The World Today for June 22, 2023


Pushing For Normal


Samura Kamara, the leader of the All People’s Congress (APC) party and the main opposition candidate in Sierra Leone’s presidential election on June 24, recently called for every member of the small West African nation’s electoral commission to resign, so that international observers could perform their jobs.

“We do not have a credible final voters register,” Kamara told Reuters. “The production of blurred and substandard voter identity cards, the repeated failure to meet deadlines regarding the submission of credible voter registration data, and the subsequent release of highly questionable data, have raised serious doubts about the commission’s commitment to conducting free and fair elections.”

Kamara’s comments were one of many concerns that incumbent President Julius Maada Bio, who is running for reelection, is enjoying unfair advantages before voters go to the polls.

Two recent, massive political rallies for Bio’s Sierra Leone People’s Party and Kamara’s APC illustrate the problem, argued the Sierra Leone Telegraph, a UK-based newspaper that covers the country. Large crowds greeted Bio at his peaceful event. At the APC event with Kamara, police erected roadblocks, fired tear gas at the crowds, and treated the political demonstration as if it was an illegal riot.

The pre-election violence has prompted many citizens in Sierra Leone to worry about what might happen after the polls close, especially if Kamara wins and Bio faces a choice about whether or not to deploy his security forces to remain in power. A local humanitarian organization, Caritas Freetown, has launched a campaign with various civil society groups to advocate for a peaceful transition of power, wrote the Association for Catholic Information in Africa.

That’s no small worry in Sierra Leone, where memories and scars still live on of the 10-year civil war in the 1990s that killed tens of thousands and left thousands more with amputated limbs, noted PassBlue, which covers the United Nations.

Meanwhile, Bio, the former head of the military junta that ruled Sierra Leone in that period, had defeated Kamara in the election five years ago by a margin of 0.5 percent, noted Al Jazeera. The previous president, Ernest Bai Koroma, had been a member of the APC. Neither Bio nor Kamara won more than 50 percent of the vote.

Bio has been playing up his role as head of state as voters decide. As the Financial Times reported, he recently said he and other African leaders were putting pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the war in Ukraine, which has caused food prices to skyrocket and severely harmed African countries that depend on wheat imports.

International organizations are helping. The Carter Center is sending observers to monitor the elections. The Economic Community of West African States is also sending representatives and funding to help election officials, added the Nigerian newspaper the Guardian.

Ultimately, the voters should have the final say – but only if their votes count.

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