Freetown, Sierra Leone, 01 April 2018
ECOWAS OBSERVATION MISSION SATISFIED WITH CONDUCT OF SIERRA LEONE’S PRESIDENTIAL RUN-OFF VOTE
The ECOWAS Observation Mission has expressed satisfaction with the conduct of Sierra Leone’s March 31st rescheduled presidential run-off vote despite some challenges including the “intimidating” presence of security in a particular polling centre in Kenema district and the conflicting number of police officers deployed to one polling centre in Freetown’s Western Area Urban.
“On the whole, the processing of voters and casting of ballots followed acceptable standards and were in accordance with the laws and procedures governing elections in the country,” the Head of Mission, Prof. Amos Sawyer said in the Mission’s Preliminary Declaration he read in Freetown on Sunday 1st April.
Noting the “improved management of the voting process and the greater familiarity of the polling agents and voters with the process,” the Mission said that vote counting at the polling places were “conducted transparently and professionally in the presence of the agents of the two candidates (APC and SLPP),” and some local and international observers.
“The Mission urges the National Electoral Commission to approach the concluding phases of the process with fairness, openness and transparency until the proclamation of the results,” the Declaration added.
It commended the APC and the SLPP candidates, Dr, Samura Kamara and Brigadier (rtd) Julius Maada Bio, respectively, for their “exemplary conduct, and “urges them to maintain their statesmanlike posture until the completion of the electoral process.
While congratulating the 14 other candidates who participated in the March 7 first round polls and political parties for their role in ensuring “a healthy political competition, the ECOWAS Mission called on the two front-runners, their political parties and followers to “accept the verdict of the ballot box as will be declared by the competent authority, NEC, and refrain from prematurely declaring results of the vote.
ECOWAS had a 65 member Observation mission also headed by Prof. Sawyer, for the first round of voting, and another 45 for the second round, including the Core Team of Long-Term Observers, who stayed behind after the declaration of results of the first round.
Dignitaries at the presentation of the Preliminary Declaration included Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Head of UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel, Ghana’s former President John Mahama, Head of the Commonwealth Observation Mission, former South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, Head of AU Observation Mission, Jean Lambert, Head of EU Observation Mission, members of the diplomatic corps including envoys of ECOWAS member countries, the UK, Ireland, and representatives of the Mano River Union, Women’s Situation Room and the UNDP Resident Representative.
To douse political tensions that followed the announcement of results of the first round elections and resolve the legal issues over an interim injunction suspending the electoral process, Prof Sawyer and Heads of other international observation groups – AU, Commonwealth and the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA), undertook some preventive diplomacy initiatives which paved the way for the rescheduling of the run-off from March 27 to 31.
Counting and tallying of the ballots are on-going, with political experts indicating that the announcement of the final results could take some days as a result of an agreement between NEC and the two political parties that the results should be announced according to districts.