By Chernoh Alpha M. Bah
It is now clear to all those who have been watching developments in West Africa that the June 2023 elections in Sierra Leone have turned out to be the biggest tragedy in African elections. And the embarrassment is not felt by Sierra Leone’s elite alone, but the shame is equally shared by all their “democratic friends” stationed in that small West African country.
At Africanist Press, we have been amused by the ongoing efforts of the political elite and their allies in Freetown, and other places in Europe and North America, to cover-up each other’s shame. Those with various stakes in the country, including local professionals who are hoping for accommodation into the new structures of greed and exploitation that governs that country, are all trying very hard to normalize a botched plot that was designed to prolong the tenure of an unpopular incumbent way in advance of the elections. It was an electoral coup from the onset.
Interestingly, those who planned the coup and executed it now continue to ensnare themselves each time they try a cover-up technique. They continue to deepen their own crisis with their own efforts.
But at this point, it should have been clear to them that Sierra Leoneans have no doubts that the June 2023 elections were rigged. Sierra Leoneans already know that Maada Bio was declared president without a complete vote count. What Sierra Leoneans are now keen to know are the diverse contributions made by each stakeholder —- organizers, participants, observers, and witnesses —- in planning and executing the electoral coup that gave Maada Bio a stolen mandate. That is what the world should be talking about.
The questions Sierra Leoneans have raised around the elections are not based on whether Maada Bio won the June 2023 elections or not. Far from it. Again, Sierra Leoneans already know that Maada Bio was declared president when the Electoral Commission (ECSL) was yet to complete the vote counting process. That is to say in simple language: ECSL’s announcement of Maada Bio as president for another term of office was done in direct violation of the public elections laws of the country. They know that Mohamed Konneh committed treason against the constitution of the Republic of Sierra Leone and against the popular democratic aspirations of all citizens when he declared Maada Bio president even though the electoral process was incomplete.
So, the fact that Maada Bio was declared president when the vote counting process was still incomplete, anyone that was simultaneously talking about a potential second round of elections was actually trying to normalize a rigged result already developed before the elections were even conducted.
To put it in a simple sentence again: since the vote counting process was incomplete when the head of the electoral commission, Mohamed Konneh declared Maada Bio president, his action raised a question surrounding the whereabouts of the people’s votes. Where did Mohamed Konneh generate the election figures that he announced when the real votes were still being counted? When did he develop those figures? Who helped him develop the figures that he announced?
It is now obvious that those who wanted to normalize Maada Bio’s rigged second term agenda missed the rigging plot when they failed to agree amongst themselves whether they should risk announcing a second round contest or not. Hence, they resolved to take the wrong risk by announcing a first round victory for Bio when the election was in progress. That is how they blew away the cover of their rigging plot. In other words, their plans backfired and failed in public.
Thus, the main questions that are still on the table are these: Who helped Maada Bio rig the June 2023 elections? Why did they help Maada Bio in rigging the elections? How was the rigged planned? Why were they unable to normalize the rigging agenda? How did their rigging plan got busted?
At Africanist Press, we knew that Maada Bio can not truly get a second term in a free, fair, and transparent electoral contest. We were also aware that Maada Bio does not have the capacity to single-handedly rig any election without being assisted. This is why we repeatedly called for calm and a peaceful environment for the conduct of the elections. We knew that under a peaceful and quiet electoral environment, those hired and employed to implement the rigging agenda of the Bio regime can not successfully implement their agenda and escape the public gaze. Indeed, regardless of the many distractions they staged, their rigging plot got exposed!
This knowledge of the planned electoral fraud — and the many other unrevealed issues still hidden from the public — is also why we have insisted that if the opposition parties, including the APC leadership and its elections committee, truly believe they did not compromise the elections and gave Maada Bio a rigged second term, let them provide documentary evidence showing how the elections were rigged. As a simple task, we have asked them to provide their own real duplicate copies of the Results and Reconciliation Forms (RRFs) that were supposedly handed to their party agents at polling stations across the country.
As a matter of fact — and in the interest of electoral transparency and democratic accountability — all political party leaders have to stand accused of the same electoral crimes that the illegal Maada Bio regime is being accused of until they prove their innocence and victimhood. If opposition politicians are not involved in the electoral coup, they should start by showing the public their own copies of the RRFs.
What Sierra Leoneans asked for in June 2023 was credible, democratic elections. The men and women — young and old — who trooped out of their homes on June 24 to vote did so because they wanted to believe that the ballot box was an instrument they could truly use to really express their voices. Those men and women did not come out on that day asking for an electoral coup of the elites against their interests; they were not seeking to participate in an electoral facade, one that is witnessed by democracy tourists from around the planet. They came out to vote because they believe their votes would be counted!
In the final analysis, we all know that electoral democracy requires free, fair, transparent, and real ballot box competition. Electoral democracy should not be a negotiated rotation of power among various factions of the elites in any country with the approval of their international friends.
So, the current discussion in Sierra Leone has nothing to do with hangovers surrounding international aid. It is in fact the opposite. Just a week ago on June 30, the United States International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) announced a US$150 million loan to Summa Airports (SL) Limited to help finance the expansion, renovation, and operation of the Freetown International Airport in Sierra Leone. Yes, the United States just added another round of debt finance to an airport project run by a foreign entity whose contract details still remain unknown to many of the voters whose trooped out on June 24 to vote, and whose votes can still not be accounted for. This US debt financing announcement came on the knees of an ongoing electoral dispute and the inauguration of an illegal regime in Freetown. That is just one tiny example. There are many such examples from IMF, World Bank, and other agencies who have been pumping unrestricted debts to a regime that has recklessly mismanaged public revenues for five consecutive years with impunity.
So this discussion is about basic human rights of disenfranchised citizens. It is a discussion that is based on a universal right to self determination of the poor, exploited citizens; one that is based on fundamental rights of regular citizens to freely and truly choose their own government. We have to agree that there should be no short-cut to electoral democracy and we need to underline that entrance legitimacy is essential to any accountable government in any part of the world.
As citizens who aspire for a decent world and a decent society, we must be capable of emphasizing to ourselves that democracy can not, and must not, be a facade of the elites.
In our struggle for justice and a free society, there should be no compromise and no surrender.
Happy Friday to you all my people…!!