By Amin Kef (Ranger)
In a significant development, the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU-EOM) published its final report on Sierra Leone’s 2023 elections, providing a detailed, evidence-based account of the electoral process and proposing 21 recommendations to enhance the organization and conduct of future elections.
President Dr. Julius Maada Bio received the EU-EOM’s final report during a ceremony held at State House Freetown on Tuesday, October 10, 2023. This event marked the culmination of the Mission’s extensive two-month-long nationwide observation of the electoral process.
Chief Observer Evin Incir, a Member of the European Parliament from Sweden, led the presentation of the report. Accompanied by Ambassador Manuel Müller, Head of the European Union Delegation in Freetown, Incir expressed gratitude for the long-standing partnership between the EU and Sierra Leone.
“The main focus of the report is to address issues of transparency and accountability in the electoral processes,” Incir stated.
In response, President Bio welcomed the report’s recommendations and pledged their implementation. He underscored his Government’s commitment to enacting the new set of recommendations, highlighting that around 66 percent of the previous recommendations had already been incorporated. The remaining issues require a parliamentary process to address constitutional clauses.
President Bio also noted the challenges faced during the 2007 and 2012 elections, highlighting ongoing efforts to review the 1991 Constitution. He emphasized the consultative nature of the review process, inviting full participation from opposition parties.
“I am pleased to inform you that the post-election dialogue will start soon, and the Constitutional Review Process will be part of the discussions. Therefore, this report comes in handy to be part of the review process and the recommendations might be considered to address outstanding issues,” he concluded.
In a separate press briefing held at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Aberdeen, Freetown, the EU-EOM unveiled its Final Report on Sierra Leone’s 2023 General Elections. The Mission conducted an extensive two-month nationwide election observation presenting a comprehensive analysis of the entire electoral process.
The Final Report comprises 21 recommendations aimed at enhancing future electoral processes. Key recommendations center on improving transparency, such as making detailed information on the voter register, electoral results processing system, tabulation, and final results per polling station available to the public, including online.
Other critical recommendations involve protecting candidates, holding perpetrators of election-related violence accountable, enforcing restrictions on the use of state resources for political purposes, ensuring transparency and accountability in campaign financing, and safeguarding freedom of expression by clarifying definitions related to cybercrimes.
The EU-EOM also acknowledged positive reforms to promote women’s participation in political life, with 30% of elected members of Parliament being women after the 2023 elections. The EU urged political parties to intensify efforts to achieve greater gender parity in public and political life.
Chief Observer Evin Incir emphasized the importance of democratic processes, political will, inclusion, transparency, and building public confidence. The EU expressed readiness to support Sierra Leonean stakeholders in implementing these recommendations.
The EU-EOM was invited by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Sierra Leone and the Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone. The mission’s presence in the country extended from May 11 to July 13, 2023, with 104 observers from 26 EU Member States, as well as partner countries Canada and Norway. Observers were stationed in all 16 districts of Sierra Leone.
In response to the report, Vice President Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh expressed his initial thoughts, suggesting that the report leaned more towards a political understanding of the elections rather than a technical one. He urged for a more technically sound report to help improve future elections through identifying institutional, legal, and operational lapses. He appreciated the EU-EOM’s efforts and looked forward to strengthening the electoral system in Sierra Leone through continued engagement with the European Union.
Before the public presentation of the EU-EOM Sierra Leone 2023 Final report, Chief Observer Evin Incir presented the report and recommendations to various political parties and the National Electoral Systems Review Committee, emphasizing the importance of inclusive and open dialogue for reform proposals. Minister Timothy Musa Kabba was among the first to receive the final report and recommendations.
The EU-EOM was deployed in response to invitations from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Sierra Leone and the Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone. The mission’s presence in the country extended from May 11 to July 13, 2023, and it comprised 104 observers from 26 EU Member States, as well as partner countries, Canada and Norway. Observers were stationed in all 16 districts of Sierra Leone.