An Open Letter To HE Julius Maada Bio
5th August 2019
His Excellency the President,
Dr. Julius Maada Bio,
State House, State Avenue,
Dear Mr. President,
A call for Special Investigation into the Violence that Occurred during the Conduct of the Re-run Parliamentary Bye-Elections in Constituency 110.
Your Excellency, it is with a pained heart and broken spirit that I write to raise this concern about what impact the current trend of heightened and unprecedented election violence might have on our democracy, good governance and the rule of law.
As Your Excellency may be aware, on Saturday 24th August 2019, the National Electoral Commission (NEC) conducted a re-run Parliamentary bye-election in Constituency 110, pursuant to a court order dated 31st May, 2019.
You also may be aware that the electoral climate preceding the election was marred by violence as evidenced in the July 29 incident at Hamilton village.
During the conduct of the said bye-election on Saturday August 24, the Police, joined by their military counterparts, deployed about 300 personnel to provide security coverage for the entire election.
Media coverage by Africa Young Voices (AYV) showed that the polls started on time and the election went on peacefully in all the polling centres except at the Sulpon Community Primary School (Centre Code 15074) where voting was temporarily suspended because SLPP agents in polling stations 6, 7 and 9 raised issues with the Voters Register. This issue was addressed by the NEC much to the satisfaction of all players and voting resumed in a peaceful manner.
Your Excellency, very close to the end of the polls, violence erupted in Polling Centre 15086 – Sarah Modern Preparatory School. Certain people, who strangely, still remain unidentified or to be brought to book, raided the station in full view of the security apparatus and destroyed ballot boxes and other election materials.
On this note, Your Excellency, the NEC in their Press Statement of Sunday 25th August, 2019, cancelled the entire election result.
Who are behind the attack?
Your Excellency at this juncture you may want to know some of the alleged perpetrators behind such a heinous crime.
The National Elections Watch (NEW), undisputedly the most credible election observer group in Sierra Leone, stated in their Press Statement of Monday August 26, that: “A man who NEW cannot recognize and who throughout the day was being consulted by the SLPP party agents at the centre ordered voting to stop and started the destruction of ballot boxes and election materials after which a group of men rushed into the polling stations destroying ballot boxes and other election materials.”
NEW went further to identify a vehicle whose owner and those on board may be linked to the violence. “A black RAV4 vehicle with no license plate but with an inscription ‘CEO of Soja Team Paopa’ with the SLPP logo was seen driving in the vicinity of the polling centres.”
Furthermore, video evidence seen on social media portrayed the destruction of ballots and other election materials as choreographed by ruling party operatives much to the chagrin of voters, election observers and the international community. Added to that, the presence of the Honourable Minister of Transport and Aviation at the scene made the whole incident look like a state-sanctioned attack on our democracy; and a deliberate attempt by the ruling party operatives to subvert a fundamental human right of the electorates of Constituency 110.
Your Excellency, the decision by NEC to cancel the entire election result has provoked outrage and widespread agitation among the citizenry who believe that such a decision runs contrary to the principles of equity and justice.
Following the cancellation of the results, a civil society group called Legal Link enquired from NEC to show the “extant” law that supports their cancellation of the result.
NEC’s reply to this very important legal question did not go down well with a majority of Sierra Leoneans. To suggest that people go to court if they are not happy came as slap in the face of many Sierra Leoneans who felt cheated by the decision to cancel the elections and NEC could have been more prudent.
Section 36 of the 1991 Constitution ensured that voting in any public election shall be by secret ballot. The scattering of those ballots exposed the secrecy of ballots as many people would have come to know how and who the people voted for. Also, the Public Elections Act of 2012 makes it an offence for anyone to obstruct, disrupt, interfere or destroy election materials without lawful authority.
Your Excellency, upon assuming office, you declared a war against indiscipline and lawlessness. The violence perpetrated by ruling party operatives should be regarded as the highest form of lawlessness and indiscipline.
Your Excellency, to exonerate your good name and reputation as the ‘talk and do’ President that does not condone lawlessness, I recommend that you set up a Special Investigation Panel to, among other things:
• Investigate the circumstances that led to the destruction of ballots boxes and other election materials at Constituency 110 Parliamentary re-run election.
• The complicity and complacent conduct of the police during the violence.
• Identify, name and shame perpetrators.
• The specific role of the Minister of Transport and Aviation.
• And an integrity check be conducted on the NEC.
I pray that God continues to guide you throughout the rest of your term.
God bless you and God bless Sierra Leone!
Journalist and Pro-poor Activist.