October 2, 2017 By Ibrahim Tarawallie
The Chairman of National Electoral Commission (NEC) has stated that despite personal attacks and misunderstandings from certain quarters the commission remains untainted, industrious and firm in upholding the laws, international best practices and values it stands for as a professional body.
According to Mohamed Nfa Alie Conteh, the 2018 multitier elections will go ahead as planned with no cause for alarm as they are committed to ensure the credibility of the electoral process through the conduct of credible and transparent elections, using legal framework and international best practice
He was speaking at the University of Makeni conference hall last Friday (29 September) during the opening ceremony of the 2017 Annual General Meeting of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), themed: “Elections 2018: Media as a catalyst for issue-based discourse”.
The NEC boss assured his audience that, “As a professional institution, mindful of our constitutional mandate, we have over the years remained independent and maintained our guiding principles of winning public confidence and trust at both national and international levels. As stated already, we remain committed to conduct credible, transparent and impartial elections come 7th March 2018.”
He reiterated that they are on course with the electoral calendar and working assiduously to actualise the next stage of the process – printing and distribution of Voter Identity Cards
While the ruling All Peoples Congress and a handful of civil society organisations have raised concerns as to the credibility of the Voter Registration, Exhibition, Provisional Voters Register and Final Voters Register, the NEC chief re-assured all stakeholders – the international community, political parties and electorates – that electoral processes leading to the conduct of the 2018 elections have been handled professionally, hence there is no cause for alarm.
He said that since restructuring in 2005, NEC has emerged as one of the most professional Electoral Management Bodies in the sub-region, with fully capacitated, technically inclined, experienced and competent staff, adding that while past elections had full international technical assistance, the commission could now boast of self-reliance in the conduct of electoral activities with limited international technical assistance as was the case in 1996, 2002, 2007 and 2012.
“Let me underscore the fact that all data related to the FVR are intact and all eligible voters remain enfranchised to participate in the 2018 elections. The 2018 elections will be the first elections to be conducted without the supervision of a UN Mission approved by the UN Security Council. This means the 2018 elections are conducted solely by the commission and national staff,” he stated
Earlier speaking, SLAJ President Kelvin Lewis said they deliberately chose the theme because the 2018 elections would be critical in the country’s democratic journey.
He stated that politics in Sierra Leone has perennially been practiced based on regionalism, ethnicism and clan mentality, which is why political discourse is often skewed towards personalities and partisan slant, to the extent that the real issues affecting people and development of the country are largely ignored.
“We look forward to the elections being held on 7th March 2018, and we want those elections to hold under an atmosphere of peace. We are however concerned that contrary to expectations, the bulk of criticism against the work of the National Electoral Commission is coming from the government and the incumbent party,” he said and urged the government to allow NEC to do their work and provide the electoral body with resources and the enabling environment for a free, fair and transparent 2018 elections.
Also speaking was chairman of the National Telecommunications Commission, Momoh Konteh, who assured that the government has no intention of banning social media.
According to him, social media has immeasurable potential to unlock economic growth and opportunities that could drive national development in the country.
“The benefits of social media cannot be measured and we have a duty to tap on these opportunities to the highest degree for the good of society,” he said.