February 1, 2018 By Hassan Gbassay Koroma
Vice President Victor Bockarie Foh yesterday (January 31) formally launched the anti-election violence platform put together by the Sierra Leone Legal Aid Board, Sierra Leone Labour Congress and Civil Society Organisations.
Speaking during the launch at Maita Conference Centre in Freetown, the vice president applauded the Legal Aid Board and partners for organising the event.
He said that, as a government, they would ensure peaceful and credible elections in the country.
Foh asserted that in spite of challenges they were facing as a government, they have collectively fought hard to maintain peace and transparency in the country, adding that the maintenance of peace, especially during elections, is not for the government alone but a collective effort of all citizens.
He said government has always provided the necessary support and taken required action to maintain and sustain the hard-earned peace, adding that the country has had three successful elections after the civil war.
He said President Koroma has committed himself to conducting free, fair and credible elections and a peaceful democratic transition of power, adding that other countries in Africa have done same and that Sierra Leone would not be an exception.
He said the president strongly believes that the key to non-violence was through communication, which requires mobilisation at community level.
He noted that the media, civil society organisations and other groups have a significant role to play in ensuring non-violence during the election process.
A representative of civil society, Juliette Anderson, said the launch of the anti-violence election platform marked another milestone in the history of Sierra Leone and the Legal Aid Board.
She called on the public to reflect on what the country went through during eleven years of civil war that left thousands dead and destroyed millions of properties, adding that the signs of war are still visible in the streets of Freetown, with dozens of amputees.
She enjoined the populace to ‘say no to violence before, during and after elections,’ noting that everybody should be given the right to exercise their political right.
She called on youth to stop taking harmful drugs that could lead them to violence, thus calling on the electoral body to conduct the elections judiciously.
She reminded security sector actors that they have a lot to do before, during and after the process.
President of Sierra Leone Labour Congress, Jennings A.B. Wright, welcomed the launch as they represent the work force in the country, majority of them being voters.
He said workers suffer whenever conflict erupts in the country, adding that they don’t abhor any inclination to violence in the country.
He noted that the country will be conducting elections by itself without the involvement of the international community, thus calling on National Electoral Commission (NEC), Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) and the judiciary to play their part in the process and ensure a peaceful outcome.
He admonished all seventeen registered political parties that will be contesting the elections to ensure that peaceful environment is created during the elections and that they should accept and embrace the eventual winner.
Executive Assistant at the National Electoral Commission, Abu Turay, said the commission considers the launch of the platform relevant and timely, especially as early warning signs of violence manifested during the conduct of bye-elections.
He applauded the initiative of the Legal Aid Board to launch the platform as a tool to prevent violence during the elections
“We want to assure the nation that we will conduct a credible, free and fair election that will fit international standard and we want to say special thanks to the Political Parties Registration Commission for making all the political parties to sign the code of conduct,” he said.
He revealed that government has remitted to the National Electoral Commission all funds needed to conduct the elections, and appealed to all political parties to mount a campaign to urge voters to collect their voter ID cards.
Assistant Inspector General of Police Victoria Tarawallie, who is head of Community Policing, said the police have a lot to do in providing security for more than seven million people, adding that they have started engaging communities on non-violence elections.
She said they now await NEC to publish the calendar for political party rallies. AIG Tarawallie they want the elections to be peaceful and called on all political party supporters to refrain from singing provocative songs and cautioned against anyone wearing party colour on polling day.
According to Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Joseph F. Kamara, the country is at a crucial stage, adding that citizens should accept whoever wins the March 7th elections.
He said the judiciary has appointed selected judges to handle elections related matters during and after the March 7th polls.