By Sorie Fofana………………………………………
In his annual New Year’s message to the nation, His Excellency President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma said, “Fellow Sierra Leoneans, soon, our national electoral processes will begin. There will be several aspirants seeking political office; debates will go on, tensions may rise but whatever you do; you must never lose sight of the fact that Sierra Leone is bigger than everyone; it is bigger than every group and every political party. We therefore owe it to ourselves and to our future generations to stay together, to work together and to build this our beloved nation together”.
The announcement of the specific date for the forthcoming general elections in February 2018 has not been made. The announcement of that date is still being awaited by the general populace, with bated breath.
Civil Society Organizations (at least some of the serious and credible ones) have written a letter to the Chief Electoral Commissioner, Mohamed N’fa Alie Conteh, urging him to confirm whether a precise date for the general elections has been slated.
There are strong rumors that, the 2018 general elections will not go ahead as planned. These rumors are refusing to be buried in the sand. They keep flourishing like the winter flowers in Cardiff, Wales.
There are reports that, the Government is not willing to conduct timely elections in February 2018. There are no tangible signs that, the February 2018 elections will go ahead as planned.
The Chief Electoral Commissioner, Mohamed N’fa Alie Conteh is reported to have forwarded a draft summary of key dates for the general elections in 2018 to State House for its concurrence. There has been no response from State House up until yesterday.
NEC sources informed this writer that, between 1st December 2016 and 19th January 2017, the Chairman has met with the President at State House on four different occasions. And, on all of those occasions, he raised the issue of the announcement of the specific date for the 2018 general elections.
The same sources told this writer that, the NEC Chairman has gone further, by writing two separate letters to State House (Dated 18th November 2016 and 16th December 2016 respectively), reminding them of the need for the announcement of the exact date for the 2018 general elections. It is reported that, State House did not even acknowledge receipt of those letters. Very unusual!
New PPRC Chairman
Since the death of the substantive Chairman of PPRC (Political Parties Registration Commission), Justice M.E. Tholla-Thompson, no replacement has taken place.
Sources in the House of Parliament, have confirmed that, no nomination for the vacant post of Chairman of PPRC has been forwarded to the Clerk of Parliament by State House.
There were reports in the local media yesterday that, the Chairman of the CRC (Constitutional Review Committee), Justice Edmond Cowan will be presenting his Final Report to His Excellency the President at State House today. What happens after that presentation? Will the Government go ahead and conduct a National Referendum on the amended Constitution after Parliament would have debated it? Will NEC have time to conduct a National Referendum before the term of the current President expires in February 2018?
Will the Government go ahead with their policy of boundary delimitation? Does NEC have enough time and resources to undertake all these processes ahead of the general elections in February 2018?
N’fa Conteh’s Dilemma
Mohamed N’fa Alie Conteh has a lot of work to do if timely and credible elections are to be held in February 2018. The International Community is suspicious that, the Government is not sincerely committed to conducting timely elections in February 2018.
Some donor partners have even threatened to cease cooperation with NEC, until the specific date for the 2018 general elections is announced.
The Chief Electoral Commissioner is at the dead end. What will he do if the President refuses to give him the go ahead to officially announce the date for the 2018 elections? Will he go ahead and do so without the approval of the President?
N’fa Conteh should call a Press Conference and explain to the nation why, the specific date for the 2018 general elections has still not been announced. That way, he would have absolved himself of any possible blame.
Some opposition political parties have also joined the fray in calling on the NEC Chairman to release the 2018 elections timetable to enable them prepare well ahead of time.
In his Christmas and New Year message to the nation, the SLPP 2012 Presidential candidate, Brig. (Rtd.) Julius Maada Bio had this to say, “Let me also use this opportunity as an Aspirant for the Presidential candidacy of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party, to urge the National Electoral Commission (NEC) to declare, without further delay, the specific date that Presidential and Parliamentary elections will be conducted in February 2018. I would like to remind the Chief Electoral Commissioner and the President, both of whom have an obligation by law to hold consultation in setting the date for the elections that any further delay will begin to undermine the credibility of the electoral process for the February 2018 elections’.
Until the actual date for the February 2018 elections is announced, N’fa Conteh will continue to have his feet held to the fire by all major stakeholders in the entire electoral process.
Many people hope that, N’fa Conteh will behave like a man made of sterner stuff. May we all work to build our democracy together!