October 31, 2017 By Mohamed Massaquoi
The Institute for Governance Reform (IGR) has on Thursday 26th October 2017 in a letter to the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC), raised alarm that the use of President Ernest Bai Korroma’s image by the ruling All Peoples Congress APC to boost their presidential campaign in the run up to the 2018 elections blatantly violate Section 40 (2) of the 1991 Constitution, which describes the president as symbol of national unity.
IGR stated that the appropriation of the image of the president by one party has the tendency to undermine the vision of unity and national cohesion.
“Although the president has a right to support his candidate of choice, we believe that PPRC can ensure that there are clear regulations on the level of support, protection and resources State House can and should provide to any candidate competing for public office,” the letter reads.
IGR further noted that they have been following recent election build-ups, including party conventions, lower level elections and ensuing activities and recognized the pivotal role of PPRC in regulating the conduct of political parties, adding that Sierra Leone is currently enjoying unprecedented high quality debates among party actors and that if sustained, it will augur well for Sierra Leone’s democracy.
They noted however that: “We have seen the involvement of traditional rulers in political party activities. The 2009 Chieftaincy Act is silent on the neutrality of chiefs in public election, the 2013 Code of Ethics and Service Standards for Chiefs of which all chiefs are signatory, explicitly states that chiefs should be neutral in party activities. Neutrality of Chiefs is important because they are the principal source of justice for many voters, particularly in rural areas where they mediate local disputes or refer cases to police or the courts,” continues the letter.
“The majority of chiefs contacted in our monitoring are well aware of the likelihood of conflicts increasing between supporters of different parties, as election-time draws near, and believe that where chiefs openly side with one party, it will be difficult to ensure their neutrality in mediating such cases. We recommend that the PPRC work with the Human Rights Commission and the National Council of Paramount Chiefs to address the potential threat to political expression at community level, especially for marginalized groups.”