International observers drawn from all parts of the world have inadvertently contradicted claims by the Presidential candidate of the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party ( SLPP), Mr. Maada Bio, that there were wide-spread irregularities in the just-concluded presidential, legislative and local elections in Sierra Leone. According to the observers , whatever irregularities were there were isolated and the elections were peaceful and well-conducted.
H.E. RUPIAH BANDA
H.E. Rupiah Banda, former President of Zambia, who is with the Carter Centre , said : “These shortfalls were generally addressed by midday and they did not undermine the fundamental integrity of the electoral process . ” These observers like the African Union , Carter Centre and the European Union ( EU ) are important stakeholders in Sierra Leone whose reports will go a long way in establishing the fact that the elections were free, fair, transparent and credible.
The ruling All People’s Congress ( APC ) has refuted allegations by the opposition SLPP that its operatives took part in irregularities and will definitely also reject claims that isolated cases of money exchange took place.
READ BELOW A REPORT ON THE STATEMENT BY THE INTERNATIONAL OBSERVERS BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS :
FREETOWN, Sierra Leone — Sierra Leone carried out a largely peaceful and well-conducted vote despite isolated reports of money changing hands and polling stations marred by bees and lack of light, observers said Monday.
While local radio stations have begun airing unofficial results from some polling stations, the National Electoral Commission has yet to announce whether the vote will go to a second round.
The EU mission noted that there were isolated reports of the governing party distributing cash payments. While the mission was assured that the amount of money involved amounted to a local “handshake,” Howitt said in one case there was “a significant amount of money involved.”
There also was a report of one polling station where voters who presented ID cards were allowed to vote though they ultimately were not on the voter registry, Howitt said. The ballot boxes in question were under quarantine pending an investigation, he added.
The U.S.-based Carter Center also said Monday that Sierra Leone’s vote had been “peaceful, orderly and transparent.” Some polled opened late and in some cases there were shortages of election materials, the observers noted.
“These shortfalls were generally addressed by midday and they did not undermine the fundamental integrity of the electoral process,” said former Zambian President Rupiah Banda who is with the Carter Center delegation.
The observer mission from the West African regional bloc ECOWAS also noted a few isolated incidents, including the absence of back-up lighting which required party agents to improvise with cellphones and flashlights to enable counting in the dark.
Sierra Leone’s presidential race has hinged on which candidate can best uplift this West African country trying to shed its past after a brutal 1991-2002 civil war.
A decade after the war’s end, Sierra Leone remains one of the poorest countries in the world despite its diamonds and other riches. Several recent offshore oil discoveries, though, are raising hopes for economic development.
Most of the country’s nearly 6 million people live on less than $1.25 a day, and it remains among the deadliest places in the world for women to give birth. Earlier this year, the capital was hard-hit by a cholera outbreak.
While Sierra Leone already had held two mostly peaceful votes since the war’s end, experts said Saturday’s vote would be a crucial test of whether those gains were irreversible.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised Sierra Leonean voters for the “peaceful and largely orderly elections.
“The high voter turnout and the remarkable calm displayed by the country’s citizens as they cast their votes are a clear manifestation of their desire for peace, democracy and development,” said a statement released by his spokesperson.
The incumbent president, Koroma, has pointed to his accomplishments during his first term, pleading with voters in his campaign signs: “I Will Do More.”
He faced eight opponents including leading opposition figure Julius Maada Bio, a retired brigadier-general who calls himself the “father of democracy” after his brief three-month tenure at the country’s helm in 1996.