The All Peoples Congress Party (hereinafter called “the Party”), in adherence to its timetable it put out to the public, conducted its Constituency and rerun ward elections, on the 14th and 17th January 2023 and 15th January 2023 respectively. Subsequent to those elections, the Political Parties Regulation Commission (hereinafter called “the Commission”), received a number of Petitions from aggrieved members of the Party, against the conduct and outcome of both a number of the Constituency Executive elections and some of the rerun ward elections. A summary of the Petitions received is contained in table A hereunder.
TABLE A: PETITIONS RECEIVED BY THE COMMISSION DISTRICT CONSTITUENCY WARD KENEMA
All Constituencies in the district 035, 042, 043 and 044 FALABA 040 KOINADUGU 044,045 TONKOLILI 054 180, 181 and 182 KAMBIA 057, 059 191, 197, 198, 199, 204 and 206 KARENE 064 and 067 PORT LOKO 069, 071, 072 and 075 259, 233, 253, 247, 257 and 234 BO 086 BONTHE 089 and 092 PUJEHUN 100, 101, 102 and 103 WESTERN RURAL 106, 107, 108, 109 and 112 387 and 378 WESTERN URBAN 115, 116, 121, 128, 129 and 131 437, 420 and 421.
POLITICAL PARTIES REGULATION COMMISSION OAU Drive, Tower Hill, Freetown.
The Commission as always, upon receipt of those petitions immediately informed the Interim Transition Governance Committee (hereinafter called “the ITGC”) and the Transitional Interim Independent Elections Management Committee (hereinafter called “TIIEMC”) of their filing. By reason of their spread, as they came from all the sixteen electoral districts save three namely Kailahun, Bombali and Moyamba, with Kono still grappling with its ward rerun elections and their coincidence with the filing of an Application to the Court by the TIIEMC, for a Joinder and an extension of time set out in the Court’s Judgement, within which it is to conduct all the lower level elections, the Commission on the 18th January 2023, issued a press Statement, advising the TIIEMC, to put on hold all Constituency Executive elections slated for the 19th January 2023, pending the hearing and determination of both the Petitions and the Application before the Court.
GROUNDS OF PETITION
Like in the Petitions filed against the ward elections, there are grounds that are common in all the Petitions filed against the Constituency elections and they include the following:
ALTERATION OF VOTER REGISTER/DELEGATES LISTS
- Almost all the Petitions filed with the Commission had this as a ground. The Petitioners claimed that, the delegates lists were tampered with, by the removal therefrom, the names of delegates duly elected as ward executives and substituted therefor, by names of people that did not win those elections or in some cases did not even contest in those elections. The Commission from its experience, is reasonably suspicious that, this did happen in some instances. Unfortunately, the Petitioners could not avail the Commission, copies of the RRF forms signed by the presiding officers and the Candidates’ Agents, that are at variance with what the TIIEMC have in the Results Sheet.
- The TIIEMC on the other hand denied tampering with delegates lists at the Polling centres. They however conceded that, their focal person in Karene District one 3 | P a g e Hassan Bundu, attempted altering the delegates lists in Constituencies 064 and 067. He was immediately detected and the fake names he inserted in the lists removed and replaced by the actual delegates that won the ward elections.
2. THE PERPETUAL INJUNCTION SLAMMED ON THE FORMER OFFICERS OF THE PARTY.
His Lordship Justice Adrian Fisher J, in his Judgement of the 28th April 2022, perpetually injuncted erstwhile National, Regional, District and Constituency Executives and Officers of the specialized Organs of the Party, restraining them from holding themselves out and/or acting in their previous Offices.
This has been widely misconstrued as precluding the affected former Officers of the Party, from contesting in these elections. Thanks to the shenanigans of very presumptuous and ill-informed Party social media Commentators, some of whom cannot even pronounce “perpetual or message”, talk less of their competence in interpreting Court Judgments or Ruling.
Their pompous ineptitude and vitriolic gaffes, have misled a good number of their unsuspecting comrades in a number of ways and thus stirring discord. For the Records, His Lordship did not and never intended to rid the injuncted former Officers of their membership of the Party. He did not in any way encumber their rights to participate in post Judgement Party activities, as Ordinary Members of the Party. What they are prohibited from doing, is to hold themselves out and/or act in the capacity of their previous Offices.
