By Kemo Cham
A civil society umbrella group has urged the Sierra Leone government to demonstrate commitment to the country’s electoral process amidst concern of a possible delay in next year’s much anticipated poll.
The Standing Together for Democracy Consortium (STDC), which is monitoring the electoral process, says the government should ensure timely and adequate support to the National Electoral Commission (NEC) to enable it roll out its activities in line with the Electoral calendar.
The group is concerned that inadequate funding and delay by parliament to ratify a statutory instrument to legalise the outcome of the Boundary Delimitation exercise conducted last year could derail the electoral process with the tendency of preventing the conduct of the elections slated for 7 March, 2018.
The STDC comprises seven pressure groups, including CSOs and local and international NGOs operating in the country. They include the National Elections Watch, the Institute for Governance Reform, Campaign for Good Governance, Search for Common Ground, and Westminster Foundation for Democracy.
In a statement on Friday, the group called on parliamentarians to ensure the urgent ratification of the boundary delimitation report which is already before the House.
The concerns stemmed the backdrop of the introduction of a controversial motion in parliament which pro-democracy campaigners said could occasion the halting of the on-going voter registration exercise.
Proponents of the motion say the electoral commission contravened the constitution by embarking on registration before parliamentary approval of the delineated boundaries.
MPs, at a session in parliament last week, summoned NEC officials to answer to questions pending voting on the issue on Monday.
NEC, based on the 2015 National Population and Housing Census data, conducted the boundary delimitation exercise which saw the creation of two new districts in the north and several constituencies and wards across the country.
The timing of the move by the parliamentarians, coming weeks into the registration exercise, also adds to the suspicion over the motive.
While acknowledging the fact that commencement of registration without ratification of the border delimitation report presupposes a constitutional blunder, the CSOs point to the fact that the electoral body had in fact submitted the report in good time to the Attorney General’s office which was supposed to present it to parliament. The delay on the part of the Attorney General to submit the document to parliament has been the basis for suspicion for many who have linked it to the seemingly undying issue of “More Time”.
“Civil society wishes to restate unequivocally that any attempt to derail the current electoral process will not be tolerated,” the Consortium said in its statement.
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