Sierra Leone News: NEC Staff Beaten up by Security Personnel of Minister during Bye-Election

By Stephen V. Lansana

The National Election Watch (NEW), a coalition of civic and non-governmental organizations, on June 30,2017, observed series of incidents in the past two bye-elections in wards 139 and 212 in Kambia and Tonkolili Districts, respectively, that are of major concern.

“In Tonkolili district, a senior NEC official in the operations department of the Commission was beaten by the security personnel of the Minister of Education Science and Technology for intercepting the minister,” NEW said in a statement on Tuesday.

He was rescued by the Regional Electoral Commissioner.

NEW notes the increase interference into the electoral process by state officials and senior political party functionaries.

The organisation calls on the Office of National Security (ONS) to coordinate the security around elections to ensure that NEC staff and materials are protected.

“In Kambia, electorates attempted to vote with identity cards that do not belong to them resulting to two [people] apprehended. The ADP political party leader was seen campaigning within 400 meters of the polling station.”

NEW commended the National Electoral Commission (NEC) for the successful conduct of the past two bye-elections with a relatively high voter turnout.

The election in ward 139 was contested by the Alliance Democratic Party (ADP), All Peoples Congress (APC), and an independent candidate; while in Tonkolili it was contested by the Alliance Democratic Party (ADP), All Peoples Congress (APC) and the Sierra Leone Peoples’ Party (SLPP).

“The polls in both places started as scheduled with elections staff present and materials available. The voter turnout was impressively high for bye-elections in both wards noting the previous trend,” NEW said in a statement on Tuesday.

NEW observed that the elections were very sensitive, attracting high ranking political actors, adding that these actors served as political party agents and were also visible around the elections environment. “Security presence was visible but their role was undermined by senior state officials and high profile party functionaries in both locations,” NEW said.

NEW observed the ballot paper issuer of NEC was doing voter education in the polling stations while the voting was in progress to forestall void ballots. NEW was especially impressed with the presence of senior elections officials including the Chief Electoral Commissioner.