Sierra Leone opposition accuse NEC chief of rigging during by-election

Thursday March 21 2019

Julius Maada Bio

Sierra Leone's President Julius Maada Bio. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By KEMO CHAM
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Opposition parties in Sierra Leone have threatened to boycott future elections unless the head of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) resigns.

Mr Mohamed N’Fa Allie Conteh is accused by the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC) and the National Grand Coalition of 'incompetence and impartiality'. They say his handling of elections is a threat to national peace and stability.

The calls come in the wake of a controversial by-election early this month which the opposition parties believe was rigged in favour of the governing Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP).

The election held on March 9, in the northern Kambia District, a stronghold of the APC, was contested by the three major political parties.

The SLPP candidate narrowly defeated his closest APC rival by 11 votes. Civil society groups said the poll was marred by massive irregularities increasing political tension that has been rising since the disputed general elections last year that brought President Julius Maada Bio to power.

President Bio’s SLPP defeated the APC in that election in March last year pulling the curtain on its decade in power. APC is yet to officially accept the results.

APC said Wednesday it had lost faith, trust and confidence in the NEC under Chairman Conteh, whom it described as “incompetent, impartial” and lacking in credibility to conduct any future elections. It warned that such a situation poses threat to national unity, security and stability.

“The evidence against NEC is compelling and we do not believe that we should allow Mr Mohamed N’Fa Allie Conteh to drag this beloved country down the path of chaos and anarchy. The APC has admonished Mr Mohamed N’Fa Allie Conteh to resign with immediate effect so that our revered democratic gains in this country can proceed unhindered," the statement signed by the party’s National Secretary General, Ousman Foday Yansaneh said.

NGC, whose candidate came third in last year’s presidential election, said separately the poll was marred by malpractice.

It remains to be seen whether the opposition parties will make good their threat of not nominating candidates to contest an upcoming by-election in Port Loko, another APC stronghold.

Conteh was appointed by former President Erest Bai Koroma in 2015, following the retirement of Dr Christiana Thorpe. SLPP accused Dr Thorpe of favouring the APC in the 2007 and 2012 elections.

Political tension in the West African country peaked a few months ago, prompting local and international appeals for calm.

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