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‘We’ll continue to support effort to strengthen democratic institutions’

-UN Resident Coordinator

March 11, 2019

By Ibrahim Tarawallie

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UNDP Resident Representative, Dr. Samuel Doe, UN Resident Coordinator, Sunil Saigal and Finance Minister, Jacob Jusu Saffa at the launch

Resident Coordinator of the United Nations in Serra Leone has assured that the UN system and other partners would continue to support effort to strengthen democratic institutions and processes in the country.

Sunil Saigal was speaking in the conference of the Ministry of Finance on Thursday March 7, 2019, during the official launch of a report by the Elections Steering Committee on lessons learned during the conduct of the 2018 multitier elections.

The report provides guidance and oversight of the 2018 electoral process and proffer recommendations on what areas needed more improvement for subsequent elections.

It also outlines the experience of the committee within it various areas of focus, including election funding, readiness and coordination, risk mitigation and information management.

 In his statement, Mr. Saigal called on the government and other relevant institutions to take the lessons learned at each stage and apply them, so as to help build sustainable capabilities for planning and conducting successful electoral process in the future.

“Credit for the success of the last elections belongs to the people of Sierra Leone, but I think national institutions, as well as national and international partners should feel we were able to contribute positively to the circumstances enabling that success,” he said.

He emphasised that the steering committee no longer exist because they have completed the task set, which was to support the delivery of the 2018 elections.

He added that the committee contributed to resolving and minimising risk, which could otherwise have had a negative impact on the electoral process.

As the new electoral cycle is about to start, the UN Resident Coordinator noted that it might be good to remind those concern of the value of preparing early to ensure a proper conduct of elections in a timely manner.

In his brief presentation of the report, Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Dr. Samuel G. Doe, expressed hope that subsequent elections will draw from the lessons highlighted in the report.

He said they found out that the electoral cycle was subjected to a lot of turbulent experiences, especially the Ebola crisis and as a result, development and political processes were all stalled.

“It takes a long time for the date for the elections to be announced. The question now is how to make the electoral cycle predictable in periods of turbulent,” he said.

He stated that the readiness factor helped the committee to push institutions related to the elections to move whenever there were bottlenecks to solve them.

According to him, the committee played an advocacy role when there were instances of political bottlenecks and engaged government and major stakeholders of the elections on it, which succeeded in addressing some of the issues.

“We recommended that preparations for subsequent elections start early and the electoral cycle should be monitored by the government, which is the best practice around the world. The preparations around a debatable democratic process should also be aligned with the electoral process. It is almost impossible that any government would want to delay the conduct of election,” Dr. Doe noted.

Representative of civil society, James Lahai, welcomed the report and thanked committee members and other stakeholders for efforts made in having a success elections.

“You will all agree with me that the 2018 elections was a very challenging one as the political will was absent. Had it not been for pressure and behind the scenes work of the steering committee, we cannot be sitting here now to discuss about lessons learnt. On behalf of the civil society, I want to thank you for this report,” he said.

Officially launching the report, Finance Minister, Jacob Jusu Saffa, welcomed the report and assured of government commitment to look at the recommendations proffered for subsequent elections to be successful.

He stressed the need for the elections steering committee to continue existing even after the polls because the national Electoral Commission ((NEC) was  always silent afterwards.

He said there was lack of policy and legal issues in the conduct of the elections, coupled with poor voter education.

“Voter education is still poor. I think we need to work on that going forward because it should not be done for one or two week. It is an area that is grossly underfunded,” he said.