STATEMENT BY CHIEF ELECTORAL COMMISSIONER & CHAIRMAN MONDAY 14th MARCH 2022
Colleague Commissioners and staff of the Electoral Commission, Chairman of the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC), Coordinator, Office of National Security (ONS), The Director General, National Civil Registration Authority The
Chairman, Human Right Commission, Members of the Fourth Estate, distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen good morning and thanks for honoring this invitation.
The Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone is established by law to conduct all public
elections and referenda. This mandate, I must say has been done efficiently under my leadership with the astute support of my colleagues and management, we have made remarkable progress in the discharge of our statutory functions.
I have invited you here to give an update on progress made so far and the Commission's preparedness for the 2023 elections.
CHANGE OF NAME
Pursuant to Section 33 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone Act No. 6 of 1991, the Commission will no longer be referred to as the National Electoral Commission but the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL ). In accordance with Sec. 33 of
the Constitution of Sierra Leone, I implore you to use the name Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL) in all your publications/presentations.
1. Restructuring Process
In February 2021, the Commission achieved a milestone objective to restructure the institution in order to meet international best practices and standards. New departments were created, other departments were also divided into two for exceptional performance and efficiency with key performance indicators.
2. Staff Capacity Building Programs
Commissioners and staff continue to benefit from local and international exchange programs, election observations missions, peer reviews sessions and other forms of
training all geared towards enhancing the performance of the team. Institutions such as International IDEA, the African Union, ECOW AS, the Electoral Commission of India to name but few have all contributed immensely to the improved output in the
work of the Commission. Quite recently, our JCT and Data Management Voters Roll departments were hosts to the Electoral Commission of India to under study their result management infrastructure.
3. Infrastructural Projects
In readiness for the 2023 elections, with funds from Government of Sierra Leone, the Commission is currently constructing regional offices in the South and East. The procurement process is at the final stages for the rehabilitation of the Regional Office
in the North, the National Headquarters, the Warehouse and Data Center in the Western Region. Also, to improve on the ECSL JCT systems and operations, the Commission is currently working on the Local Area Network. This will enhance the
networks/linkages with other offices.
4. Strategic Plan (Electoral cycle 2020-2024)
The Commission launched its Strategic Plan for this current cycle 2020-2024 in May 2021 which has been distributed to all stakeholders. The Strategic Plan has ten strategic pillars highlighting all Commission's programs and activities. I'm pleased
to say that we are very much on tract with schedule of the activities and timeline.
Since August 2020, the Commission has successfully conducted a total of fourteen (14) bye-elections including Parliamentary and Local Council elections. During this period, twenty (20) Paramount Chieftaincy elections were also conducted
nationwide. The elections were largely accepted with isolated incidents of violence in some parts of the country.
After the 2018 Multitier Elections, both local and international Elections Observation Missions (EOM) made 103 recommendations. Some were legal, some administrative and the others were related to other institutions. A National Taskforce was formed in 2019 to drive the process of implementing the EOM recommendations. With support from the EU, the Commission contracted International and Local legal Experts to review the legal framework of the ECSL. Amendment to the PEA 2022 Bill has been drafted and approved by Cabinet; it will be submitted to Parliament for enactment hopefully before the end of the year. Key amongst the recommendations considered for legal reforms were:
1. Fixed Dates for Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Council elections.
2. Establishment of a National Elections Sustainability and Trust (NEST) Fund.
3. Reduce the Nomination Fees for candidates and Nomination Fees Formula for all public elections.
4. Relationship between NCRA and ECSL on the voter registration process.
5. Reduce the Resignation period of public officers and civil servants wishing to contest public election from 12 months to 6 months.
6. Provision of Reserved Seats for Women in Parliament.
7. Reduce the Boundary Delimitation Deviation Range from ±25 to ±20.
8. Provision of a Permanent Fast Track Elections Petition and Offenses Court.
The Commission continues to engage Stakeholders through its Political Party Liaison Committee (PPLC) meetings with 1 7 registered Political Parties, Civil Society Organizations (CSO's), the Security Sector and other Institutions. Moreover, the Commission at every bye election organizes a stakeholder meeting where campaign calendars are developed, messages of electoral education and electoral inclusion are discussed.
The Commission, as a way of responding to current trends of gender, youths and physically challenged persons, has created the Electoral Inclusion Department. This department, with support from the European Union (EU), has organized several trainings for the aforementioned groups and also established external coordinating groups for the physically challenged and women. The essence of these groups is to improve the participation of the minority groups in the electoral process.
Elections Conflict Prevention and Mediation Working Group (ECPMWG)
In responding to elections violence, the Commission has signed a memorandum of understanding with 3 prominent civil society organizations constituted of: The Inter-Religious Counsel of Sierra Leone (IRC-SL ), The Eminent Women Peace Mediators
Sierra Leone (EMPM-SL) and Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI). This group has attracted attention from both local and international partners and have proved to be very efficient in all the bye elections we have conducted.
