Eligible Sierra Leonean voters on Saturday voted for their Mayors/District chairman and for the 475 councilors to serve in the 19 Councils country wide.
Long lines were absent as voters trickled in to cast their ballots without any fuss. The apparent voter apathy could not be readily explained though some people interviewed said they would go to vote later in the day after finishing their household duties.
However Awoko reporters tagged the five Mayoral candidates contesting in Freetown. Ishmael Bayoh caught up with the SLPP Mayoral candidate where he voted. Dressed in a brown suit Rev Abraham Sesay voted at polling station 14,376 at firestone mountain cut.
He followed the procedures by taking the queue until he was ushered in by the polling agents to cast his vote. After voting, he was asked what he could say about the electioneering process, he answered saying “Well so far so good we cannot really find fault because this is a very challenging exercise especially when funds are short and under the circumstances we are operating so I want to commend and congratulate the National Electoral Commission. The only concern I have about this particular station (in fact the center) is that there is only one polling station. I was expecting a few more as the crowd is building up and the other area of concern is the voter register which I believe should have been collated properly and alphabetically to make it a lot easier for the polling agents. Other than that, this center is orderly and peaceful”.
On whether he was satisfied with the whole process he said “As far as I can see because if anything goes wrong, it is not what is obvious to the eyes so we can make room for allowances for that”. And if he loses whether he will accept the results he answered “Well I am not expecting to lose of course it is a winner loser issue I can only tell you that I have enough game spirit”
He said he did not suffer any intimidation stating he was above fear and threat.
The turn-out at Kingtom polling station was quite low, though the polling centre was organised to a large extent, but some voters were sent to wrong polling stations within the center before they were eventually able to cast their votes.
Ophaniel Gooding and Yu Nakayama met Independent Mayoral candidate Mohamed Pateh Bah who said everything seems normal, “I haven’t seen any problem and I don’t anticipate any”. Bah noted, “problems have been taking place in the interior of the country mostly, [but] I think there will be peaceful elections,” he said.
“The only thing is that we are appealing to the electoral officials to make sure that the process is quite clean; that’s the whole thing I’m asking about. I think that the whole thing is going on well,” he said smiling.
Acting Mayor Herbert George Williams made his way to the Regent Square polling centre clad in blue jean pants, white polo tee-shirt and baseball cap.
All eyes were on Mr Williams as he made his way to polling station number five to register and cast his vote.
Later commenting on the electoral process, Williams said, “Well I think so far the process seems peaceful as of now, I think everybody is voting, I believe it will end up peacefully, in a peaceful way which is not only good for Freetown, is good for Sierra Leone as well.”
On his reaction to whether he will accept the result if he wins or lose, Williams said, “definitely I believe in destiny, I believe that what God wants for me will happen.”
Williams stated that he had been intimidated during campaigning, “I suffered a few [coercion], but I took that as part of the game. I was booed at, I was abused but that is part of the game.”
Bernard Turay caught up with Independent Mayoral candidate Jonathan Alexandra Peters at Technical Institute
After casting his vote Jonathan Alexandra Peters who was in a cheerful mood with smiles all over his face was asked what he can say about the election process
He said “the election process is a long story it is not something that I can go into detail right now (but) the process is a very short one three and a half weeks to cover 49 wards. That is not enough for a mayoral candidate especially for an Independent candidate that does not have the resources compared to the other Mayoral candidates who have parties”
He went further that as for NEC’s organization he has respect for them and “they have gone out of their way to be as fair as possible but some people said that fairness is not in the world.”
He mentioned that it would have been good if the debate and interviews were done in the beginning of the process. Over the last days he moaned everything was collapsing this did not give the people the chance to know the candidates at all.
“This is a country where almost 80% of the people are illiterate you have to have a lot of time to go around to talk to the people in a small group you cannot use the media they don’t follow the media and they don’t read the newspapers so NEC should have a much more longer process” he said
He maintained that he is going to write NEC about this and as a mayoral candidate if he wins he “will also be helping and working to refining the process.”
When asked if will accept the results, whether he wins or loses Jonathan A Peters said “if the elections are conducted fairly” and if he is convinced of the process “as being beyond reproach why not!”
When asked if he suffered from violence or intimidation Jonathan Alexandra Peters said he never suffer from any can of violence or intimidation from the start of the campaign to now after he has cast his vote.
Solomon Rogers caught up with Madam Rosaline Kargbo the PMDC Mayoral candidate immediately after she voted to give her perception of the whole process.
“Even though the initial turnout is low from report gathered and from what I see in my constituency, the process is laudable with no semblance of violence”. She said the low turnout could be attributed to domestic activities at home in the morning hours of Saturday, but expressed optimism that the turnout would be high later in the day.
“As far as I am concerned, the National Electoral Commission (NEC) has done a commendable job over the past couple days by way of sensitization, recruitment of credible staff to mann the process, besides, the presence of both local and international observers backed by the Sierra Leone Police Officers are clear assurance of confidence in the whole process ”she stated.
When asked as to whether she would accept the outcome of the elections whether she wins or loses, she answered that, she was ready to accept the local election results because it is the will of the people and would not want go against it.
“I have no right to contest the outcome of this election, because it is purely the will of the people who have the power to choose their representative through the ballot box in order to bring development to them” she stated.
“In any competition or race there is always a winner or loser therefore any success or defeat must be accepted in the true spirit of peace” she further maintained.
She further stated that her dream for the Freetown municipality was ‘development’ through collective efforts regardless of political party affiliation.
As she put it, any winner of this election would be faced with a Herculean task of addressing issues of poor water supply, road net work, city planning, infant and maternal mortality and health and sanitation and could only succeed through unity and collective participation.
On intimidation she said she had an encounter recently with one APC supporter who came around her area talking on the payment of tax, but she advised him to properly spread the message but noted that the guy retorted in a very insolent manner and even went on to insult him.
“If such intimidation continue against women, we will shy away from taking active participation in politics” she concluded.
At Kingtom Hawa Turay a pregnant lady who had left her house very early to ensure that she exercises her franchise said “I’m happy that I have voted”.
She said that with the grace of God the local government elections will make the necessary positive changes and development that Sierra Leoneans have been yearning for.
“I’m sure that the newly elected councils will be working in accordance with the President policies to ensure that the country develop for the benefit of all of us,” she said.
But for Mrs Mary Garrick voting is “expressing her view” as to whom she wants in the council.
“Putting the right people at the right place would make a difference to do the right things we want them to do,” she said.
For her, “the process was simple. I went to the first voting booth, polling agents directed me to booth 01 where I cast my vote,” Mrs Garrick averred.
Delighted, Pa Sheka Barrie said, “I feel happy, because if I was unhappy to vote I would not have left my home to come to the polling station to vote in the first place.”
“I’m not too sure whether the elections can develop Sierra Leone, simply because at times politicians do have nice plans but when they are given power they operate contrary,” he said