By Amin Kef (Ranger)
An interim report, signed by Rev. Henry A. Samuels, President of the Council of Churches in Sierra Leone (CCSL), has been released by that institution representing various denominations Church and many others, on the 2023 national multitier elections.
According to the report, the CCSL deployed observers to all 16 electoral districts in Sierra Leone, covering 40% of the total 11,832 polling stations, through the support of international donor partners, Bread for the World (BftW) and Christian Aid. Despite facing challenges, the Council of Churches was determined to monitor the election process and ensure transparency.
The report findings revealed that voting materials were not available on time in several polling stations, leading to delay in the voting process. Additionally, the presence of party agents from various political parties was lacking in about 85% of the Polling Stations.
During the polling, some stations experienced delay in starting the voting process due to late arrival of materials. However, election officials were generally commended for their satisfactory work, though there were few instances of unprofessional behavior.
The tallying of votes took place at regional offices and centers, and discrepancies in data entries raised concerns about transparency. The provisional announcement of results at 60% completion by the National Returning Officer caused unrest in some areas.
Despite the challenges, the Council of Churches concluded that the 2023 elections were relatively free, fair and peaceful, with an impressive voter turnout of approximately 87%. However, the issue of a high number of invalid votes and the need for improved voter and electoral education were highlighted.
In light of the post-election challenges, the CCSL called for truth and justice and urged for an immediate face-to-face meeting with the Election Management Bodies (EMBs) and Election Observers to address outstanding issues related to the elections. The Council congratulated the people of Sierra Leone for voting in a relatively peaceful environment and emphasized the importance of fostering a peaceful and just nation.
The CCSL’s final and comprehensive report, expected by mid-September 2023, will include recommendations for future elections in Sierra Leone. The religious coalition hopes to pave the way for better democratic consolidation and adherence to international standards of free, fair, and peaceful elections in the country.
The 2023 General Elections in Sierra Leone marked the sixth elections held after the official end of the Civil war in 2002. Notably, this was the first election primarily financed by the Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL).
The participating churches in the elections were as follows: African Methodist Episcopal, Baptist Convention Sierra Leone, Bo Anglican Diocese, Christ Apostolic Church, Christian Reformed Church, Church of the Lord Aladura, Church of God of Prophecy, Church of God World Missions Sierra Leone, Congregational Evangelical Mission, Countess of Huntingdon Connexion, El-Shaddai Charismatic Ministries, Emmanuel Baptist Conference, Evangelical Lutheran Church, Evangelical Mission, Freetown Anglican Diocese, Methodist Church Sierra Leone, Missionary Church of Africa, National Evangelical International Pentecostal Mission, United Brethren in Christ, United Methodist Church, Vine Memorial Baptist, Wesleyan Church of Sierra Leone, and West African Methodist Church. Additionally, there were affiliated organizations like Bible Society Sierra Leone, Christ United Pentecostal, Faith Worship Ministries, Scripture Union, Sierra Leone Theological College & Management and Church Training Center, St. Peters Healing Church, United Church Women, Young Men Christian Association, and Young Women’s Christian Association.
The Council’s efforts in observing these elections were informed by its past experiences from monitoring the preceding five elections. However, the 2023 Multi-tier elections posed new challenges, being the third such election to occur on the same day. The introduction of the Proportional Representation (PR) District System for Parliamentary and Local Government Elections made it even more demanding compared to previous experiences.
Despite the challenges, the Council of Churches in Sierra Leone remained dedicated to observing the electoral process and ensuring transparency and fairness.