The spirit of peace took over the Miatta conference hall Saturday as the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) leader, Vice President Solomon Berewa heartily hugged the Spokesman for the All Peoples Congress (APC) party Alhaji Alpha Kanu who was representing the APC leader Ernest Bai Koroma who was absent at the security sector conference on the impact of the media on peace, security and development in Sierra Leone.
Earlier Alpha Kanu told the audience that his leader was preparing to come to the conference when he was informed that “members of the SLPP armed with machetes” were down at government wharf “sorting out APC members to hack them.”
He went on “such news are traumatizing to the point that he does not have the mental ability to stand in front of “ the audience.
Alpha Kanu then went on to deliver his leaders message and in which he said that Ernest Koroma had hoped that at the end of the meeting he would have sat with the SLPP leader to have a small talk.
The APC spokesman informed the audience that if the APC wins they intend to form a government of national unity and in parliament which would be an APC dominated one they intend to push forward legislation which like Fiji makes provision for any party which scores up to ten percent in the elections are invited to be part of the cabinet.
Alpha Kanu on behalf of his leader called for calm.
For his part Vice President Solomon Berewa said that though they have a war to fight, that war should not be for political power but “ to end poverty ignorance and disease.”
He noted that as a party “it is morally wrong to intimidate, harass and insult the very people we want to serve,” adding “if you are saying you want to serve them, you want to do things for their good don’t intimidate them, don’t frighten them, don’t threaten them with victimization and loss of jobs we owe a duty to uphold their dignity and treat them like human beings.”
On the elections proper, Berewa challenged his opponents to agree that “let the security force officers or personnel be given the permission to do random searching at the polling stations – not search everybody – to do random search, you will see what will come out,” adding that he will write formally to the APC to go to the National Electoral Commission and agree on that.
The APC members present (Alpha Kanu, Osman Yansaneh and Dauda Kamara) said they would agree to take him up on the challenge.
“We want the elections to be credible” he said “so we keep away from introducing foreign materials into the elections,” he said. Berewa noted that they as the political party leaders have a duty to ensure that their supporters act within the law.
Her challenged his opponents that “One way to ensure that we act within the law is not to have in our entourage ex-combatants of any description.” Adding ‘ a lot has been said that it is the SLPP but I make the challenge today.”
Berewa stated “a lot of ex-combatants were in the company of Mr Ernest Koroma when he was going to Bo, people who were so notorious in Bo … people who had committed some of the worst crimes in Segbwema were there …’
The SLPP leader said “lets hold different views but still remain friends … If Ernest Koroma was here today I would have been the first man to go and hug him, Alpha Kanu I would do that to him although he is a much younger man he should have come to hug me, that’s how it should be” he said jokingly adding that “at the end of the day we win this you wait the next time you win.”
He ended by thanking the NEC Commissioner.
The National Security Coordinator Brigadier (Rtd) Kellie Conteh bluntly highlighted the issue of ex-combatants boldly accusing both the APC and SLPP of being guilty of the act. He stated that the ONS continue to note the illegal carrying of various types of weapons by certain politically affiliated individuals and support groups.
The ONS boss reminded that the rule of law remains in force irrespective of whether the country is on elections.
He encouraged the APC and the SLPP to unequivocally and publicly disassociate themselves from those who breach the peace.
Brigadier Rtd. Kellie Conteh criticised “some elements of the media in whipping up violent and aggressive sentiments with irresponsible messages-coming from especially the APC and the SLPP radio stations.”
The APC radio station (Voice of the rising Sun) Board Chairman Osman Yansaneh assured that they have taken a decisive step to revise their programmes and will abide by the Independent Media Commission’s (IMC) rules and ensure that they avoid hate messages.
Mykel Charlie Hingha of the Unity radio made similar pledges.
The National Electoral Commissioner, Dr Christiana Thorpe pointed out that two characteristics of Sierra Leone’s civil war, must be avoided intolerance and mistrust.
She stated that elections are not wars-”ballots and not bullets” and that these principles should be embraced by all.
She announced structures they have put in place for the run-off elections.
Dr Thorpe said for the run off it would be only one ballot paper with two candidates and only one ballot box.
She also announced that the validating stamps for the ballot paper will be different from the previous one and if they discover any ballot with the old stamp that ballot paper will be invalid.
The NEC boss said they will also provide copies of the final results after counting to the APC and the SLPP party agents. She also warned both presidential candidates to restrain from visiting other polling station after voting.
President Kabbah who gave the keynote address added his voice to reprimand and in the same vein encouraged the two political parties to keep the peace during the elections.
The President suggested that Solomon Berewa and Ernest Koroma drive through the streets of Freetown to dramatize that they have accepted to be peaceful during the election.
Solomon Berewa agreed to this and Ernest who was called over the phone by President Kabbah agreed also to drive through the streets and the ONS Coordinator was tasked with arranging the event.