2023 ELECTION PREPAREDNESS
Government of Sierra Leone has committed to fund the elections budget presented in Parliament by the finance minister for 2022 fiscal year. In fulfillment of its· promise to implement the Election Observation Mission Recommendation on the creation of "National Election Sustainable Trust (NEST) Fund", I am pleased to inform you that the government of Sierra Leone in 2021 established the NEST Fund and it is now operational. This fund will be utilized by the Electoral Commission and related Institutions of Sierra Leone.
We are working closely with the political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC), the Security sector and other democratic institutions to ensure voting proceeds safely and securely in all areas. The Commission continues to work with National CSO's including NEW, whilst it strengthens it partnership with International Institutions.
As we approach the 2023 elections, the ECSL will undertake the update of voter register for the 2023 elections from 3rd September to 4th October, 2022. The ECSL will extract the data of eligible voters from the Civil Register compiled by the National Civil Registration Authority (NCRA).
Pursuant to Section 23 and 24 of the Public Elections Act (PEA) of 2012, eligible citizens will physically present themselves at the Registration Centers for verification of their data and placement on the voter register. The procurement of the VR Equipment is underway.
VOTER REGISTRATION CENTERS
After a thorough review of the voting centers across the country, the Commission has approved a nationwide increase of the voting centers by 10%. The Commission will also be undertaking an assessment and GPS mapping of all centres nationwide. During this exercise, some centres will be relocated to more appropriate locations with the view of promoting accessibility and fairness.
RECRUITMENT OF ELECTION STAFF
The Commission has commenced the process of recruiting both permanent and temporary staff who will assist the Commission to discharge its mandate. The ECSL will continue to ensure that it strictly adheres to its guiding principles throughout
DELIMITATION OF WARDS AND CONSTITUENCIES
The Commission is prepared by virtue of the Constitutional provisions to review electoral boundaries if the need arises. The current electoral boundaries came into being on 17th February, 2017. Thus, 17th February 2022 makes it five years. This
qualifies the lower limit of five years for the delimitation of electoral boundaries as per Section 38 (4) of the 1991 Constitution.
MULTI TIER ELECTION MANAGEMENT
1. Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Council Elections Pursuant to Section 43 (2) of the Public Elections Act, 2012 (Act No. 4 of 2012), and in exercise of the powers conferred upon me by the above provisions, after consultation with the President of Sierra Leone, I hereby declare 24th June, 2023 as the date for the conduct of Presidential elections nationwide. Referencing the Public Notice of 11th March, 2022 from the Office of the Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesman therefore, election for Paramount Chief
Members of Parliament shall be on the 20 day of May 2023. The 24th June, 2023 has been set for the conduct of Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Council elections throughout Sierra Leone.
2. Village Head Elections
Following the decision of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development to postpone the village head elections to 2023, the ECSL in collaboration with the Ministry will today Monday 14th March 2022, commence pre-assessment and ground trothing process of villages in the Westem Area Rural District. This will contribute to the identification of new villages and the GIS mapping of village electoral boundaries. This exercise is in preparation for the conduct of Village Head elections schedule to take place on 11th February, 2023.
2. Paramount Chieftaincy Elections
The Commission, in league with the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development will conduct twenty-six (26) paramount chieftaincy elections between now and mid-2022. Detail timeline indicating affected chiefdoms and dates for different electoral activities will be published shortly.
Parliamentary Bye Elections
Following the death of two Parliamentarians, the Commission will on 26th March 2022 conduct bye-elections in Constituencies 005 in Kailahun District and 073 in Port Loko .District. Campaigns are peacefully ongoing in the respective electoral areas.
Pursuant to Section 76 (1) (t) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone of 1991 (Act No. 6 of 1991), the Clerk of the House of Parliament has notified the Commission of a vacancy in Constituency 056 in Tonkolili District following the inauguration of former Member of Parliament Hon. Alhaji Musa Bamba Foray Kulio Jalloh as Paramount Chief of Sambaia Chiefdom. The Commission will soon declare the date for the conduct of this election.
Local Council Bye Elections
Currently, there are five vacancies for the office of Councilors in Kenema, Falaba, Karene and Port Loko Districts. One in each district save for Port Loko with two vacancies. Now that the Local Council Bill has been passed in Parliament, the Commission will soon declare the date for the conduct of these bye elections.
I would like to appreciate the government of Sierra Leone for their continued support to the work of the Commission. We also, appreciate our local and international partners, political party leaders and members and the people of Sierra Leone.
We therefore, continue to appeal to all community leaders, political leaders, candidates, voters, civil society and religious groups and all citizens to work together to ensure we produce a credible election which will serve as an inspiration to the world.
As an institution, we remain committed to the principles of accountability, credibility, integrity, impartiality professionalism and transparency.
Chief Electoral Commissioner, National Returning Officer & Chairman Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone.
Thanks for your attention