By Theresa Kef Sesay
On 19 February 2020 at the Golden Tulip Hotel, Aberdeen, in Freetown the Minister of Planning and Economic Development, Dr. Francis Kai-Kai urged the National Electoral Commission (NEC) to focus on maintaining an independent, transparent, credible and confident NEC that is capable of conducting and delivering free, fair and transparent elections.
He made this statement at the stakeholders’ consultative engagement on the electoral management landscape in understanding and incorporating the perceptions on NEC’s performance in the previous electoral cycle and the expectation of NEC for the next electoral cycle.
The Minister noted that the Commission and the stakeholders should constantly keep in mind how to build and maintain the people’s trust in NEC, as they map a new strategic roadmap for the next five years (2020-2024).
“Let me remind the Commission that building public trust in public institutions today is very challenging. We are facing a trust-deficit in many of our institutions. The President Julius Maada Bio-led administration has recognised the daunting challenges and we are all expected to work hard to change the narrative,” Dr. Kai-Kai ended.
In his reflection, the Acting Chief Electoral Commissioner and Chairman, NEC, Edmond Alpha said the engagement was for stakeholders to scan what the Commission had done for the past five years in the cause of the electoral cycle (2015-2019). He said the Commission would be expecting to understand from stakeholders what went well, what went wrong, lessons learnt and the way forward.
Commissioner Alpha said for elections to be wholesome in Sierra Leone requires the participation of stakeholders, as key components in the process of conducting effective elections. He noted that in the previous strategic plan (2015-2019), the Commission had ten strategic pillars, ranging from staff capacity building, information management system, voter registration among others that were key to the electioneering process.
The Ambassador of the European Union, Tom Vens, in his statement, said the event demonstrates NEC’s commitment to engage proactively with the national electoral stakeholders and international community at large in view to promote inclusiveness and transparency in elections. Ambassador Vens said that since the next elections are fast approaching, activities have to be fast-tracked and closely monitored with clear timelines set for the implementation and to critically build confidence, by all electoral stakeholders, in the system and conduct of electoral operations.
Sunil Saigal, United Nations Resident Coordinator noted that the exercise— and the starting point of the new strategic plan, and with it the new electoral cycle— falls between two national elections, the one held in 2018 and the next one to be held in 2023. He said elections are often seen as defining milestones and parameters against which capacities, successes and failures of electoral authorities are measured.
He said the timing of the consultation will therefore hopefully allow for the preparation of a new strategic plan of NEC well in time for the smooth conduct of the next national elections.
Other dignitaries in attendance included: Deputy Resident Representative of United Nations Development Programme, Representative of the Political Parties Registration Commission, Members of Parliament, Representatives of non-governmental organisations and civil society, Traditional Leaders among many others.
The sessions continued with presentations on the overview of the strategic plan process and methodology for the review of the previous electoral cycle, dialogue session on looking backwards— stakeholder perception of NEC’s challenges and milestones in the 2015-2019 electoral cycle and looking forward— stakeholder perception of NEC’s challenges and milestones in the 2020-2024 electoral cycle and an overview of the implementation of the European Observer Mission recommendations.