Sierra Leone: 16 Candidates To Contest Presidential Elections on March 7th

In the lead up to its fourth democratic elections, the West African country of Sierra Leone’s electoral body, the National Electoral Commission (NEC) has released the provisional list of nominated candidates for the March 7th Presidential Election.

Sierra Leone National Election Commissioner Mohamed Nfah Alie Conteh
Sierra Leone National Election Commissioner Mohamed Nfah Alie Conteh

In a release signed by Chairman Mohamed Nfah Alie Conteh and issued on Monday in the capital Freetown, the NEC announced a a final list of 16 political parties cleared to contest and include:

Samura Kamara (APC),

Mohamed Kamaraimba Mansaray (ADP)

Samuel Sam-Sumana (C4C)

Alhaji Musa Tarawallie (CDP)

Mohamed C. Bah (NDA)

Dr. Kandeh K. Yumkella (NGC)

Patrick John O’Dwyer (NPD),

Jonathan Patrick Sandy (NURP)

Kandeh Baba Conteh (PLP)

Charles Francis Margai (PMDC)

Beresford Victor Williams (RNIP)

Gbandi Jemba Ngobeh (RUFP)

Rtd Brigadier Julius Maada Bio (SLPP)

Mohamed Turay Sowa (UDM)

Henry saa Kubata (UNPP) and

Josephine O. Claudius-Cole (UP)

APC Candidate Dr Samura Kamara
APC Candidate Dr Samura Kamara

The two major political parties are the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) which was founded in 1951 and now led by incumbent President Ernest Bai Koroma and the current opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) which was also founded during the colonial era in 1948. President Koroma is constitutionally ineligible to stand for re-election after serving 2 five-year terms since 2007.

SLPP Candidate Julius Maada Bio
SLPP Candidate Julius Maada Bio

The ruling APC’s candidate is Dr. Samura Kamara, a former foreign minister while the SLPP’s Presidential candidate is a retired military officer Mr. Julius Maada Bio. The much lesser known and smaller political parties are seeking to make strong parliamentary gains in order to establish leverage when the political horse-trading and negotiation kick in for support from the two major parties. Supporters of the ruling APC party candidate says Mr. Kamara is better suited to lead the country given his international diplomatic experience while supporters of the opposition SLPP candidate – the retired military officer say he is disciplined and best positioned to lead.

Last December, the Koroma Administration intervened to subsidize the nomination fees for elective offices of President, Members of Parliament, Mayor and Local Council. The NEC at the time announced that, ” … as a result of the intervention of the Chairman of the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) through a letter dated 5th December, 2017, to the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, His Excellency, the President has approved rthat the Government will absorb the difference in costs between the proposed revised fees outlined in the signed political parties resolution and the current fee contained in the Statutory Instrument No. 13 of 2012…”

Meantime, the US. Embassy in Sierra Leone has warned against growing election violence following a recent rampage by supporters of the ruling APC. One person was reportedly killed. According to a statement issued by the American diplomatic mission in Freetown, it said, “The U.S. Embassy is concerned about recent reports of violence and loss of life.  We extend deepest condolences to the victims and their families.  We appeal to all Sierra Leoneans to remain peaceful and respect the democratic process. While this is a time to engage in political activity, exchanges should be civil, and take place in an atmosphere of tolerance and respect…”

The statement further said,”…The U.S. Embassy urges all parties and candidates to reiterate to their constituents their commitment to a non-violent, law abiding and peaceful democratic process.”

Amnesty
Amnesty International

In adding its voice to the call for a peaceful election, Amnesty International (AI) on Friday, said, “Next month’s elections in Sierra Leone are another landmark moment, as the country recovers from the devastating Ebola outbreak, and there is no doubt that there will be vibrant rallies and passionate debate.”

Amnesty further noted that, “there is an essential role for the authorities to play in ensuring that every Sierra Leonean can participate in these elections, speaking out freely and assembling peacefully, in full safety.”

According to the NEC calendar, political campaigning starts on February 4 – March 5. There is a one day cooling off period on March 6th with no campaigning and polling date is March 7th. If no candidate wins outright, a run off poll will be conducted between March 24th – 28th between the two candidates with the highest votes.

Map of the Republic of Sierra Leone
Map of the Republic of Sierra Leone

In a separate development, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) says it is suspending financing to the Sierra Leone government for its failure to meet key budget outlook and growth targets. Following a development economic performance review last September in Freetown, the IMF concluded that it is “…currently working with the government to identify appropriate corrective measures that can be taken and when.”

