FREETOWN – The Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL) has announced that preparations are complete for the Presidential, Parliamentary, and Local Council Elections scheduled for Saturday, June 24, 2023.
On Saturday, over three million voters are expected to cast their ballots to elect the country’s leader for the next five years. Incumbent President Maada Bio of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) is seeking a second term.
On Wednesday, June 21, the country experienced a standoff when supporters of the main opposition party, the All Peoples Congress (APC), led by their flagbearer Samura Kamara, staged a peaceful protest at their party’s headquarters on Old Railway Line, Freetown. However, joint security forces used tear gas and live bullets to disperse the crowd, resulting in one fatality.
Dr. Kamara, the APC’s flagbearer, previously served as Finance and Foreign Minister under the Ernest Bai Kromah administration and was defeated by President Bio in the country’s 2018 elections.
In connection with the protest, Assistant Inspector General Mohamed Braima of the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) revealed that sixty-six individuals have been arrested. Additionally, the party’s Security General, Lansana Dumbuya, was detained at the CID headquarters due to his involvement in the protest but was released on bail on Thursday, June 22, 2023.
However, the ECSL released a statement on Wednesday confirming that the elections would proceed as planned across the 11,832 polling places in the 16 districts of Sierra Leone. The Chief Electoral Commissioner, Mohamed Konneh, stated that a total of 3,374,258 ballot sheets had been delivered, including a 5% buffer for any unforeseen circumstances. He also mentioned that the training and deployment of polling staff would conclude on Wednesday, June 21.
Our sources have confirmed that political parties, including the APC, are currently training their polling agents to be deployed at various polling stations nationwide.
The head of the electoral commission emphasized that early voting for citizens attending the Hajj pilgrimage took place on June 15, 2023, at all 16 district offices to ensure their participation in the elections.
Meanwhile, the international community, in a joint statement, expressed concern about the recent violence and called upon both parties to uphold peace and demonstrate tolerance towards one another.
Calm has been restored, and businesses have resumed their normal activities; however, the military presence remains noticeable, particularly around the APC headquarters and the prison compound. Reports indicate that there are concerns that, in the event of any untoward incidents, citizens may attempt to storm the prison and release inmates, potentially escalating the situation.
This news story was made possible through the Female Journalist Association cross-border engagement, sponsored by Internews Media Activity.