Sierra Leone poll agency allays fears over missing data

Sierra Leone's President Ernest Bai Koroma. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

Sierra Leone’s National Electoral Commission (NEC) has allayed fears over reports of the disappearance of huge data that could disenfranchise hundreds of registered voters in next year’s General Election.

The Commission, while admitting the incident, assured that it had the capability of rectifying the error it blames on faulty machines and computer chips.

Chief Electoral Commissioner Mohamed N’fa Alie Conteh, in a statement, assured that they would ensure that all eligible voters were able to cast their ballots.

It was thought that data for about 30,000 people were missing, causing jittery in the opposition parties.

Biometric exercise

Thursday was the deadline for the publication of the final voter register to fulfill a constitutional requirement for the March 7, 2018 voting date to hold.

According to the NEC records, a total of 3,178,663 people were registered in the first ever biometric exercise in the country earlier this year.

It also details the total number of voters per district and region, and shows that the eastern region accounts for 631,989 voters; northern region 541,949; northwestern 490, 606; southern 624, 822 and western region 889,297.

NEC said the total figure took account of the missing data.

Captured manually

The Commission said all it needed to do was recapture the data by reconfiguring the chips. It also noted that details of every registered individual were also captured manually.

Opposition politician and former UN Under-Secretary General Kandeh Yumkella, had raised concern over the potential for a repeat of the Kenya experience in Sierra Leone.

The presidential election results in the East African state was annulled over irregularities and illegalities, despite the use of technology in voting.

“We express deep concern over the technical integrity of the voter machines, the software for voting tallying. We should learn from the Kenyan experience and capacitate NEC and not undermine it,” he said in a statement.

Ebola epidemic

The sentiments have been fired up by reports of an alleged plan by the incumbent government to delay the polls.

President Ernest Bai Koroma is not qualified to run after serving two terms in office.

But his supporters have used every opportunity, from the Ebola epidemic to flooding disasters, to argue in favour of extending his term to enable him complete his development agenda.

The latest opportunity was offered by the August 14 flooding and landslide, which claimed over 1,000 lives and destroyed property worth millions of dollars.

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