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International funding over the national interest: National Elections Watch (NEW) to Apologize to the Nation
By Augustine Alpha
Feb 23, 2017, 17:02
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When DFID recently announced a whooping 5million Euros (about three million Pounds) for the local consortium of elections monitoring group, National Elections Watch (NEW), they (DFID) tied the disbursement of that funding to the commencement of the 2018 elections. This trick by DFID has caused some desperation amongst our compatriots in the NEW.  


Since that funding announcement, members of NEW have been losing their heads in agitation to satisfy their benefactors against the national interest. This sad state of affairs has angered many members of the public putting the opportunist characters in NEW under intense pressure to apologize to the nation for what many believe to be a deliberate attempt to mislead the public and discredit Sierra Leone’s electoral process. According to mainly young people this medium spoke to across the country, they indicated that when NEW issued a press release calling on the National Electoral Commission (NEC) to clarify why the date for the forthcoming Presidential elections should be held on March 7, 2018, as pronounced by President Koroma, and not February 23, 2017, they thought it was a genuine call with a view to preserve provisions Cap 6 of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone.


However, following an engagement on the state Broadcaster, the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) flagship program “the Podium”, the Communications Director at NEC, Albert Massaquoi stoutly defended the announced date of March 7, 2017 for the holding of Presidential elections as being within the constitutional provision of the law, and that no violation was committed. To this, NEW protégé Ngolo Katta conceded. Whilst that matter was said to have been laid to rest, it was however rekindled by one Marcella Samba-Sesay of Campaign for Good Governance (CGG) and NEW in a local radio interview Tuesday, February 21, 2017 in which she strenuously tried to indicate that some constitutional violation had taken place because NEC had announced that the said Presidential elections would take place on March 7 and not February 23, 2018.

Interestingly, her views, including distortions of provisions of the
1991 Constitution, were rubbished by a young, smart lawyer, Solomon Jamiru of “Think Salone” who categorically stated that no violation was committed as the announced date of March 7, 2018 by NEW was within provisions stipulated in the 1991 constitution. Lawyer Jamiru cited Section 43 (a) which clearly states that “…a Presidential election shall take place where the office of President is to become vacant by effluxion of time and the President continues in office after the beginning of the period of four months ending with the date when his term of office would expire by effluxion of time, during the first three months of that period…”.


Jamiru’s point was further elucidated upon by NEC’s Communications guru Albert Massaquoi who cited Section 49 (c) of the 1991 Constitution that clearly stated that “…where the incumbent ceases to hold that office in pursuance of section 50 or 51 of this Constitution, provided that the President shall not resign or retire from his office even at the due expiration of his term of office while a general election of Members of Parliament is pending within the ensuing three months…”.


From the above indications, one can clearly state that NEW misrepresented the constitution. “We consulted our international partners and they told us we should challenge the date”, Ms. Marcella Samba was quoted to have told a local radio station in Freetown.


“You see, these guys are not nationalistic. Once they have been given that three million pounds, they can do anything to undermine the process all in the guise of promoting elections” a respected civil society expert with outstanding years in activism noted.


A legal luminary who prefers anonymity observed that all what NEW was doing was playing the piper role to further attract external funding. In fact, according to Marcella Samba-Sesay, she has unfettered access to NEC.


Had their motive not been ulterior, she and her cohorts would have requested a meeting rather than hastily issuing a press release that they got all wrong”.


It is for this and other unexplained reasons that NEW is paradoxically losing credibility in the eyes of the public with the latter therefore calling on NEW to publicly apologise to the nation for their deliberate but futile attempt to mislead the public in their attempt to discredit the electoral process”.


It could be recalled that a minute number of civil society organizations, including the Institute of Governance Reform (Andrew Lavalie), Centre for Accountability and the Rule of Law (Ibrahim Tommy), Network Movement for Justice and Development (Abu Brima), Society for Democratic Initiatives (Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai), Campaign for Good Governance (Valnora Edwin), and Centre for Coordination of Youth Activities (Charles Lahai), all sympathizers and some party cardholders of the opposition, had on January 16, 2018 called on NEC to announce the date for the Presidential elections for February 23, 2018. “We therefore expect the five-year term of office to expire on Thursday 23rd November 2017, or no later than February 2018,” they said.


While such assertion from that so- called consortium of CSO comes across as arrogant, Mercella’s insistence on the February 23 date begs the question as to whether the National Elections Watch has also become the National Electoral Commission to declare elections date in this country. 


Clearly, the likes of Mercella and co, in their self-appointed position of seeking the interest of the people, are shamelessly putting the national interest in jeopardy in other to justify their funding.

© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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