Sierra Leone Electoral Commission slow to publish polling station results amid electoral tensions News
USAID in Africa, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Sierra Leone Electoral Commission slow to publish polling station results amid electoral tensions

The Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL) released partial election results Monday from the country’s national elections on Saturday. The results tallied a large lead by incumbent President Julius Maada Bio over his main challenger, Dr. Samura Kamara.

Multiple election observers expressed concerns on Sunday about the integrity of Sierra Leone’s national elections. The Carter Center, which has worked in Sierra Leone since 2002, noted a “lack of transparency” during the vote tallying process. Before the results were released, observers feared the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL) was withholding the results of votes at the polling station level, which would allow for cross-verification with final results. The European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) made a statement about the situation, saying “it is imperative that the [ECSL] provides full transparency during the tabulation of results in order to ensure confidence and trust in the electoral process.”

The election was the fifth since the end of Sierra Leone’s civil war that ended in 2002. The lead-up to the vote on Saturday saw increased tensions and instances of violence between presidential frontrunners’ parties. Kamara’s party, All People’s Congress (APC), has called the electoral process into question. They claim that multiple institutions, such as ECSL and the police, are acting on the orders of the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) to rig the election in favor of Bio. Last week, an APC rally ended in a riot as supporters of President Bio attacked an APC crowd. APC headquarters in Bo burned to the ground. Both parties reported attacks on their supporters at polling stations.

In Freetown, APC candidates and officials barricaded themselves in their offices Sunday when government forces fired live bullets and tear gas inside. SLPP released a statement defending the actions, claiming to have found a leaked WhatsApp conversation of APC leadership “planning and mobilizing funds for the killing of some of our active party leaders and supporters.”