The Local Council election which took place on Saturday 5th July 2008 went on peaceful in Kenema city and the entire district without any report of violence. Before the day of the election about three hundred police personnel were brought into Kenema city and most of them were allocated to the various centers in the city and its environs while those police officers who had been in Kenema were sent out of the city to other places in the remaining sixteen chiefdoms in the Kenema district – places like Tongo, Panguma, Dodo and in Kailahun and Kono districts to make sure that the election went on peacefully.
A day to the election the polling staff of NEC were seen in all the allocated polling stations undergoing rehearsal about what they will do the next day.
On election day as early as 5am most of the staff were present at their various polling stations preparing the stage for the voting but yet still voting started late in some polling by 7:30am while some at 11am because of some problems which emerged during the process.
The turnout at most centers were low whereas some stations like Polling Center code 02015 at Kondebortihun and Polling center code 02016 at IDA compound along the Kenema – Tongo highway were inter changed and voting started at both centers very late. Those who registered at IDA were compelled to travel to Kondebortihun about nearly a mile distance to cast their votes. Some people were frustrated and did not cast their votes while some others had to hire motor bikes and others yet still walked by foot to exercise their franchise and some of the aged and sick who did not make it up did not cast their votes.
Similar incidents were also reported that day in the city.
There was also a case of people who have voted at a particular center, did not cast their votes because their particulars were not found at the centers.
The police presence was felt at all polling stations in the city and even on the streets while the armed police unit the OSD were stationed at Capitol along the main Hangha road in their riot gears ready to face any unfortunate that might have erupted.
The Assistant Inspector General of police (AIG) east Elizabeth Turay was found in her police attire moving from polling station to station ensuring that everything remained under control.
I caught her on my camera at Ward 31 at polling center code o2029 at Al-Qudus primary school Tokpumbu two on the outskirts of Kenema while taking an interview from one of the Radio Maria reporter from Makeni Victor Kasim. She told the press that everything is under control and it will remain so even after the election is announced. He advised voters in the queue to return home as soon as they cast their votes as she does not want to see them hanging around but to open their radios and continue to listen for updates.
In a radio phone-in-programme most callers commended the police and their role played on Election Day saying they remained neutral. It is not official but according to the results announced by the radio stations here from the polling centers in the city, SLPP is in the lead followed by APC, PMDC and INDEPENDENT candidates in the councillorship while Chief Brima Kargbo of the SLPP is also leading for the Mayorship seat in the city.
By Saffa Moriba in Kenema