The Sierra Leone by-election in ward 232 in Sorogbema Chiefdom, Pujehun district scheduled for 14th March 2009, was cancelled by the National Electoral Commission because of violent disturbance and intimidation by political party supporters.
The tension began on the 11th March when the wife of the chairperson of SLPP for the chiefdom was stabbed by a group of unknown assailants while traveling on a motorcycle to a funeral. This attack coincided with the arrival of the Resident Minister, South, Musa Tarawallie and a gang of men in black clashed in the area. A bloody clash between SLPP supporters and the resident Minister’s gang in Gendema, who were reported to be armed with machetes and slingshots, resulted in two shots fired in the melee.
National Election Watch (NEW) in a press release stated that it “condemns this barbaric and uncivilized political thuggery. This is a disturbing trend and it negates the commitment to political reconciliation and national dialogue of the President’s Agenda for change.”
The Chief Electoral Commission said the reason why the Bye-Election was cancelled was that some of the trained NEC workers did not turn up to collect the materials, whereas other sources indicated the rising level of tension meant that people were afraid.
According to the AIG South, 19 armed police were deployed from Bo for the campaign period. The Local Police Unit Commander Gendema confirmed that he had prepared to provide security for the Bye-Elections with police officers under his command. Effort by the NEC Commissioner (south) to resolve these issues proved futile. Participant at the meeting reportedly told the NEC official that the presence of the armed people in the vicinity of the polling station would deter them from voting.
“NEW expresses deep concern about the developing scenario and believes that the absence of NEC workers resulted from threat of violence. Furthermore, evidence showed that the presence of the residence Minister in the area obstructed the process, which contributed to the deteriorating security situation and led to the cancellation of the Bye-election.
“NEW considers this as totally unfortunate and scandalous. NEW calls on the Political Party Registration Commission (PPRC) for a full investigation and a public report into the situation which caused the cancellation of the bye-election.
“NEW, therefore, is calling on Government and the security apparatus to perform their responsibility of upholding the rule of law and protecting life and property.
By Emmanuella Kallon