PLEASE HELP ENSURE VIOLENCE-FREE, CREDIBLE AND FAIR ELECTIONS IN SIERRA LEONE
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Please help the long-suffering people of Sierra Leone as the country heads into presidential and parliamentary elections on March 7, 2018.
As you may know, Sierra Leone is always in the news for something negative. Whether it was the civil war of the 1990s, the recent Ebola epidemic and mudslides, or Sierra Leonean migrants being tortured in Libya, it seems as if the people of Sierra Leone cannot catch a break.
Like most African countries that President Trump reportedly referred to as "sh*tholes," Sierra Leone’s problems are mainly due to corruption, mismanagement, and bad governance which have their roots in questionable and often fraudulent elections.
We, Sierra Leoneans in the diaspora, are very concerned that fraud and rigging perpetuated by the incumbent All People's Congress (APC) party of President Ernest Koroma could mar the outcome of the next elections in March. The signs are already apparent with attempts and measures that were taken by the APC designed to perpetuate their stay in power. These include last-minute attempts in parliament to change the constitutional requirement of 55% for an outright victory to 50% +1, use of the courts to intimidate and harass prominent opposition members by incarceration without bail, unexplained burning of opposition offices, inflation of census results to increase potential voters in their electoral strongholds, questionable and discriminatory deployment of a citizenship clause in the Constitution of Sierra Leone etc.
What hopes remain for credible and peaceful elections in Sierra Leone could lie in the following measures that we hope you can help bring about in some way through your moral and other support or advocacy for our cause that will surely make a difference in the lives of the long-suffering people of Sierra Leone:
1. Please join other members of the international community to hold President Ernest Koroma principally accountable for peaceful, free and credible elections in Sierra Leone on March 7, 2018.
2. Please help prevail upon the APC party to not impose any sudden and new “electoral laws” in the country heading into the elections of 2018, such as they did in 2012 when they suddenly and arbitrarily banned all motor vehicle transportation on polling day except vehicles operated by their APC party functionaries, the National Elections Commission, or members of the security forces.
3. Please join other members of the international community to prevail upon the APC to allow the National Electoral Commission (NEC) to grant access to the opposition to preview and verify specific polling materials, such as voters’ lists and ID cards of polling center staff, at least a week before polling day on March 7, 2018.
4. Please help prevail on the APC party to allow members of the opposition and international and local electoral observers to travel across the country freely, without let or hindrance by security forces on Elections Day to verify the conduct of polling at all polling centers.
5. Please help prevail on the APC not to turn the internet off in Sierra Leone on Elections Day and not shut down cell phone service to curtail open communication across the country.
6. Please help prevail upon the security forces in Sierra Leone to not open fire on civilians who are inclined to register their protest with any aspect of the electoral process. Instead, the security forces should be compelled to arrest and detain individuals for violations of the law who could be prosecuted under the law and afforded due process following the elections.
The long-suffering people of Sierra Leone are desperate and hungry for change even as members of the very unpopular APC government have vowed publicly that they will never relinquish power. Thus, Sierra Leone is at a dangerous crossroad again, just as it previously was on the eve of the rebel war in 1991 under another APC government.
We, concerned Sierra Leoneans, fear that should the APC manipulate the conduct of the 2018 elections in their favor where the populace expects them to lose, it will serve as the flashpoint that could ignite civil strife, another conflict, mass migrations, and the unnecessary loss of lives.
Thus, we thank you for your attention and for helping shine a light on our country. We hope that your efforts will help to sustain peace in Sierra Leone.
Fodei Batty, Ph.D.
Hamden, CT. USA
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