This misconstruction of the perpetual injunction granted by His Lordship is so rife that, Mr Edward Moiwo Korji from Kenema for instance, preemptively petitioned the Candidature of his opponent for the Kenema District Chairmanship of the Party one Prince Kamara, on the basis that, he is under perpetual injunction. This is as untenable as it’s weird and absurd.
The Commission therefore hereby definitively state that, there is nothing in His Lordship’s Judgement and Subsequent Ruling of the 28th April 2022 and 23rd November 2022 respectively, that precludes injuncted former officers of the Party, from contesting in any of the Party’s ongoing intra Party elections, from the ward 4 | P a g e level to the National Delegates Conference. The scope, effect and intendment of the perpetual injunction granted by His Lordship in his Judgement against them, do not contemplate such prohibition.
3. PERSONS WHOSE NAMES WERE NOT IN THE CANDIDATE LISTS, WERE ALLOWED TO CONTEST
This is another of the uncomplimentary effects of the persistent divide in the ITGC. Both sides of the divide were tampering with Applications of Candidates perceived as sympathisers of the other side. Consequently, a good number of Applications did not make it to the ITGC Secretariat. The resultant list of Candidates published by the ITGC was therefore incomplete. The ITGC came out with a Statement to that effect, promising to publish the complete list. They were however caught up with time and couldn’t publish the updated Candidature list promised. This was reported to the Commission by the Chairman of the TIIEMC. The Commission immediately made a Conference call of the ITGC and TIIEMC to discuss the issue. In that Conference call, it was mutually agreed that, Candidates whose names were not in the list, but could present their Party membership cards and/or evidence of payment of their Candidature fees, should be allowed to contest. Apparently, this was cascaded by the TIIEMC, to its focal persons and Presiding Officers, as they acted in accordance with that agreement. However, it would seem that, the ITGC failed to communicate that agreement to the Candidates. Which explains why that decision abounds in all of the Petitions as a ground.
4. CANDIDATES NOT ALLOWED TO VOTE FOR THEMSELVES. This is also evidence of the communication gap, between the ITGC and the general membership of the Party, relative to the procedure involve in the conduct of the elections. 5 | P a g e At the Constituency level, only the ward executives duly elected in the Constituency and the Councilor(s) representing those wards are eligible to vote. They are the electoral college for those elections. Candidates are not part of that electoral college and do not vote. It is obvious however that, the Candidates were not adequately educated on this. Therefore they included that as a ground in their Petitions.
5. CANDIDATES SUBMITTING APPLICATIONS FOR TWO OR MORE POSITIONS
Also replete in all of the Petitions is the issue of candidates who had contested and lost the ward elections, emerging as candidates for the Constituency Executives elections. The Commission notes that, Applications were invited for positions in all the lower level cadres of the Party, on the same day, with the same deadline. One therefore wonders how could a candidate had anticipated his defeat at the ward level, to trigger his cautionary instincts, to submit another Application for the next layer. Though of little significance, it is however suspect and impugns on the credibility of the nomination process. The ITGC is thus advised to call for separate nominations for each layer of the Party.
6. BLOCK VOTING
In Constituency 040 Falaba District, the Petitioners complained that, they were made to vote for a team instead of individual candidates. The contestants for the Constituency Chairmanship were called out and asked to name their executive team. Each team was then allotted a number and delegates instructed to vote by writing that number in the ballot paper, for all the candidates in the team they support. Numbers were not alloted to individual candidates. The TIIEMC focal person in the District at first conceded to the Petitioners’ claim, but later denied, after promptings undertones in the room. He however gave the contact number of the District Representative of NEW in Falaba to the Commission, as an independent Witness that was present. 6 | P a g e The Commission contacted the NEW Official aforesaid a Mr Samura and he confirmed that, a ballot number was issued to a team and not individual candidates and voters told to use the same number, to vote for all the candidates in their preferred team. This is not only unprocedural, but also restrictive of the delegates’ choice and thus unacceptable.
Violence continues to characterise the conduct of these elections. Unfortunately, most of the violence are incited by very senior members of the Party that ought to know better, namely Members of Parliament, prospective candidates for District, Regional and National Officers and Flagbearer of the Party. This Commission calls on all such Gaffers, to restrain themselves and be more responsible in their conduct.
