ONS’ commendable and effective security coordination role in the recently concluded By-Elections across Sierra Leone.

The Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone (ECSL), conducted by-elections in six locations across the country. Five of these were Ward Council Elections whilst one was for Member of Parliament in Constituency 056 in Tonkolili District.

It may be recalled that on 7th June, 2022, (during campaign period), violence erupted in Constituency 056 resulting in injuries and destruction of properties worth millions of Leones. The situation led to the intensification of efforts in coordinating security service provision before, during and after the elections. The sector’s increased posture was informed by intelligence and security threat assessments prior to the elections. In addition, several stakeholders’ engagements were done in Bendugu with the aim of assuring the people of peace and security during the elections. One of such meetings was held on 11th June 2022 at the Bendugu Court Barry. At the meeting, the National Security Coordinator, Office of National Security (ONS), Mr Abdulai Caulker and other heads of Electoral Management Bodies (EMBs) assured the people of Constituency 056 of effective security throughout the by-election. Hence, the leadership of the ONS ensured that there was effective security coordination. This role has been described as commendable, top-notched and successfully executed, as indicated in the outcome of the elections.

Under the backing of the Military Aid to Civil Power (MACP), the deployment of security personnel in all locations, including identified hotspots in Constituency 056, created an atmosphere of serenity and assurance for voters and electoral staff. On election day, voters had queued-up orderly and voted peacefully for candidates of their choice without any report of violence and/or intimidation. On the part of the security sector, there was high level of professionalism in the execution of their duties. Suffice it to note that before the conduct of these elections, His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Brig. Gen. (Rtd) Dr. Julius Maada Bio, who is also the Chairman of the National Security Council (NSC), had directed that every positive step should be taken to ensure that peace and security reigned supreme in all the locations throughout the electoral cycle in the by-elections in the best interest of the people of Bendugu (Tonkolili), Falaba, Port Loko, Karene in particular and Sierra Leone in general. Therefore, throughout the elections in the four Wards and in Constituency 056, there was no record of violence across the country as the security sector braced up to effectively fulfill its mandate.

High level leadership of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, SLP, RSLAF and the Independent Commission for Peace and National Cohesion (ICPNC), coordinated by the Deputy National Security Coordinator, Dr. Ahmed A. Sannoh, had gone on the ground in and near Constituency 056 to ensure that decency prevailed. The level of security provided can be a model worth emulating in future elections.

It is important to list a number of lessons which were learnt from those elections as follows: (a) The role of the ONS in the Constituency by-elections in Bendugu (056) and the four Wards showed a marked improvement in security coordination. (b) Owing to logistical constraints and poor road network, full security deployments were a little delayed. (c) Street campaigns and rallies are direct precursors to violence and intimidation in all elections. (d)The presence of top political party leaders, especially those accompanied by large number of party supporters (who have no voting rights in by-elections) is a recipe for chaos. (e) Long distances to and from voting centres contributed to voter apathy.

The following are proffered recommendations for consideration by the relevant stakeholders: (a) PPRC, ECSL and other EMBs to consider replicating the indoor-rallies model adopted in Bendugu at national level. (b) The security sector must ensure the timely provision of logistical support to on-the ground sector leadership in order to enhance effective and timely personnel deployments. (c) The leadership of political parties to refrain from moving along with huge crowd of their supporters to by-election’s locations at all times.

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