In a preliminary statement issued by the Independent Commission for Peace and National Cohesion (ICPNC) on polling day, the Commission outlined its observations during the voting exercise.
The statement emphasized that other critical processes, including tallying and collation, are still pending. The ICPNC, through its team of Monitors and Mediators, remains actively engaged in the process and will issue additional statements in the coming days as necessary.
Established by an Act of Parliament in 2020, the ICPNC is entrusted with measures aimed at preventing conflicts, managing or resolving incidents leading to conflicts, and advising the government on peace and national cohesion. In preparation for the Elections, the Commission trained 650 Peace Monitors and 160 Mediators who were deployed across the 16 districts of the country. Their primary task was to identify and report any issues that posed actual or potential threats to peace and national cohesion.
To facilitate efficient reporting and response, the Commission established a Peace Situation Room, which collaborated with key institutions such as the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL), the Office of National Security (ONS), and the Sierra Leone Police (SLP). The Peace Situation Room received and analyzed reports from the field, coordinating with relevant institutions for swift response through referral desks. The ICPNC also played a role in negotiating the release of individuals arrested and detained for demonstration-related offences.
The Commission’s team of national mediators received support from four experienced women mediators from FemWise-Africa, with backing from the African Union (AU). Collaborations with various institutions, including the Legal Aid Board, the SLP, the Early Warning and Response Coordinating Center, the Independent Media Commission (IMC), the iVerify Project of SLAJ/BBC Media, and the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC), ensured timely and effective responses and interventions.
The ICPNC’s Call Center, utilizing a toll-free line, received 2,407 calls and 966 WhatsApp alerts and videos from district peace monitors. Reports highlighted isolated cases of threats or violence related to allegations of ballot stuffing, late commencement of voting, and inadequate supply of voting materials, particularly in the Western Area. Intimidation of polling staff, late deployment of security personnel, and other issues were also reported, contributing to heightened political tension in some polling stations.
Upon receiving these reports, the Commission’s team of analysts, consisting of Media, Data, Security, Legal, Political, and Human Rights Experts, analyzed the information and made necessary referrals to relevant institutions for swift remedial actions. Despite these challenges, the Commission noted that the overall situation remained peaceful throughout the voting period.
The ICPNC commended the role of traditional and social media outlets in disseminating peaceful messages and urging the public to refrain from violence. However, the Commission expressed concern about the spread of misinformation, particularly on social media platforms, which had the potential to exacerbate tensions in and around polling areas. It urged the public to verify or fact-check content before sharing information to prevent the dissemination of disinformation during and after the elections.
In conclusion, the ICPNC congratulated all Sierra Leoneans for exercising their democratic rights and commended their level of patriotism during the election process. It emphasized the sacred duty of all citizens to maintain and protect the peace of the country. The Commission called on everyone to remain peaceful and law-abiding, allowing the ECSL personnel to carry out their duties without any hindrance while awaiting the official announcement of results.
However, the ICPNC also highlighted emerging post-voting tensions and an increase in violent incidents across various districts. It called upon the security forces to enhance vigilance and security throughout the country as the election process approaches its conclusion.
The Commission reminded it is important to remember that although only one candidate can emerge as the victor in this democratic race, we all have the potential to be winners if we bring the elections process to a peaceful conclusion.