Sierra Leone opposition rejects poll day lockdown

Sierra Leone’s opposition parties are challenging a proposal by the police to ban vehicular movement on election day.

The part of the larger security arrangment for the elections, will effectively lockdown the country, the opposition says.

The arrangement would see only government vehicles and those with special pass allowed on the roads.

Ten of the 17 registered political parties on Wednesday issued a joint statement calling on the Inspector General of Police to scrap the plan, which they described as suspicious.

The parties raised other concerns they want addressed ahead of the March 7 polls.

Their homes

The opposition says election day should be like any other and that no one should be confined to their homes.

They threatened to go to court if their demands were not met.

The chairman of the National Grand Coalition (NGC), Dr Denise Bright, said the police proposal infringed on citizen’s rights of movement and assembly, and was bound to bring to question the integrity of the electoral process.

Opposition parties, he said, feared that a ban on vehicular movement would prevent people from accessing their polling stations since many of the centres were long distances apart.

“We believe it will undermine voter turnout especially among the aged and people with disabilities,” said Dr Bright.

The police's proposal is contained in an MoU it presented to the parties last month. They say it was informed by the rising tension in the run up to polling day.

But the opposition said they were not consulted when the MoU was prepared and were only presented with it for signing.

Even though the parties refused to sign it, the police have vowed to implement the MoU.

The opposition’s demand also concern the conduct of the police.

They say the police have been used previously to rig elections in favour of the incumbent and therefore demand several reforms on their deployment.

Because they will be on duty on voting day, the police were free to vote wherever they find themselves.

The opposition said rogue police officers had taken advantage of that arrangement and voted multiple times, to the advantage of the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) party.

Ballot papers

They want police personnel to vote only where they were deployed and that each one on duty have a visible name tag for easy identification.

They also alleged that thugs of an unnamed political party have been provided police uniforms, which they use to intimidate other party agents, thereby creating space for vote rigging.

The opposition demands include that the security personnel, particularly the police, be designated specific days to vote in full view of all party agents.

The opposition also want a code of conduct established for the police, to enable the public to know their dos and don'ts.

Other demands include transparency in the procurement, delivery and distribution of ballot papers, as well as the institution of a decentralised result tallying centre.

Leaders of the 10 opposition parties are scheduled to meet on Saturday to chart the way forward.

Can Kiir deliver on his promise of peace and stability in South Sudan?

Read Story:Can Kiir deliver on his promise of peace and stability in South Sudan?