CARL-SL Ends High-Level Meeting on Security Sector Accountability & Electoral Justice

By Foday Moriba Conteh

The Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law Sierra Leone (CARL-SL), with support from the Open Society Foundation (OSF), has on Thursday 16th May, 2024 concluded  a one-day High Level Stakeholders and Coordination meeting with Law Enforcement and Justice officials on security sector accountability and electoral justice, focusing on the 2023 general elections in Sierra Leone. The one-day meeting, which brought together law enforcement and justice officials, was held at the Civil Service Training College, State House Avenue on Tower Hill in Freetown.

Addressing the gathering, Jeremy Ben Simbo, the Head of Programmes at the Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law, Sierra Leone (CARL-SL), emphasized the importance of security sector accountability and electoral justice during a high-level stakeholders meeting.

He added that the meeting, focused on the 2023 general elections in Sierra Leone, brought together law enforcement and justice officials to discuss strategies for enhancing electoral safety and security.

Jeremy Ben Simbo revealed that through technical and financial support from the Open Society Foundation (OSF), CARL-SL is implementing a project aimed at ensuring accountability and justice for electoral offenses and human rights violations before, during and after the elections, stating that the project also seeks to strengthen the capacity of law enforcement and civilian oversight institutions, including the Independent Police Complaints Board (IPCB), through training and advocacy for legal and institutional reforms.

He said that key initiatives of the project include scaling up the monitoring and documentation of human rights violations, establishing teams of police and court monitors and creating social media platforms to report electoral violence and human rights abuses. These efforts are intended to protect human rights and promote peaceful elections.

Jeremy Ben Simbo pointed out that CARL-SL has also committed to defending individuals who have been illegally or unfairly arrested, detained, prosecuted and that the organization aims to ensure accountability for human rights violations by security personnel and to support the peaceful conduct of elections.

He concluded by highlighting that the project’s ultimate goal which is to promote a transparent and fair electoral process, thereby contributing to the stability and democratic integrity of Sierra Leone.

Mohamed Turay, the Assistant Executive Secretary Operations of the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL), applauded the Office of National Security (ONS) and other stakeholders for their support in conducting public elections, emphasizing the essential role of security agencies in ensuring peaceful elections.

However, he highlighted a concerning trend of violence against ECSL staff during the elections. Despite the overall peaceful environment, there were numerous attacks on electoral staff across the country. In the Western Area alone, more than ten coordinators were attacked, and vehicles were vandalized. Similar incidents occurred in districts such as Port Loko, Bombali, Tonkolili, Koinadugu, and Kenema, with staff members being assaulted and property destroyed.

Mohamed Turay expressed concern that these attacks, amplified by threats on social media, could deter ECSL staff from performing their duties effectively. He stressed the importance of addressing this violence to maintain the integrity of the electoral process. Despite the widespread attacks, there have been no prosecutions, a gap Mohamed Turay believes must be addressed to deter future violence and ensure justice.

Moses Margao, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Independent Commission for Peace and National Cohesion, emphasized the critical link between justice and peace in strengthening the electoral system. He pointed out that the June 24th 2023 elections had numerous issues, as noted by the opposition and civil society organizations.

The Peace Commission, recognizing these concerns, facilitated dialogue between the government of Sierra Leone and the main opposition party All People’s Congress to propose recommendations for electoral reform.

He noted that the Electoral Commission, in collaboration with the tripartite committee, is actively reviewing and strategizing ways to enhance the electoral process. Additionally, the Peace Commission has been working with the Office of National Security to educate the public about the recommendations from the dialogue between the government and the opposition.

Margao underscored the issue of misinformation, which he said undermines peace by spreading false information to the electorate. He stressed the importance of addressing these issues to ensure justice and sanity in the electoral process.

Director of Training at the Sierra Leone Police, ACP Esther Mary Kaintor-Dukuray, emphasized that police officers undergo training both before and during elections, facilitated by the Office of the National Security, the Sierra Leone Police and other relevant institutions.

She highlighted the nationwide deployment of police officers during elections to ensure their smooth conduct. Despite encountering challenges in the line of duty, she stressed the expectation for officers to perform at their best.

In addressing the recent June 24th, 2023 elections, ACP Kaintor-Dukuray stated that the upcoming meeting will focus on evaluating the events of that day, particularly its peaceful nature. The meeting aims to analyze any shortcomings and devise strategies for improvement moving forward.

The Chief of Staff at the Office of National Security, Francis Langumba Keili, presented on “Security Sector Accountability and Electoral Justice,” focusing on the 2023 general elections in Sierra Leone.

He highlighted the history of election-related violence in the country since its independence in 1961 and noted that the 2023 elections were marked by heightened political tensions and violence, deterioration in state-citizen relationships, ethnic cleavages, regionalism, a resurgence of gangs, media tensions and a lack of public trust in Electoral Management Bodies.

Francis Langumba Keili, emphasized that peaceful elections are crucial for strengthening governance, stability, and the social contract in Sierra Leone.


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