18. 03. 09
posted by: DR. SORIE GASSAMA

After so much ramblings and name callings, the much awaited elections that will make or break Sierra Leone are almost here. Some laws in the constitution that  until now have remained dormant, have suddenly surfaced; obviously a deliberate act used by the powers that be to their own advantage, and to deflect the attention of the masses from issues that matter most.


How can one who until now had a running mate, a flag bearer select, and most of his ministers with dual citizenships conjure laws in the constitution that bar dual citizens from holding the same positions he sanely let others hold? That means that he knowingly went against the constitution. I leave the readers to reach a conclusion to this.  No man must be above the law. I ask my readers, their friends, and families to focus more on the issues at hand when they vote come March. Take whatever they give you in the form of bribery as it is yours, but vote your minds on Election Day. Remember that voting for the wrong person will mean five years of hardship which may mean paying toll for the Freetown- Masiaka Highway, and high prices on fuel, rice, and other basic necessities.

This short but important article is geared towards advising all aspirants to be aware of what might go wrong before, and during the voting day. It is no secret that elections in Africa can hardly ever be free and fair. Nevertheless, with some gingerliness and prudence, a lot of election malpractices or malfeasance can be spotted and avoided even before they occur. It is therefore incumbent on all concerned to be alert and be on their heels to avoid the many surprises that can lead to their political demises. The below are just few tips to help aspirants be ahead of those hoping to rig the votes.

Aspirants must watch the turnout figures as they can be a sign that the elections have been rigged. According to findings, there can never be a 98% or 99% turnout in an election. This is so because electoral registers can rarely be 100% up- to-date. From the time of registration to the day of the elections, many who register either get sick and can’t make it to the polls, travel and not be present on the voting day, or die. In Africa where incumbent parties always survive on rigging the elections, the names of those that fit in the aforementioned categories are intentionally not removed, so that the number of these non-existent voters increases, thus making it easy for the incumbent party to rig the elections.

Another thing that serves as a warning is when the turnout in one area is wildly different from the turn out in other areas. This is especially true when there are colossal differences in the turn out between the support bases of the incumbent party to that of the opposition party. An example is when polling stations in support base areas of the incumbent party register 90% turn out, while those in opposition areas register 70% turnout or lower.

There are also more cagey ways that those bent on rigging elections increase or reduce votes. Opposition parties must keep their eyes open on the number of votes that are ruled out or invalidated. Eyebrows are always raised when the number of invalidated votes surpass 5% as has been done in previous elections in Sierra Leone. When this happens, it is done to favor another party. It simply means that officers are disqualifying ballots for the most trivial imperfections even when they are aware of the voter’s intention. This is called VOTE DEPRESSING, and it is done to bum out or in an archaic form deject votes for opponents.

Opposition candidates must also be aware of BALLOT STUFFING. This occurs when there are more votes than ballot papers issued. In addition to the observers coming from other countries, opposition candidates must make their presence felt everywhere on the day of the elections so that the efforts that they have put into their campaigns come to fruition, and not be ruined by riggers. Those who represent them must be aware of how many ballot papers were received in the morning, how many are left at the end of the day, and how many if any were torn and had to be discarded. Doing that mathematics will show how many ballot papers should be in the box which must also parallel the number of names checked off on the register. When the ballot boxes are opened, the number of papers should be counted tallying the votes for the different candidates. A discrepancy will clearly point out that something is wrong and that someone has definitely been at work doing some stuffing. When this happens, the results must be cancelled and a re-run arranged.

Opposition candidates must make sure that all observers and party agents are there when the ballots are counted, and take photographs of the result sheets with their phones. This will enable them to have proof of the authentic results from their area- just in case theirs and the ones announced by the electoral commission don’t match. My advice is for all aspirants to furnish their agents with hidden cameras in case they are overpowered by thugs, and their phones taken. Body cameras come in different shapes and forms, and very hard to detect. Some of these cameras transmit images as the actions occur. If you haven’t done so already, please get some. Knowing politics as it is in Sierra Leone, they sure will come in handy. If you don’t know where to get one, please contact me. Only aspirants for the presidency should make this contact.

A delay in announcing the official results of an election is also something to watch. When there is a delay in announcing the results, there must be something going on behind the scenes. It usually means that the results are being massaged or doctored before release to favor a particular candidate.

With these said, I pray that all involved in the voting process realize that peace is priceless. It is better for one to be hungry and be able to fend for food than to be dead with an empty stomach. Our people need peace. Anyone inciting violence for the sake of political gains is and will always remain an enemy to the Republic. Remember that we were one before politics, and will remain as one long after the political dust wanes in the distance. Be peaceful therefore and respect the will of the citizens. Remember that democracy is in the counting, and not the voting.

In conclusion, I once more express my ardent hopes that all opposition parties will be on the watch out come Election Day to avoid CRYING FOUL after the game is over.