition in this electoral process will allow the country to continue the reconstruction effort with greater focus and vigor.

As an organization with a pan-African agenda, the concern of the UAC is the concern of all Sierra Leoneans. We share their hopes and aspirations for a peaceful and thriving society. Therefore with regard to this election, we call upon:

All electoral officials, authorities and parties to engage in, and insure, a transparent, peaceful and fair process. As a show of this approach, we recommend that the Presidential contestants Julius Maada Bio and Samura Kamara appear jointly on the eve of the elections to reassure the citizenry that the process will be conducted peacefully and that each candidate will abide by the people’s verdict.

All Sierra Leoneans to engage in what we are calling a “Sierra Leone Unity First” peace building effort across the country, rejecting all acts of violence and provocations. Ordinary citizens may face overzealous security forces, but they must also be responsible for their own peaceful actions. Posters and social media can be used to encourage peaceful action with the message “Sierra Leone Unity First” and “Unite Sierra Leone in Peace.”

Signed:

Sidique Wai, President and National Spokesperson, United African Congress

Dr. Mohammed Nurhussein, National Chairman, United African Congress; Associate Professor of Medicine, Emeritus, State University of NY, Downstate

Gordon Tapper, Trustee, United African Congress and Chairman and Founder, Give Them a Hand Foundation

Dr. Judith Kuriansky, Trustee, United African Congress; United Nations NGO representative, International Association of Applied Psychology

Dr. Michael J. Cole, Executive Vice President for Administration and Finance, United African Congress

Milton Allimadi, Trustee United African Congress, Adjunct Professor, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY, Publisher, The Black Star News

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