In the wake of a war of words between State House and the National Electoral Commission (NEC) over the Biriwa Chieftaincy Elections, five persons from the Mandingo tribe who were travelling from Karina village to Kamabai in order to participate in the election at Kamabai, were last Friday 11 August 2006, ambushed by a group of persons who are alleged to be from the Limba tribe in the same region. The victims whose bodies were hacked with cutlasses are currently admitted at the Connaught Hospital in Freetown.
|Ms. Christiana Thorpe: NEC Boss
Awareness Times interviewed the victims on their sick beds. Mr. Mamadi Kallon who was stabbed on his right leg, alleged that he was stabbed by "some Limba boys". Pa Ansumana Kamara said he was mobbed by "some Limbas".
Also speaking to Awareness Times, was a Nursing Aid who expressed concern over the health situation of the victims. According to the nurse, the wounds suffered by the five victims are very serious and require urgent treatment. Other victims who expressed dismay over the incident include, Alpha Fonah and Alhaji Samaseneh Sillah.
Earlier, a 10th August Letter from NEC, advised the Local Government Ministry that NEC cannot conduct the Biriwa election for various reasons including a court injunction, controversy over the voting list of Tribal Authorities and an emerging risk of violence. NEC therefore refused to handover election materials so as to disable the Ministry from conducting the election.
"…this action would violate the commissions’ independence as stated in Section 32 (11) of the 1991 constitution,: - "In the exercise of any functions vested in it by this constitution, the Electoral Commission shall not be subject to the direction or control of any person or authority," excerpt of the release states.
However, in a counter-release, the Office of the President stated that the business of conducting Paramount Chieftaincy elections rests solely within the purview of the Ministry of Local Government. It seemingly upbraided the NEC by stating that NEC had no business running Chieftaincy Elections.
"This [Biriwa] election, like all other Paramount Chief elections, is by law conducted by the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development in accordance with the Provinces Act, Cap.60. It is not a public election or a referendum referred to in Section 33 of the Constitution, the conduct and supervision of which is the responsibility of the Electoral Commission, and it is not a local government election which is governed by the Local Government Act 2004." stated the two-paged August 11th 2006 Release from the Office of the President
Meanwhile, the controversial Biriwa Chieftaincy election which was postponed from 11th August 2006 as a result of the violence on the five persons was held on Saturday 12th August and was organised by the Provincial Secretary’s (P.S.) Office in Makeni. The Awareness Times correspondent for the Northern Province, Alhassan Spear Kamara, witnessed the event which saw the Madingo-born Dr. Issa Sheriff emerge as the winner.
Mr. M. L. Z. Ansumana, a Senior official at the P. S. Office served as election official. There was no representative from NEC. At the end of the election, the result announced by the Provincial Secretary Southern Province, Alhaji S. E. Magona, stated that Dr. Issa Sheriff emerged as winner with 132 votes to 1 vote.
The Limbas who were also expected to present a candidate refused to do so on the grounds that the entire elections process had undue political under-tones. The Limbas are insisting that the Madingo contestant is not from a ruling house and is not eligible to rule over them. Many of the Limbas in the area who spoke to Awareness Times angrily allege that because President Kabbah is a Mandigo, he is trying to force a Madingo to rule the Limbas. The main Opposition Leader, Hon. Ernest Bai Koroma is himself a Limba.
However, the Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Mr. Sidikie Brima had earlier told the nation that according to records, the Sheriff House has contested the Paramount Chieftaincy since 1952 and has done so in succession in 1957, 1963 and in 1995. Minister Brima therefore insisted that the Sherriff House was fully eligible to contest for the Paramount Chietaincy at Biriwa Chiefdom.
Speaking to Awareness Times in reaction to the wide spread rumour that the election was stage managed by the government, Alhaji Magona claimed that there was nothing wrong with the elections.
However, in an interview with an APC Councilor, Edward Conteh, he expressed dismay over the manner in which the election was conducted referring to the whole process as "totally rigged".
"Out of 473 Tribal Authorities only 133 voted which is a clear indication that the election had a big question mark," he said, adding that any election in which two thirds of the voters are not present should be rendered void.
At the end of the elections, there were no reports of fresh violence, nor was there celebrations by the winning side. The Paramount Chief elect, Dr. Sherrif was then quietly escorted to Karina Town, the stronghold of the Madingos.
In an interview with Awareness Times up North, Assistant Inspector General of Police Christopher John intimated Awareness Times that security for the entire region was "water-tight".