Sierra Leone’s electoral body says there are about 3.1 million registered voters out of a population of a little over 7 million.

By Emmanuel Abalo 

West African Journal Magazine

 

Feature: Liberian Political Parties in “Catch-22” Situation

Though most Liberians are agreed the crucial and now temporarily suspended presidential run-off scheduled on November 7th should provide the way forward for recovery in this postwar country, some opposition parties that failed to reach the runoff now feel embarrassed for having committed themselves in the so-called Ganta Declaration to gang up against their ruling party in the event of a run-off election.

Political Parties Leadera in Liberia
Political Parties Leaders in Liberia

Now, the hitherto hidden snare has surfaced as chickens must come to roost when the coalition headed by former football star George Weah and incumbent vice president Joseph Boakai of the Unity Party will duel in the runoff, if and when the scheduled run-off happens.

The matter resembles a catch-22 for some opposition parties that came in four descending places after Boakai’s 28.8 percent below that of Weah’s 38 percent.

The onus is on opposition parties that agreed to form a common block against the ruling party their—sworn enemy—only in case there is no first round victory for any party are racing against to swallow the bitter pill.

Opposition parties entered the pact unmindful of the fact that Weah’s CDC coalition was fortified with Jewel Howard-Taylor’s NPP and Alex Tyler’s People United Party, formed after breaking ranks with the ruling UP and losing the speakership to James E. Nuquay, now running mate of Boakai.

The likelihood of honoring the Ganta Declaration before the run-off election by opposition parties like Charles Brumskine’s Liberty Party and the Alternative National Congress of Alexander Cummings that filed against suspected election irregularities with the National Elections Commission are near impossible. They are in court seeking redress and possible injunction on the runoff.

Meanwhile, controversial Nimba County Senator Prince Johnson who came fourth and could surely be a kingmaker,  a little over a week ago, publicly endorsed the CDC coalition of Weah “in the spirit of the Ganta declaration signed in November 2016.

Political Subdivision Map of Liberia map
Political Subdivision Map of Liberia

The endorsement came after Johnson and Weah were seen together recently in Nigerian televangelist T.B. Joshua’s synagogue in Abuja; but Johnson said their appearance together under the prelate’s invocation was purely coincidental.

Yet the former warlord who thrice failed to win the presidency, admits he previously sought spiritual counsel and guidance from Pastor Joshua to help him reconcile with Grand Gedeans for torturing Dictator Samuel Doe to death in 1990.

Johnson had earlier criticized Weah for allegedly unleashing his supporters to wound loyalists of the Liberty Party during a campaign rally in Saniquellie, Nimba County, sayng: “I reject the spilling of Nimbains’ blood and called on all Nimbaians not to vote for Weah because he is not president yet; his followers are causing confusion.”

Immediately after Johnson pledged support to Weah whom he often refers to Weah as “my son”, came the support of George Sluwar Dweh’s (Gedeh) of the Liberia Transformation Party that earned less than one percent of the votes, to the CDC coalition.

It appears the cardinal focus of all opposition parties was to galvanize toward ousting the UP, while oblivious that each party was not in the race to win a joint trophy, but specifically win the presidency.

Benoni Urey pledged support to the Unity Party which its new campaign mobilization chair, Edwin Snowe says is now engaged in a “Jehovah witness’s style campaign” for the runoff.

Liberians Waiting To Vote
Liberian Voters At Polling Stations On Oct 10th

As campaign for the runoff appears rather lackluster with the CDC banking on commitment of opposition parties that signed the Ganta declaration but were defeated in the first round further political negotiations are expected, though the declaration is silent on that only insisting on stopping prolongation of the Unity Party rule.

The bottom line here is Liberians will be forced to live with the inevitability of a George Weah presidency since voters who see themselves through him vastly outnumber the older generation who believe placing Liberia’s posterity now in the hands of someone whose only legacy is the talent of goal scoring is unsound. And unlike other international football stars of his caliber, Weah has done nothing concrete in Liberia to depict his football prowess and gains.

Moreover, Weah refused to participate in all debates for presidential candidates and has shunned invitations to appear on T-Jlateh’s 50-50 talk show in Monrovia.

By Tepitapia Sannah

Contributing Writer

Monrovia, Liberia