From the Editor’s Keyboard

Christiana Thorpe Needs Our Total Support

14 August 2006 at 07:49 | 333 views

A controversial chieftaincy election has just been held in northern Sierra Leone. This is cause for serious concern because it’s precisely incidents like that that led to the country’s barbaric and cruel civil war.But as our editorial below indicates, we shall, in the next few hours try to get to the bottom of this disturbing occurrence.

Editorial

Reports reaching us from Freetown state that a controversial chieftaincy election was held over the weekend in Biriwa chiefdom, northern Sierra Leone in defiance of a postponement by the head of the National Electoral Commission, Miss Christiana Thorpe.

The election was reportedly supervised by officials of the ministry of Local Government even though the mandate of NEC clearly stipulates that it’s responsible for the conduct of all elections in the country. However our sources say we have the making of a constitutional crisis here as ministry of Local Government officials believe chieftaincy elections fall within their functions.We shall soon dig into this to find out who is right or wrong.

Meanwhile if indeed Christiana Thorpe’s functions are being usurped, we would like to call on civil society organizations, parliament,the opposition parties, our colleagues in the press and the international community to stand firmly behind this lady and give her all the support she needs as we all strive to see the establishment of true democracy in Sierra Leone. One way she can be supported is by calling for the annulment of the just held election. More anon.

Photo: Christiana Thorpe. Is she being bullied?

Fresh Developments

We have just taken note of the following notice purportedly from the ministry of Local Government in Freetown, published on the Cocorioko forum. We shall however continue with our investigations on this matter. The notice was released on Friday and the elections were held on Saturday.

Government PUBLIC NOTICE

FRIDAY, 11 AUGUST 2006

BIRIWA CHIEFDOM PARAMOUNT CHIEFTAINCY ELECTION

"This election, like all other Paramount Chief elections, is by law conducted by the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development in accordance with the Provinces Act, Cap.60.

It is not a public election or a referendum referred to in Section 33 of the Constitution, the conduct and supervision of which is the responsibility of the Electoral Commission, and it is not a local government election which is governed by the Local Government Act 2004.

Section 33 of the Constitution provides that “the Electoral Commission shall be responsible for the conduct and supervision of the registration of voters for, and of, all public elections and referenda; and for that purpose shall have power to make regulations by statutory instrument for the registration of voters, the conduct of presidential, parliamentary or local government elections and referenda, and other matters connected therewith, including regulations for voting by proxy”.

In the case of Paramount Chief elections, a different procedure is prescribed for the ascertaining of voters, i.e., chiefdom councillors who constitute the Electoral College compiled by the provincial administration and duly gazetted. The responsibility of the conduct and supervision of paramount chief elections is by the Provincial Secretary who is assisted by assessor Paramount Chiefs. The same procedure is being applied in the Biriwa Chiefdom election.

Government therefore requests all concerned to cooperate fully to ensure that the pending Paramount Chief elections in that Chiefdom is conducted fairly, freely and peacefully".

Meanwhile the election, which has been described as highly irregular with very pronounced tribalistic undertones has been held. A medical doctor, Dr. Issa Sheriff has emerged winner and duly crowned paramount chief.

Tension however remains high because the Limba people, who are the majority in the chiefdom, claim that Dr. Sheriff,a Mandingo, is not from a ruling house and is thus not eligible to be paramount chief.Sheriff’s supporters on the other hand claim that Mandingos have been contesting for the coveted position since 1952.

What is clear is that this election has created a lot of bad blood in Biriwa chiefdom and might be a cause for violence in the future. Stay tuned.

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