PRESS STATEMENT: CHRDI CALLS FOR ACCOUNTABILITY AND PEACEFUL 2018 ELECTION
The Campaign for Human Rights and Development International-CHRDI is deeply concerned by the continuing deterioration in the political environment in Sierra Leone in advance of the March 7, presidential, parliamentary and local government elections. We are urging the government to remain committed to a free, fair, and credible election that is consistent with Sierra Leone’s Constitution, current laws, and institutions.
Unfortunately, in recent months actors on all sides have undermined the activities of electoral commission and stoked unnecessary tensions. We are closely monitoring Country’s electoral process and what politicians are saying and doing.
A peaceful and transparent poll that provides all Sierra Leoneans a voice in choosing their next representatives will require that the Electoral Commission, The Political Party Registration Commission, The Sierra Leone Police and Judiciary have the independence and support it needs from the Government of Sierra Leone to fulfil its Constitutional and legal obligations.
While we support freedom of speech, unwarranted attacks and unreasonable demands on the Electoral Commission are divisive and inconsistent an environment conducive to free and fair elections.
We fully support the Electoral stakeholders efforts to engage leaders and parties in dialogue, and urge all to participate openly, seriously, and in good faith.
Changing electoral laws without broad agreement just prior to a poll is not consistent with international best practice including ECOWAS protocols, increases political tension, and undermines public perceptions of the integrity of the electoral process. Sierra Leoneans leaders and citizens must reject violence and call on others to do the same.
Security services should use the utmost restraint in handling demonstrations, and any response must be proportionate and appropriate.
This election offers Sierra Leone the opportunity to inspire and shape the future of West Africa and Africa as whole. We stand with the people of Sierra Leone who seek to advance democracy and prosperity, and strengthen security.
Since January 2012, following the violent ‘Fourah Bay Community’ by-election, CHRDI has continued to closely monitor the political situation in the country. We have issued several press releases, statements, and our research has shown on-going violations of national and international laws amid a climate of impunity, arbitrary detentions and breaches of human rights.
The recent political violence that was unleashed in Kono, Kenema and Kailahun, all in the Eastern region, Bombali and Portloko in the Northern region and in Freetown, the Western Area, by political actors and their agents, have all added to a sense of insecurity and a well founded fear of an unfair playing filed in the process.
Most of the cases of political violence remain unresolved. Although the police have made some arrests, prosecutions are rare. “Impunity is encouraging ruthless politicians to believe they can continue using violence to silence their opponents. some politicians have used religion and ethnicity to galvanize political support or opposition, stirring up sentiments that could spark further communal violence in Sierra Leone.
The Government of Sierra Leone has not been able to put a stop to such abuses, let alone hold those responsible to account as it has pledged in the Public Enquiries on Political violence from 2012 to date.
However, according to Chapter 2- Section 5(2), FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES OF STATE POLICY
Section 5(2) (b) states:
“The security, peace and welfare of the people of Sierra Leone shall be the primary purpose and responsibility of Government…”
In April 2016, the country’s law enforcement agency (police) brutally assaulted and arrested supporters of the country’s main opposition party, on allegations of riotous conduct. The Police fired tear gas into their office, where they had peacefully gathered to celebrate their party’s anniversary. Excessive and indiscriminate violence was used against peaceful citizens of all ages.
Several people were injured and over 22 people were arrested and charged to court.
Already our organisation has filled in a formal complaint to the International Criminal Court about the high level of political violence in the country and we have been asked to provide further evidence to support our case.
CHRDI urges foreign governments and international organisations and Also the International Criminal Court-ICC to monitor conduct in the pre-election period when violence is likely to be most intense, and to continue to support Sierra Leone groups who will undertake the bulk of the monitoring work to ensure the elections are free and fair and meet international standards.
Note: Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI ) is a Rights based Public social-policy advocacy Organisation. We Draw attention to the responsibility of duty-bearers to uphold human rights, and seek to support rights-holders to claim their rights. CHRDI is in Special Consultative Status to the United Nations Economic and Social Council and accredited to many UN Agencies.
©CHRDI-HUMAN RIGHTS and POLICY BRIEF