By Foday Moriba Conteh
In order to help the Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone (ECSL) have a thorough reflection on the conduct of the 2023 multi-tier elections as well as looking at areas to they did well or went wrong in the conduct of the elections in the country, ECSL has on Tuesday 8th August, 2023 concluded a two days post-election evaluation retreat. The two-day retreat which started on Monday 7th to 8th August, 2023 brought together Commissioners and staff of the Commission across the country was held at the Galliness Paradise Hotel in Bo City, Southern Sierra Leone.
Speaking during the retreat, the Chief Electoral Commissioner of the Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone, Mohamed Konneh, said in August 2020, he promised the nation that he would like to oversee the conduct of elections in a peaceful atmosphere where his children will be attending school and everyone going about their normal businesses of which he thanked God Almighty that the promise he made has been fulfilled.
He expressed appreciation to the Commissioners and staff of the Commission for their dedication, hard work and unwavering commitment in the recently concluded election, adding that they played a crucial role in ensuring the smooth conduct of the democratic process, upholding the values that bind the nation together despite the inter and intra suspicions.
Mohamed Konneh informed the gathering that throughout the election period, they faced numerous challenges, both expected and unexpected; but against all odds, they stood firm and carried out their responsibilities with integrity and fairness.
“It is our duty to critically assess our performance, identify areas for improvement and implement necessary changes to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of our electoral processes continually. We are all aware that every election has its own unique experience and this election is not an exception. Moreover, this is the first time we have conducted a PR system using the remainder method, this is the first time we have done electronic nomination and at the same time taking cognizance of 3 to 1 female representation,” he maintained.
He stated that the overall objective of the retreat is to help the Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone conduct a thorough reflection on the conduct of the 2023 multi-tier elections and look at areas where they did well or went wrong. Giving instances, he said they need to look at their deployment strategy to see how they can make it better, identify the necessary legal reforms to leverage the emerging technologies to secure the country’s electoral procedures and aid in making voter registration more accessible, improve the accuracy of vote counting, and enhance communication channels with the public.
The Chief Commissioner said the Commission also looked at how they should redouble their efforts in promoting voter education and stakeholders’ engagement, enhance management of resources and logistics accountably, build on the solid foundation of inclusivity in all aspects of their work by increasing accessibility to electoral processes, leaving no room for disenfranchisement and to maintain open channels of communication with political parties, civil society, and the public.
“I further entreat you all to reflect on our Strategic Plan 2020-2024 and the processes leading to the June 2023 elections in order to pick out some pointers to successes, challenges and opportunities. I am confident that by the end of the day we will accomplish this task in a “SAFUL” way and together we will carry forward the lessons we have learned, embrace innovation, and continuously strive for excellence,” he concluded.
Other Commissioners present, including Albert Samba Kanu for North-West, Zainab Moseray for the West, Marian Moijueh for the East, Abubakar Koroma for the North and Commissioner Sylvester Alpha for the South also made salient statements during the opening of the retreat.
Following the opening session was group work during which participants were divided into eight groups to hold group discussions on various topics such as: Election Process (Voter Registration, Polling Station Setup, Voting Procedure and the Management of Electoral Materials), Legal and Procedural Compliance (Laws, Regulations and Standards), Electoral Education and Voter Turnout, Media & Communication and Public Perception, Stakeholder’s Engagement and Inclusion, Elections Results Management, Admin & Office Assistants, Drivers. During the group sessions, participants looked at the successes, challenges, weaknesses and proferred recommendations.
Day Two of the retreat was climaxed by the reading of a Press Statement to members of the Press. The Electoral Commissioner, Southern Region, Edward Sylvester Alpha, reading a statement on behalf of the Commission, pointed out that the Post-Election Evaluation Retreat brought together the Board of Commissioners, Management and staff from all 16 districts and the National headquarters to deliberate on the entire electoral processes that led to the just concluded June 24 General Elections.
He said that the staff were divided into eight groups, with each group given a specific activity within the electoral process and the Strategic Pillars of the 2020 to 2024 electoral cycle Strategic Plan and that each group was assigned a Team Lead and were required to look into the successes, challenges, weaknesses, opportunities, threats and make recommendations for the future conduct of elections in Sierra Leone.
Edward Sylvester Alpha pointed out that the session is expected to also pave the way for the development of the next Strategic Plan (2025 to 2029).
He disclosed that the sessions were facilitated by UNDA/AFRICA, a South African based organization further stating that the reading of the press statement will be followed by a general staff meeting which will be chaired by the Chief Electoral Commissioner during which statements are to be made by representatives from various cadre of staff members.