Former Vice President Solomon Ekuma Berewa has said at a public lecture that had he acted otherwise in the 2007 Presidential Elections, the country would have been a precursor to the type of post conflict election violence witnessed in Kenya and Zimbabwe.
The former Vice President was delivering a public lecture yesterday morning organized by the Special Court for Sierra Leone at Hill Valley Hotel on the topic: Pursuing Justice and Peace in Post- conflict Sierra Leone- Examining the Challenges.
Illustrating how a badly handled democratic elections, may be the source of conflict, instead of enhancing the peace of the country, and making reference to the 2007 Presidential and Parliamentary elections in Sierra Leone which he introduced as personal elements, Solomon Berewa reviewed that when the elections went in to a run-off, the chief electoral commissioner, Christiana Thorpe invalidated a total of two hundred and one thousand six hundred and seventy vote cast for him at forty seven polling stations in various districts “In doing so, she automatically disenfranchised that number of electorates and acted in a manner not authorized by the law or the constitution. The votes which according to the chief electoral commissioner’s own published figures were cast in my favor and those she invalidated amounted to one hundred and sixty nine thousand and fifty four. She declared my opponent the winner and me the loser”
He continued that the reason Christiana Thorpe gave for invalidating the one hundred and sixty nine thousand votes was that there was excess voting in the districts where the votes were cast. “She never indicated the individual polling station where the excess votes were cast.
That lack of transparency in my own opinion rendered the process suspect and unfair. She only clustered the excess votes by districts and not by polling station and made it impossible for anyone to verify and authenticate her assertion relating to the excess voting and the extent of such excess voting. This is so because the results were tallied according to polling stations and not according to districts”
The former Vice President also mentioned the issue of the computer use which he referred to as the manipulation of the computer in tallying the results as he stated that the inputs in to the computer and its outputs were only done by and known to the chief electoral commissioner and an expatriate employee of the National Electoral Commission. “He was brought in to Sierra Leone merely for the purpose of operating that computer. With his job concluded; he left the country precipitately even before the final results were announced. I and my party naturally felt cheated, unfairly and unjustly treated”.
Notwithstanding that, he emphasized that within the midst of his opponents declaration as President, he decided to “concede defeat and to congratulate him”.
He said he took that cause of action not because he wanted to legitimize the irregularity and lack of transparency connected with that election but did so because “I was aware of the real life level of the conflagration befalling this post conflict country and because of the absolute need existing to maintain the peace, the attainment of which I have played no small role, I did not wish further bloodshed and conflict to be the lot of this country, I conceded defeat whole heartedly and allowed the result to stand.
Had I acted otherwise, Sierra Leone would have been a precursor to the type of post election violence witnessed in Kenya and Zimbabwe. No well meaning Sierra Leonean for the purpose of achieving political office however, would have allowed or wished Sierra Leone to revert to conflict”.
To experience that, he continued that post conflict Sierra Leone would have been more catastrophic than Kenya having regard to the large number of unemployed youths and the ex-combatants around at that time who would have taken any pretence opportunity to reverse the country.
In his opinion, he said that was certainly not the way to pursue peace and justice. “I did not take the bait” he said.
Explaining about the meaning of democracy and one way to maintain peace and justice which he referred to as inseparable, he said it meant the way people exercise power including the participation in the decision making process, the enacting of laws and above all their participation in the nation’s wealth on the basis of equity distribution. “This presupposes the peoples’ participation in free fair, unhindered and unfettered election process that is transparent … if it is not properly and fairly handled it will become a recipe for chaos and conflict of an unimaginable proportion.
A democracy that is fair only to one contestant but unfair to the other would not instill that trust or enhance the national unity and social cohesion if the process is intended to be unjust which will destroy the peace of the nation especially in a post conflict country like Sierra Leone”
By Ishmael Bayoh