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Sierra Leone: Voter Registration Begins February 26.

26 December 2006 at 09:03 | 435 views

According to an AFP report over the weekend, Sierra Leone’s National Electoral Commission will
on
February 26 begin voter registration for presidential and
parliamentary elections next July.
"Selected registration centres for voters will be identified soon
and
these centres will also be used as polling stations," the news agency quoted a press
statement from the Commission. Only Sierra Leone nationals aged
over
18 will be registered.

The police, the agency report went on, has announced a parallel plan to start the training of 3,200
police personnel in January in public order management and election
policing in the west African country.

"We would ensure that all police officers involved in the election
are non partisan and neutral," Assistant Inspector-general of
Police
Richard Moigbeh reportedly told journalists, saying some 830,000 dollars
(631,000 euros) were needed as an "operational cost".

"It is shameful that when there are elections in Africa there is
always violence and thuggery. Why shouldn’t we work towards having
peaceful voting?" Moigbeh said.

"800 soldiers will work with 7,325 police officers during the
election period in addition to 60 officers from the prisons
department, 100 from the National Fire Force, 200 chiefdom police
officers and 15 personnel from the office of National Security," he
disclosed.

Meanwhile, US Ambassador in Sierra Leone Thomas Hull
expressed "concern" over a proposed referendum on a new
constitution
which the authorities also plan to put to voters on election day.

"Amending the constitution is certainly the prerogative of Sierra
Leoneans but would it not be prudent to have a more deliberate
process later that would not complicate or distract from the
significant challenges of preparing for the presidential and
parliamentary elections?" Hull suggested.

He noted that rushing the constitutional reform might give the
impression of railroading change despite the government’s effort to
have inclusive civil society participation and said voters would
have
more time to consider the proposals if the referendum took place in
2008.

The government on October 25 set up a 28-member Commission to
review
the constitution under which two previous elections have been held,
which took effect in 1991, the year Sierra Leone plunged into a
decade of brutal civil war.

Photo: NEC boss Christiana Thorpe.

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