July 11, 2016 By Mohamed Massaquoi in Kailahun
The much talked about parliamentary bye-election in the eastern district town of Kailahun has come and gone, with the opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) winning over 60 percent of the votes.
The winner, Madam Navo Kaikai, is expected to be sworn in as Member of Parliament immediately to fill in the vacant seat in the House of Representatives following the demise of Hon. Patrick Foyah.
Although the SLPP won, their supporters and the winner were restricted from celebrating their victory by the security on the rather flawed rationale that such would lead to conflict.
Previous bye-elections in Kailahun, including the just concluded one, have been marred by political aggression and intimidation.
Ministers and strong APC party members who hailed from the district made frantic efforts to demonstrate not only to the APC but the president that the SLPP is no longer the top dog in the district.
Traditionally, Kailahum is divided along families who are deeply involved in politics for decades. The Ngobeh, Kaikai, Vonjoh, Banya families are among prominent rulers who have always vied for political eminence in the district, thus creating tension during elections.
The just concluded bye-election was a clear example, where a candidate from the Kaikai family contested against another from the Ngobeh family.
There were violence clashes between SLPP and APC supporters who wanted to ensure that their respective candidate wins in Luawa Chiefdom, which houses constituency 001.
Madam Navo Kaikai had told her political party and supporters that she was the only competent and popular candidate to win over voters for her party, while former Resident Minister East, now Minister of Local Government, and Deputy APC Chairman East, Maya Kaikai, Alie Bah, Minister in the Vice President’s Office, Deputy Minister of Labour and Industrial Relations, Augustine Kortu, Robin Fallay, among others, promised the president that they would deliver the constituency.
“Everybody knows that constituency 001 belongs to the APC, the days for political party to declare areas as their strongholds are over, we are doing this campaign and we are sure of winning because the people of Kailahun district have now realised that the APC has provided a lot of opportunities for them. We have constructed roads, hospitals, reliable water facilities, among other things, so the Kailahun people are not blind to all of these, that is why I am sure they will vote for the APC,” Maya Kaikai said in an interview before the election.
The violence in the just concluded bye-election in Kailahun erupted when Minister Kaikai insisted that the portrait of the APC candidate, Madam Nasiratu Jalloh, be placed on the family house of the Kaikais as the SLPP’s Madam Kaikai had already placed hers on the same premise.
The two parties were locked in a violent clash, which resulted to injuries and declaration of MAC-P – military aid to civil power.
The large presence of the military and police on election day created fear among voters, thus a good number of voters did not come out to vote.
Madam Navo blames the huge security presence in the township on the low turnout: “I would have got over 80 percent of the votes if our people were not intimidated by the police, especially those in Kailahun; but I was confident that [whatever the turnout] I will win my opponent because she is not popular among the people of Kailahun,” she said.
Polling station manager at Methodist compound, Mohamed K. Jusu, lamented that the turnout was not encouraging as out of four centres under his control, each with 300 voters, only few people came out to vote.
On election day, the Regional Police Commander East, AIG Alfred Karrow Kamara, instructed business owners to close down their shops and restricted all but vehicles and motorbikes with pass from the National Electoral Commission to ply the routes, thus limiting the movement of people.
Meanwhile, there was strong allegation that Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, Major Ismail Sengu Koroma, was moving from one polling station to another intimidating SLPP supporters.
“I was here early this morning as an SLPP polling station observer when the minister came in searching from one polling centre to another with a man who he claimed to have come from State House. When I raised concern about that he ordered my arrest on the grounds that he is Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs. Unfortunately for him the tension he saw forced him to move out of the polling station,” alleged Mohamed Kamara, who was deployed at a polling station at the Roman Catholic School at Masanta, very close to SLBC in Kailahun.
However, the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs refused to talk to journalists when approached at the scene of the incident, adding that he was not ready to talk to the media at that moment.