By Foday Moriba Conteh
As part of their efforts to raise awareness and deepen knowledge about the legal channels that exist for resolving election-related disputes, the Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law – Sierra Leone (CARL-SL) with funds from the Government of Ireland has on Wednesday 7th June, 2023 launched a guide for lodging and resolving complaints during the electioneering period. The guide was launched during a one-day seminar on Alternative Electoral Dispute Resolution Mechanism held at the Hub Hotel on Wilberforce in Freetown.
Speaking during the seminar, the Executive Director of the Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law – Sierra Leone (CARL-SL), Ibrahim Tommy, said the guide is not exhaustive, but it covers the key com-plaints/concerns that may arise before, during and after elections and how such complaints can be resolved with the objective to help increase knowledge about the administrative or non-judicial channels that exist for resolving electoral disputes in the country.
He said that in 2022, the Government of Ireland approved a grant to IR and its partners, including the Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law, to implement a project aimed at promoting meaningful, policy-based elections and an effective administration of electoral justice.
Ibrahim Tommy maintained that under the Project, CARI-SL will focus extensively on promoting effective and credible administration of electoral justice by promoting knowledge about an alternative to agitation in addressing electoral justice.
Commenting on the key observation, he said, campaigns have been largely peaceful, although their monitors have observed incidents of politically-motivated violence in Morieba Town, Mile 91, Kailahun, Falaba and Kono. He cited, as an example, the speedy administration of electoral justice by the Supreme Court on the petitioning of the Proportional Representation system by the All People’s Congress (APC).
The Executive Director said that there has been an improvement in security management of outdoor campaigns, with limited complaints on how the Police deals with public order issues, politically-motivated, inciting and hate messages especially on social media and how finally they are also concerned about the delay by ECSL in releasing the voter register.
He maintained that ,however, in the guide they have identified potential election-related complaints as well as the institutions established by law to resolve them and that these institutions include the Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone, the Political Parties Registration Commission, the Sierra Leone Police, the Independent Police Complaints Board, the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone, the Anti-Corruption Commission, the Office of the Ombudsman among others.
Ibrahim Tommy said that to minimize the number of appeals arising from their complaint resolution efforts, it is important that these institutions deliver on their mandates in a speedy, transparent, participatory and fair manner.
In her presentation on the electoral conflict guidelines, the Consultant, Commissioner Simitie Lavaly Esq. said that the guide will raise awareness about the legal channels- administrative, non-judicial and judicial channels- that exist for resolving election-related disputes.
She said that the guide covers the key complaints/concerns that may arise before, during and after elections geared towards promoting peaceful or violence-free elections by using appropriate legal channels for resolving disputes.
The Elections Management Bodies and support agencies present at the ceremony including the Political Parties Registration Commission, the Sierra Leone Police, the Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone, the Office of the National Security, Judiciary of Sierra Leone, Inter-Religious Council also made statements on their interventions and experiences in managing/resolving electoral complaints and security.