Ahead of Today’s Polls, Sierra Leone Judiciary Meets Prof. Sawyer

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Sierra Leone's CJ Charm (seated middle) & Prof Sawyer to his right

Police ban vehicular movement

Ahead of crucial elections which are to take place in Sierra Leone today, March 7, Sierra Leone’s Chief Justice, Abdulai Hamid Charm, has assured that the Supreme Court will expedite action on three cases before it, including the alleged dual citizenship of two of the 16 presidential candidates, a dispatch has said.

“We are doing our utmost to ensure that if there is any fault (blunder) it would not be from the judiciary, but we also have to go by the rules,” Justice Charm said in Freetown on Thursday, March 1, during a meeting with visiting Head of the Economy Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Election Observation Mission, Prof. Amos Sawyer.

In response to growing concerns that the cases could have implications on the elections,  Justice Charm said at the meeting, attended by five other Justices of the Supreme Court, that “as much as possible, we will expedite the cases.”

The dual citizenship cases involve the candidates of the National Grand Coalition (NGC), Kandeh Yumkellah, and his ruling All People’s Congress (APC) counterpart, Wilson Samura Kamara, the out-going Foreign Minister.

Both cases, along with an intra-party dispute, are before the Supreme Court for constitutional interpretation.

According to the dispatch, Prof. Sawyer had expressed the hope that the judiciary would live up to expectations by ensuring that election-related cases were handled expeditiously and in accordance with the law of the land.

The meeting with the Justices is part of ECOWAS Observation Mission’s continuing consultations with Sierra Leone’s political actors and stakeholders towards ensuring that today’s polls complied with the relevant ECOWAS Protocols on good governance and democracy.

Sierra Leone Police

In another development, Sierra Leone’s Police (SLP) have explained that the ban on vehicular movement today is aimed at securing public order and safety, consistent with the police mandate.

Twelve of the 16 political parties have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the vehicular ban, with the dissenting parties alleging that the measure would infringe on the constitutional provision on free movement.

Deputy Police Inspector-General, Al-Shek Kamara, who received Prof. Sawyer on behalf of the Inspector-General at the Police Headquarters in Freetown on Friday, March 2, said all the political parties and Sierra Leone’s National Electoral Commission (NEC) participated in consultations that resulted in the signing of the MOU.

Under the MOU, the SL-NEC is to accredit the vehicles authorized to move around today, including those for the Police, political parties, and persons on essential duties, such as the fire service, ambulances, the media and election observers.

There are also special buses paid for by the Sierra Leonean government to convey voters to and from their polling stations today, while presidential candidates and their running mates are being provided with security details.

“The decision on the 6 a.m.-7p.m. ban on the movement of unauthorized vehicles was based on intelligence and past experience in which some persons abused the unrestricted vehicular movement to disrupt the electoral process in other voting precincts,” the police said.

In today’s exercise, there are 11,122 polling stations nationwide.

Prof. Sawyer has commended the Sierra Leonean Police and other security personnel for maintaining peace and security in the country.

He urged them to redouble their efforts during the crucial election period and address the concerns of stakeholders to ensure a smooth electoral process and the consolidation of peace and democracy in the country and the ECOWAS region during and after today’s elections.

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