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CDP calls for elections before referendum

April 3, 2017 By Joseph S. Margai

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CDP’s National Organizing Secretary, Julius Augustine Donnie: calling for elections before referendum

National Organising Secretary for the Citizens Democratic Party (CDP), Julius Augustine Donnie, has called on government to conduct the 2018 multitier elections before any referendum on the just reviewed 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone.

He made the above call in an exclusive interview with Concord Times on Wednesday, 29th March, 2017, at his party headquarters on Black Hall Road, Kissy, Freetown, where he disclosed that CDP was formed in 2012 and contested the previous elections.

“As a party, we believe that there should be elections before referendum. The reasons are many, but prime amongst them is that government is saying they don’t have money. Also, austerity is in play. In fact, they are calling on international partners to come and help them finance some of the activities on the National Electoral Commission’s calendar,” he said.

He cited the absence of mass awareness raising campaigns on details of the reviewed constitution as another challenge that would make the process impossible.

 “We cannot just come overnight and have a referendum when we need to conduct massive education about the process. We just have elections at the corner, so there is no time for referendum now until after the conduct of elections,” he said.

Asked what will be CDP’s position if President Ernest Bai Koroma decides to use his Supreme Executive Power to call for a referendum before elections, Mr. Donnie said: “We are calling on the president not to do so, because we believe he’s a listening president. However, if he decides to do so, we will decide on what to do next as a party.”

He claimed that Sierra Leone has 70 percent illiteracy rate, and that there was need for a massive education on the process, because people should know what would be in the government’s ‘white paper’ that will give mandate for the conduct of the referendum.

He added that six months is not even enough for the massive education campaign on the referendum.

The National Voter and Civil Registration exercise is currently ongoing in the country and political parties were given accreditations to supervise the process through their various party agents.

But, according to Mr. Donnie, the party has not got money to post party agents across all 3,300 registration centres in the country. He, however, said they have few party agents in few centres in Freetown and major cities in the provinces.

“Since the registration process starts, we have printed hand and wall bills, posters, among other Information, Education and Communications (IEC) materials, calling on people to go and register. We have also been going house-to-house, urging them to register at the registration centres that are close to them,” he noted, adding that they have  also been engaging football clubs in their communities on the importance of the current registration process.

Like many other political parties, CDP’s views on the current registration process, according to the National Organising Secretary, are but not limited to the boring questions that are asked by the registration officers, the time spent  to register a single person, and the snail-pace at which the process is going, among other challenges.

Despite those constraints, he added: “We have been encouraging people within the stipulated age limit to take some time out of their precious schedules to go and register which is the only requirement for one to vote and be voted for in the forthcoming elections.”

Asked about their views on President Koroma’s developments agenda, Mr. Donnie said much have been going on in the country in terms of development, although some of the developments have not been reflecting positively on the lives of the people.

“It is under this government that the Leones have depreciated drastically and the prices of basic food items have skyrocketed. For instance, a bag of rice is now above two hundred thousand Leones (Le220, 000). Pump price of fuel has been increased, leading to the dramatic increment of transport fares. The economy has collapsed and has been replaced by austerity,” he said.

“Despite these challenges, the government has been making efforts to construct few roads within the country and improve on electricity.”

He said even though they have been requesting for subventions to be given to political parties to enable them engage their constituents about what operates in the governance of the state, the government was still reneging on the issue. “The money that government is using is state funded and we are part of the state. We need money to carry out education on the registration of voters,” he said.

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