March 16, 2018 By Hassan Gbassay Koroma
The Native Consortium and Research Centre (NCRC), also known as Native Think Tank, has called on the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to print error free ballot papers for the March 27 presidential run-off election.
“The United Nations Development Programme UNDP should ensure the ballot papers printed in South Africa is done properly and quality assurance checks are conducted on the papers to prevent avoidable mistakes the country has not seen since 1996 polls,” they said.
The think tank made the call during a press conference at AWOL head office on Pademba Road in Freetown.
Reading the press release, Executive Director of Native Consortium and Research Centre, Edmond Abu, congratulated Sierra Leoneans for the peaceful conduct of the general elections.
He said the consortium monitored the elections process from registration through to voting day on March 7 on to the announcement of final results on Tuesday, 13 March.
Abu said that prior to the registration, they monitored the elections machinery in which all data and information on the elections processes was filtered, analysed and verified, adding that they also interfaced with other civil society organisations, international observes and National Election Commission accredited monitors that were deployed across the country.
He said that, on the whole, they deemed the election process as ‘free and fair’ albeit with few hitches which they would like to bring to the attention of NEC and the public.
According to him, National Returning Officer Mohamed N’fah Alie Conteh, when announcing the first 25% of the presidential result, presented it in a single decimal digit, the second and third in double digit decimal, while the final 100% result was also in a single decimal percentage, which he said led to a wrong total of 100.3%.
He said the one decimal result provided an inaccurate percentage, compared to the 50% and 75% result which gave an accurate score because of ‘rounding up effect.’
He said the light system in all the polling stations they visited during counting at night was very poor, and that that was the reason most ballot boxes were not collected within 24hours.
He said the conduct of some of NEC polling officials was not professional due to ill preparedness and not being fully abreast with the process, stating that their monitors discovered that in some areas irregularities were caused by omission, wrong calculations, wrong recording or fatigue.
Edmond Abu revealed that there was a reported case of violence and intimidation of mayoral candidate of the Citizen Democratic Party (CDP) in Makeni, Mary Yabonette Conteh.
He claimed that the CDP candidate received death threats while the presidential candidate of Alliance Democratic Party, Mohamed Kamaraimba Mansaray, was subjected to physical attack on his person and property by alleged All Ppeoples Congress party operatives.
He also stated that the recount and data processing at the tally centres should have been projected on a big screen instead of the small screens used, so that observers and the media would have a better view of the real time updates.
He said they also observed mistakes in the printing of ballot papers, noting that in constituency 123, the name of the Coalition for Change candidate for Member of Parliament was not on the ballot paper, same as the mayoral candidates in Bonthe District.
The think tank’s executive director said their monitors observed that in some polling stations at Regent Community Centre in the Western Rural District, ballot papers were not available before 4p.m. while more than 120 voters with valid voters ID were disenfranchised because the presiding officer waited in vain for the ward coordinator to give instructions as to use of supplementary ballot papers.
He said part of their recommendations is that NEC should published the full details of 221 polling stations that the National Returning Officer ‘excluded’ or cancelled due to suspected over-voting in accordance with section 87(2) of the Public Elections Act.
He said they were also demanding speedy prosecution of all NEC officials caught in electoral malpractices a week before the run-off, and a training programme to be conducted for the new staff across the country.
The think tank further recommended that to avoid counting at night under poor electricity, polling should close at 3:30p.m. because the run-off would only involve two candidates.
Abu said they condemn all forms of political violence as they would not want any loss of life or human right violations, while reminding political actors that they are gathering evidence to prosecute those who fuel violence and engage in some forms of human rights violations in the International Criminal Court (ICC).