FINDINGS OF THE COMMISSION
From all of the foregoing, the Commission came to the following conclusions:
1. That most of the grounds canvassed by the Petitioners, are untenable and informed on misconceptions and inadequate information from the ITGC, on some of the issues complained of. The ITGC ought to do more, in their engagement with members and aspiring Candidates of the Party. At the moment, there seems to be some latent disregard for the ordinary members of the Party and Aspiring Candidates.
2. Most of the Petitioners were neither candidates nor were they delegates in the elections they petitioned. Most of them are prospective candidates for the upper cadres of the Party and their Petitions are mainly in furtherance of their electoral advantage at the next level and thus in most cases self-serving.
3. Some of the Petitioners grossly misconducted themselves at the Polls and then thereafter run to the Commission with frivolous Petitions, on vexatious grounds. Their demeanour at the hearings also portrayed their violent disposition. For instance the Petition from Constituency 121, where a candidate is on video smashing the ballot box, that coupled with the hostility of the Petitioner at hearings, clearly exhibited his disruptive tendencies.
To all such Petitioners with a sully reputation, we can only say that, the Commission is not a playground, for vexatious Petitions from sour Losers. We are a very serious and extremely busy institution and therefore detest time wasting cavalier gimmicks from the public. He who comes to equity must come with clean hands and he who seeks equity must do equity. The Commission will not countenance any Petitioner whose hands are soiled.
4. Finally, there seems to be a calculated ploy to use Petitions to derail the internal processes of the Party, by some of its disgruntled members. The Commission will certainly not condone such conduct and will stoutly resist any attempt at using it as protracting platform. Having said all of the above, there are however a few Petitions with substance, that were successfully prosecuted before us and which petitions as contained in table B below are hereby upheld.
TABLE B: PETITIONS UPHELD BY THE COMMISSION DISTRICT CONSTITUENCY WARD WESTERN RURAL 112, 106 FALABA 040 KOINADUGU 045 BONTHE 092
TIIEMC to Properly Audit the Delegates lists/ward Executives in that Constituency. The vast majority of the Petitions that came before us this time, were not substantiated and/or proven by the Petitioners. Those petitions as set out in Table C below are therefore dismissed.
TABLE C: PETITIONS DISMISSED FOR WANT OF EVIDENCE DISTRICT CONSTITUENCY WARD KENEMA
All Constituencies in the District save those dismissed for want of prosecution TONKOLILI 054 180, 181 and 182 KAMBIA 057, 059 and 061 191, 197, 198, 199, 204 and 206 KARENE 064 and 067 PORT LOKO 071 259 BO 086 WESTERN URBAN 115, 116, 121, 128 and 131 420, 421, 437 PUJEHUN 100, 101, 102 and 103 WESTERN RURAL 107, 108 and 109 378 and 387 Some of the Petitioners did not appear at the hearings and thus, did not avail themselves the opportunity of prosecuting their Petitions. Their Petitions as shown in table D are therefore dismissed for want of prosecution.
TABLE D: PETITIONS DISMISSED FOR WANT OF PROSECUTION DISTRICT CONSTITUENCY WARD KENEMA 012 and 015 035, 042, 043, 044 PORT LOKO 069, 072 and 075 233, 234, 247, 253, 257 9 | P a g e BONTHE 089 WESTERN RURAL 129 KOINADUGU 044
In view of the above, the Commission hereby issues the following directives, subject to the outcome of the Application now before the Court.
1. The TIIEMC to conduct rerun elections in all Constituencies set out in Table B and whose Petitions are upheld herein, on Wednesday the 25th January 2023.
2. The TIIEMC is at liberty to conduct the District executive elections in all the remaining twelve electoral districts not affected by this Ruling, at any time they deem appropriate.
3. The Constituency Executive at Constituency 128, where there was a tie between the two contesting sides, be shared equitably by the TIIEMC between the two sides and where there is no consensus, a raffle draw be conducted. In conclusion, the Commission wishes to make it categorically clear that, it is a creation of the law, Section 34(1) of the 1991 Constitution, as amended by Constitutional Instrument No.22 of 2022 and therefore not above the law. Our decisions are not sacrosanct and can legitimately be searched in Court. Therefore all that are aggrieved by any of our decisions are at liberty to have recourse to the Courts. Those in the habit of accosting Commissioners and Staff of the Commission for our decisions or actions and inactions are advised to desist from such conduct. We are not answerable to individuals, in the execution of our mandate. Any more of such uncouth behaviour will be legally responded to appropriately.