“Kailahun Court Barry” has become the new buzz word to symbolise election malpractice and corruption.
The name became very popular when the results of the September 8 presidential run off elections were read out over the Independent Radio Network.
Located in the traditional stronghold (Kailahun) of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) the then opposition All People’s Congress (APC) did not get a single vote in some of the polling stations in this vicinity.
Somehow the name “Kailahun Court Barray” got stuck in the minds of listeners, and it became a ridiculing jargon used against the SLPP for alleged attempts to rig the just ended September Presidential elections.
Known locally as the “Pallaver hut,” the “Kailahun Court Barray” continues to sit proudly in the center of Kailahun Township, in Kailahun district, East of the country and arguably the nerve center and the capital city of the SLPP as demonstrated in the support from that district for the party.
The ‘Barray’ sits opposite a disputed market stall which had reduced the Kailahun people to throwing fists and missiles to settle their differences.
It is adjacent, to the houses of the Ngobeh’s- two brothers Lamin Bongay Ngobeh, the Chiefdom speaker and a staunch SLPP godfather in Kailahun and Lamin Vonjoh Ngobeh the People’s Movement for Democratic Change’s (PMDC) district Chairman.
The two brothers were always at each others throat depicting the political and social divide in Kailahun.
The Barray is the citadel of justice, where the Chiefs and Paramount Chiefs sit as a court of customary law to dispense justice to all the residents in Kailahun, so it was ironical for this epitome of justice and purity to be tainted with corruption and election rigging.
The seat of power was evidently slipping out of the hands of the SLPP who have been ruling this country for 11 years under Alhaji Tejan Kabbah, and his running mate Solomon Berewa the presidential candidate of the SLPP had been beaten in the first rounds (August 11) of the presidential election by Ernest Bai Koroma, the Presidential flag bearer of the APC
The People’s Movement for Democratic Change, a breakaway faction from the SLPP headed by Charles Margai the son of the 2nd Prime Minister of Sierra Leone an SLPP founding father, had also proved their destructive nature when they actually got away with unbelieving thousands of votes which would have undisputedly been the SLPP votes.
But as none of the parties got the constitutional 55% vote to be declared winner, a runoff of first past the poll system had to be implemented.
Political analysts say it was a desperate situation for the SLPP an incumbent government.
Would the party falter and sit idly by to watch power being snatched from them?
Bo, Kenema, Pujehun, and Moyamba which had been strong holds of the SLPP had not given the hundred percent support that the party was expecting because of the split of votes with the PMDC,
There was a fall back on Kailahun, the district became the expected Christ to march SLPP to victory.
Political analysts say this was because key SLPP party stalwarts (John Karimu, John Benjamin, Tom Nyuma, Septimus Kaikai,) hailed from Kailahun and this also gave the party the strongest impetus to consolidate its hold on the district.
True to form Kailahun gave 102,174 votes to the SLPP party during the first rounds of elections, out of 132,530 voters, this was according to the final results released by the National Electoral Commission.
According to political pundits the SLPP relied on the votes equal to that mass again for the runoff election and little wonder they physically stopped the entry of the APC/PMDC alliance’s entry into Kailahun for the runoff campaigns.
Kailahun court Barray with center code 01001 sitting in constituency 1, was among the 132 polling stations where voting in Kailahun took place and was also among the 90 polling station that had their results invalidated because of alleged election malpractice.
There were 904 voters registered to vote in that particular station.
477 stations across the country were invalidated when the Commission decided after looking at the results from these polling stations which reported over 100% turnout.
Kenema: 65, Kono: 9, Bombali:17, Kambia:8, Koinadugu: 12, Port Loko: 2, Tonkolili: 6, Bo:123, Bonthe: 2, Moyamba: 24, Pujehun: 113, Western Rural:1 and Western Urban 5 results were invalidated.
The Commission in a Press release stated that there is a very important message arising from these elections: “there is no longer a place for fraud and malpractice in the Sierra Leone electoral system. The people of Sierra Leone deserve to exercise their rights in an atmosphere of freedom, fairness and transparency.”
Few hours later Solomon Berewa conceded defeat after the announcement of the results and congratulated Ernest Koroma who emerged winner of the elections.
However, NEC Commissioner in charge of the East, Edward Nyallay and the Southern Region Commissioner dissociated themselves from the announcement of the results and promised to tell the public why, but up till now they not made any statement.
Meanwhile, the former SLPP Deputy Speaker of the previous Parliament, Elizabeth Lavalie, who is presently a Member of Parliament, insinuated in the well of the House during the debate on the President’s address to Parliament that the SLPP accepted the results because they wanted to keep the peace.
Nevertheless there is this persistent clamour by SLPP parliamentarians that the comprehensive results (including the invalidated ones) be published by NEC.
NEC’S Chief Electoral Commissioner, Christiana Thorpe also accepted that she had received a letter from the SLPP leadership calling for the complete results to be published.
She said that she had posted the results in their website but up till press time the results could not be accessed on their website.
Honourable Musa Tambasa representing Kailahun district in Parliament groused that they have to go back to their people and their people would want to know why their votes were not counted. “What would we tell them” he fumed.