Voters in Sierra Leone are trooping out today for presidential, parliamentary and local council polls, with an estimated 3.17 million registered voters expected to cast their ballots in 11,122 polling states across the country.
On the eve of the election, the heads of six International Election Observation Missions (IEOMs) called on all stakeholders in the country to ensure peaceful and credible elections.
The observers made the appeal, according a statement issued by Mr Paul Ejime, the spokesman of ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commission (ECONEC) including ECOWAS, African Union (AU), and the Commonwealth.
Other missions are the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA), European Union (EU), and The Carter Center (TCC).
The missions urged the political leaders, parties and their supporters to respect the rule of law during balloting and through the results tallying process. They further urged them to uphold their commitments under the ‘Freetown Declaration’, which was signed by presidential candidates on 28 February.
“The IEOMs encouraged the candidates to accept the outcome of the elections in line with Article 9 of the ECOWAS Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance (2001) .
“In the event of complaints or disputes, we encourage candidates to seek redress through legal channels whilst at all times refraining from acts of violence and intimidation.
” The missions called on the National Electoral Commission (NEC) and party polling agents “to conduct their duties in a professional manner to ensure that “the elections are transparent, credible and conducted in accordance with prescribed laws and regulations.”
It added that the missions looked up to the government of Sierra Leone to uphold its constitutional obligations to provide a secure environment that guarantees the safety of candidates, voters, NEC officials and electoral materials.
“We urged the security personnel to demonstrate professionalism and enforce the law in a neutral and proportional manner.”
The meeting was attended by Nigeria’s former President Goodluck Jonathan, Head of EISA Mission, Prof Amos Sawyer, Liberia’s former Interim President and Head of ECOWAS Mission; South African former President, Kgalema Motlanthe; and Head of the AU Mission.
Others were Ghana’s former President, John Mahama., Head of the Commonwealth Mission; Ms. Jean Lambert, Head of EU Mission and Mr Larry Garber, for The Carter Center. Also present was the ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Gen. Francis Behanzin, who is leading the ECOWAS Commission’s Technical Support Team for the Prof. Sawyer-led 65-member ECOWAS Observation Mission.
The IEOMs, have deployed more than 250 observers across Sierra Leone’s 16 Administrative Districts.
The civil society under the umbrella of the National Election Watch (NEW) is deploying one citizen observer to each of the 11.122 polling stations in 3,300 Polling Centres nationwide.