By PEL Koroma,Embassy of Sierra Leone,Washington, DC
Ambassador Sidique Abou-Bakarr Wai, Sierra Leone’s Ambassador to United States of America has on 25th January , engaged the National Democratic Alliance in the United States at 455 Massachusetts Avenue, NW on the preparedness of President Julius Maada Bio to conduct a free and fair election in June 2023.
Ambassador Wai informed the team at NDI that President Bio is committed to peace and tranquility in Sierra Leone, leading to a free and fair election. He said the Bio administration believes in upholding the tenets of democracy, rule of law, transparency and accountability, and very determined to enhance good governance. Ambassador Wai cited the constitutional reforms President Bio has undertaken since he was elected President in 2018, ranging from setting up the peace commission, the expunging of the seditious libel law from the 1965 Public Order Act, which has given the media free space, and the recent enactment of gender empowerment law.
Ambassador Wai reiterated governments’ commitment to funding the 2023 elections, and implores partners to support the government for the upcoming elections.
To ensure that the government is committed to free and fair elections, Ambassador Wai noted that election date was pronounced a year ago, so that opposition party members would prepare themselves for the election.
He cited President Bio’s score card with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and Transparency International on human rights, the fight against corruption, the independence of the judiciary, and the government’s adherence to the rule of law and accountability.
His Excellency Abou- Bakaar Wai informed NDI that the government has given a free hand to the Election Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL), and that they have undertaken voter registration, verified voters, and voter identification cards would be distributed at the end of February. “ Government is open to work with interested partners, especially the European Union, the British and the United States government to ensuring that a free, fair and democratic election is conducted”. He appealed to election observers to make sure that remote communities are covered during the elections.
In responding to Ambassador Wai, Dr. Christopher Fomunyoh, Senior Associate for Africa at United States NDI assured Ambassador Wai of their institutions’ commitment to supporting the government, and that the USAID have got an eye on Sierra Leone. He advanced that every country matter on individual bases, noting that it would be very prudent to engage Sierra Leone citizens in the diaspora, and that the United States government is interested to hear from both sides of the political divide. He said NDI would want to host such conversations on Sierra Leone with the diaspora.
“After the last 2018 election that was conducted peacefully, I was surprised what led to the August 10 insurrection in Sierra Leone. NDI never expected violence in Sierra Leone. We at NDI want to know the outcome of the investigations set up by the government. What was hidden behind the outburst is of interest to us. One would be worried especially when election would have to bring out huge number of people”.
Dr. Fomunyoh further mentioned the introduction of the Proportional Representation that has been contested by the opposition in court, irrespective of the fist fighting in the well of the Sierra Leone Parliament. The outcome of the court case would be very fundamental for the security of the people of Sierra Leone, and the conduct of a free and fair election, Dr. Fomunyoh concluded .
According to Caltlin Ersking, Program Manager at USA National Democratic Institute, there is funding to engage women and youths in political debates before elections. She said NDI is anticipating for a presidential debate before the 2023 election, reflecting on the 2018 Presidential Debate that the current President Brigadier Rtd Julius Bio participated in.
Courtney Creek Program Director for Anglophone Africa said United States NDI is hoping for an increment of women elected to political offices, and that there is funding for the work of the PPRC in Sierra Leone.
Ambassador Wai reminded NDI of the fact that opposition elements are paying their vigilantes to promote violence in the country, and that was why the president had to set up a Commission to investigate the August 10 violence in the country. He concluded that NDI is the baston of hope for the democratization process in Sierra Leone. Ambassador Wai was accompanied to NDI by Abdul Deensie, Congressional Liaison, and the Information Attache’ at the Embassy of Sierra Leone, Washington, DC.