The National Electoral Commission (NEC) of Sierra Leone has defended the disputed results of a by-election for a local council seat in the northern Kambia District last weekend.
The issue has rekindled fears of political tension, as supporters of the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC), accused the governing Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) of electoral fraud.
The APC claims the election has been rigged in favour of its main rival, SLPP.
Civil society organizations have also cast doubt on the legitimacy of the poll, which they say was marred by irregularities that requires explanation.
NEC, in a statement on Monday, 11 March 2019, said any of the parties, including civil society, who disagrees with the outcome should challenge it in the courts.
Kambia, like the larger northern and western regions of the country, has been known to be a stronghold for the APC, while the SLPP holds strong control in the south-east.
The seat in question became vacant due to the sudden death of the substantive holder, Ibrahim Conteh, who was an APC member.
Conteh back then won with a decisive 83.69 percent of the votes against his closest SLPP rival.
Therefore, many observers expected a win for the APC this time too.
But the results from the NEC showed a closely fought race, with the SLPP candidate, Mustapha Kamara, controlling a slim majority of 46.92 percent against APC’s Alusine Kamara’s 46.49 percent.
The National Grand Coalition (NGC), a fairly new party which also claims Kambia as its stronghold, contested the elections.
Both the NGC and APC condemned the outcome.
The National Elections Watch, an umbrella body of civil society organizations that monitors the electoral process of the country, cited “serious irregularities” it said undermined the integrity of the entire election.
It called for the commission to provide explanation.
NEC, in its statement, acknowledge the occurrence of actions that threatened the smoothness of the process but insisted that it took immediate actions to resolve them, including recounting of ballot in response to request from the two opposition parties – APC and NGC.
“It is important to note that though there were issues relating to ballot reconciliation, this did not alter the final counts and will of the people in Ward 196,” said the statement signed by Mohamed Nfa Allie Conteh, chairman of NEC.
He urged all contending parties to seek redress in courts if they are unsatisfied.
The Political Parties Registration Commission, which regulates political parties in the country, also in a separate statement warned against actions contrary to the laws.
The election held on Saturday, 9 March 2019 was the second attempt, after the first one on Saturday, 29 September 2018 ended in violence, leading to a cancellation of the results the APC believed it had won.
At least one person, a 24-year-old boy, died in clashes between supporters of the
SLPP and APC back then.