29 November 2012

Sierra Leone opposition party calls on lawmakers to boycott Parliament

By Aroun Rashid Deen

The Sierra Leone People’s Party, whose candidate, Julius Maada Bio, came
in a distant second to the incumbent President in a crowded field in the
just-concluded Sierra Leone presidential election, has called on its members
of parliament and other elected officials, to “stay away” from
parliamentary and all other local council proceedings.

A statement from the party’s secretariat issued Tuesday, just four days
after the National Electoral Commission NEC of Sierra Leone declared
incumbent President Ernest Koroma, of the All People’s Congress, the
winner of the presidential election held on November 17, stated that its
National Executive Committee strongly “condemns the refusal of the
National Electoral Commission (NEC) to address the electoral irregularities
including fake and unstamped Reconciliation and Result Forms, pre-marked
ballot papers, ballot stuffing and over-voting in Kono, the Western Area and
the Northern Province and more other instances of malpractices which
undermined the credibility of the results.” The party had hinted - just a
day after the result was announced - that it was going to contest the
presidential result, claiming electoral wrongdoings.

The SLPP national and local lawmakers are among the hundreds also elected
during the November 17 polling. Although the party has also – in a
separate statement - indicated that the elected officials have reaffirmed
their firm commitment to the resolution to stay away, pundits speculate that
few of them will adhere to their party’s call for the boycott. And if they
do, it will not be for long. Among them are first-timers, some of whom,
notwithstanding the party’s position regarding the results declared by the
NEC, are anxious to take up their seats for which they had worked hard, if
not to begin serving their constituents.

The call to stay away from parliamentary and other council proceedings may
be a signal that the SLPP is running out of options or strategies to reverse
the election result. In its press release, the party prevailed on the
international community to consider its claims of election fraud, demanding
“an independent international assessment” of the whole election process
involved, including the presidential result.

It is not clear which sector of the international community the SLPP wants
to intervene, since key players and leading decision makers in world
affairs, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, China, Russia, the
United Nations, the European Union ECOWAS, the West African regional bloc
and the African Union, among others, have all recognized the election of
President Koroma. They have done so by way of statements of approval of the
election process and congratulatory messages to Koroma.

However, a reliable source from Freetown has indicated that frenetic
diplomatic efforts, led by the United Nations, are under way to bring
together President Ernest Bai Koroma and Julius Maada Bio, to find a
resolution to the SLPP’s alleged election fraud. It is not known what, if
anything, Mr. Bio would gain out of it, following his dismal performance,
other than to be coaxed to accept the election result. Representatives of
the two groups are to meet in Freetown shortly.

Further, in its press release, the party demanded the “unconditional
release” from police custody, those of its members and supporters who are
still being held. And in what it described as in the spirit of
reconciliation, the SLPP called on the government to “nolle prosequi all
pending political matters in our local courts.” It did not specify the
political matters in question nor indicate how the request is related to the
allegations of electoral fraud and irregularities.
Nolle prosequi is a term used in the context of the legal profession. It
means that either a prosecutor or plaintiff in a legal matter already in
proceeding has declared that he or she will not proceed any further.

Aroun Rashid Deen is a freelance journalist. He lives in New York City
646 645-1857

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