During a press conference held on Sunday 25th June, 2023 at the Bintumani Conference Center on Aberdeen in Freetown, the Independent Commission for Peace and National Cohesion (ICPNC) has briefed the press on the commission’s preliminary statement on polling day, following the completion of the voting exercise.
The commission expressed its satisfaction with the overall conduct of the elections, commending Sierra Leoneans for their exemplary behavior and commitment to peaceful, credible, and transparent elections. The ICPNC also extended its gratitude to the government, civil society organizations, and international partners for their support in ensuring a successful electoral process.
The ICPNC acknowledged the challenges faced during the election process, particularly the emerging tensions and the increase in violent incidents across various districts in the country. The commission called on all Sierra Leoneans to remain peaceful and law-abiding while awaiting the official announcement of the election results by the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL).
The ICPNC also urged the ECSL to expedite the announcement of the election results to avoid further tension and anxiety among the citizens. The commission emphasized the need for transparency and credibility in the announcement of the results, stressing that it is crucial for maintaining peace and national cohesion.
In conclusion, the ICPNC reiterated its commitment to promoting peace, national cohesion, and democratic governance in Sierra Leone. The commission urged all citizens and stakeholders to work together towards building a prosperous and peaceful Sierra Leone for all.
Read the preliminary statement below:
24th June 2023
Preliminary Statement on Election Day
This preliminary statement is issued by the Independent Commission for Peace and National Cohesion (ICPNC) on polling day, following the completion of the voting exercise. Please note that other critical processes, such as tallying and collation, are still pending. The observations outlined in this statement are limited to the period between the commencement of voting at 7:00 am and the close of polls at 5:00 pm. The ICPNC, through its team of Monitors and Mediators, is actively engaged in the process and will issue additional statements in the coming days as necessary.
The Independent Commission for Peace and National Cohesion (ICPNC), established by an Act of Parliament in 2020, is mandated to undertake measures aimed at preventing conflicts, managing or resolving incidents leading to conflicts, and advising the government on peace and national cohesion.
In preparation for the Elections, the Commission trained 650 Peace Monitors and 160 Mediators who were deployed across the 16 districts of the country to identify and report issues that pose actual or potential threats to peace and national cohesion. Additionally, the Commission established a Peace Situation Room to receive and analyze reports from the field, with key institutions like the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL), the Office of National Security (ONS) and the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) for swift response through their various referral desks set up in its Peace Situation Room, and at strategic level led by a team of National Mediators who have remained in contact with the leadership of the Elections Management Bodies (EMBs), the ONS and the Police. We were actively involved in negotiating the release of those arrested and detained for demonstration-related offences. Furthermore, we used preventive diplomacy to mediate between the APC party and the Elections Commission Sierra Leone, co-chairing this effort with the (Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC).
Our team of national mediators was supported by four experienced women mediators from FemWise-Africa, with support from the African Union (AU). Our partnerships with institutions such as the Legal Aid Board, the SLP, the Early Warning and Response Coordinating Center, the Independent Media Commission (IMC), the iVerify Project of SLAJ/BBC Media (which focuses on debunking fake news and misinformation), and the PPRC, have all contributed to ensuring that our responses and interventions were timely and effective.
Thus far, the Commission’s Call Center, through its 898 toll-free line, has received 2,407 calls and 966 WhatsApp alerts and videos from our district peace monitors. These reports include isolated cases of threats or violence related to allegations of ballot stuffing, late commencement of voting and supply of voting materials in some areas, particularly in the Western Area. Other reported issues include intimidation of polling staff by certain individuals, late deployment and insufficient security personnel, among others. These factors have contributed to increased political tension in some polling stations, particularly in the Western Area, as reported by the ICPNC Peace Monitors. Additionally, we responded to reports of security threats to ECSL staff, mainly from the Western Area, by coordinating with the security sector to ensure their safety.
Upon receiving these reports, our team of analysts, comprising Media, Data, Security, Legal, Political, and Human Rights Experts, consulted and made necessary referrals to the relevant institutions and authorities for swift remedial actions. The Commission observed that the overall situation was peaceful from the start to the closing of the polls.
We acknowledge the commendable role and commitment of traditional and social media outlets in disseminating peaceful messages and advice to the public, urging them to refrain from violence and maintain peace and security throughout the process. However, we note that there were numerous instances of misinformation, particularly on social media, which had the potential to fuel unnecessary tension in and around polling areas. Therefore, we urge the general public to cultivate the habit of verifying or fact-checking content before sharing information on social media to minimize the spread of disinformation, particularly during and after the elections.
The ICPNC would like to congratulate all Sierra Leoneans for exercising their democratic rights on 24th June 2023. We are proud of the level of patriotism demonstrated during the course of fulfilling their civic responsibilities. We remind all citizens that, as a nation, we have a sacred duty to maintain and protect the peace of our country at all times. We urge everyone to remain peaceful and law-abiding, and allow ECSL personnel to carry out their duties without any impediments as we await the official announcement of results.
The ICPNC has observed several emerging post-voting tensions and an increase in violent incidents across various districts in the country. Therefore, we call upon the security forces to enhance vigilance and security in all parts of the country as we approach the conclusion of this aspect of the election process.
Finally, we would like to remind everyone that while there can only be one winner in this democratic race, we can all be winners if we conclude the elections process in a peaceful manner.
May the Almighty GOD continue to sustain peace in our beloved Sierra Leone!