By Basita Michael
In the aftermath of Sierra Leone’s highly contentious June elections, the government and the opposition All Peoples Congress Party (APC) inked an agreement on October 18th, presenting it as a solution to the nation’s political divisions. At first glance, it may seem like a step towards reconciliation and unity following post-election crises, but upon a closer inspection, it becomes abundantly clear that this agreement is profoundly flawed and riddled with ambiguity and concerns that have grave implications for Sierra Leone’s democratic future.
Ignores Electoral Irregularities and Lack of Transparency
Remarkably, the agreement fails to acknowledge the numerous irregularities and the lack of transparency that marred the June elections despite these issues being meticulously documented in the EU elections report. The blatant disregard for the “statistical inconsistencies” and the “lack of transparency” noted by international observers demonstrates a glaring neglect of Sierra Leone’s democratic integrity. The controversy surrounding the discrepancies between the official count and a parallel sample-based count conducted by National Elections Watch is swept under the rug, while the citizens are expected to merely accept and move on.
This approach contradicts the Council on Foreign Relations’ assertion that “Election-rigging should be met with consequences tough enough to make it undesirable, and civic champions of a fair process deserve meaningful support.” The agreement, instead, appears to be more of a pat on the back than a meaningful response to a deeply flawed electoral process.
The Agreement’s Lack of Substance
One of the most glaring issues with this agreement is its fundamental lack of substance. It fails to address the core concerns and grievances many Sierra Leoneans have voiced since the election. Rather than offering a comprehensive solution to the problems that marred the electoral process, it provides vague promises and committees that raise more questions than answers.
For instance, the agreement establishes a committee for “Electoral Systems and Management Bodies Review” with representatives from the government, the APC, and development partners. While this committee may sound promising on paper, it merely masks that the election’s core issues were not adequately addressed. Instead of addressing the crucial need for electoral reform and transparency, the agreement creates a bureaucratic entity that could potentially serve as a smokescreen for inaction.
Interference with Judicial Independence
Equally concerning is the agreement’s interference with the independence of the judiciary, a fundamental cornerstone of any functioning democracy. While the agreement stipulates the release of individuals arrested or detained for alleged election-related offences, the question remains: under what circumstances were some of these individuals charged in the first place? Such vagueness raises concerns about the potential for selective application of justice and disregard all notions of due process and rule of law.
The agreement also calls for the discontinuation of politically motivated court cases against the APC and other parties. While ending politically motivated cases is undoubtedly a positive step, ensuring that genuine crimes are not dismissed in the process is essential. This kind of uncertainty regarding the judiciary’s role in the agreement undermines the citizens’ trust in the impartiality of the country’s legal system.
Justice for Victims of Election Violence
Perhaps the most glaring omission in the agreement is its failure to address the grievances of victims of election violence. There is no mention of Hawa Dumbuya, 64, a nurse and party volunteer, who was shot in the head at the offices of the All People’s Congress (APC) in Freetown after police officers and the presidential guard surrounded the building during a post-election press conference. There is no mention of all the victims killed in nationwide protests.
The voices of those who suffered during election-related violence are left unheard, their pleas for justice unanswered.
Lack of Public Involvement
Another major flaw in this agreement is the lack of public involvement. The agreement was negotiated without the active participation of the people of Sierra Leone, the very individuals who bore the consequences of the election disputes. This top-down approach to resolving critical issues in the country effectively sidelines the concerns and needs of the citizens.
While the politicians may have consolidated their hold over resources and negotiated for their entitlements, the interests of the citizens, particularly the victims of election violence, remain overlooked.
The agreement’s lack of substantive benefits for the nation at large underscores the message that in Sierra Leone the power of citizens votes can be defeated by the combined power of violence politics and money.A message that is not only gloomy for citizens but for this government and future governments.
As Vicikie Remoe points out the governing SLPP pro-democracy and national unity friends are already peddling the post-dialogue narrative that “na so 2028 elections sef get for end back pan dialogue.”
A collective bargaining against democracy
In essence, this agreement represents an insult to citizens an assault on democracy transparency, accountability, justice, and fairness for the benefit of all Sierra Leoneans. It is not based on sound principles and rational thinking instead it provides a facade of reconciliation, designed to serve the narrow self interests of both the APC and the SLPP at the expense of the people of SierraLeone and the nation’s democratic integrity.The international community’s congratulatory messages to both the APC and the SLPP after the signing of the agreement was nothing short of their routine double standards and hypocrisy. Source: owlpress-sl.com