MambaTV Investigates: Suspicion Clouds Kono Bye-Election as the Official NEC District Elections Officer Is Seemingly Rendered Dormant and Functions Grabbed By a Northern Commissioner

Kono-Bye-Election

By Bobson Kanu
MambaTV iReporter reporting from Kono, Sierra Leone

December 19, 2015

The District Electoral Officer (DEO) for the National Electoral Commissions (NEC), Mr. Alex Smith has been rendered nonfunctional, hence his duties being grabbed by the Northern Commissioner of the same institution, Mr. Macksood Gibril Sesay in the last couple of days.

Administrative pundits will agree that line managers are only moved to the side when they prove ineffective. And in such cases, it should be made known. NEC’s failure to do so, and a northern NEC staff taking over the Kono bye-election leaves the eastern district suspicious that the ruling government which has its stronghold in the North is up to something dubious.

Demonstrating this, serious uneasiness is brewing among the opposition here in Kono regarding the credibility of the bye-election which is currently underway. In addition to the violence being perpetuated over the last couple of days in which both sides claim no responsibility, the peaceful end of the bye-election remains anyone?s guess if some of the concerns being currently raised by the opposition, one of which brings into question an unexplained last minute change at the helm of the local NEC office is not properly addressed by the end of today.

In the last 24 hours, a commissioner from the north, Mackood Gibril Sesay, in the presence of the national head of the institution, also a northerner; and accompanied by a number of other officials from NEC Headquarters has been brought in to take over the Kono bye-election process even though Alex Smith, the current District Elections Office (DEO) for Kono District is still here and remains in his official capacity.

The arrival of Mr. Sesay has left Mr. Smith dormant since all of his official functions are being performed by Mr. Sesay. According to our investigation, Mr. Smith had carried out all official DEO functions including nominations procedures.

What is strange about this change is that according to opposition officials here in Kono, no official communication about the change has been made available to them or the public. On several, if not all radio talks and meetings held, Mr. Sesay was introduced to the Kono people and local NEC officials as the man in-charge from now on without any further explanation about the reasons for the sudden change other than a reference to the election being a crucial one.

Local NEC workers here have complained that they have all since then been constantly threatened to strictly adhere to the instructions of their new boss. They have not been allowed to have any formal discussions with Mr. Smith since the change was effected. This lack of transparency underpinning the move plays right into the alleged conspiracy narrative now making rounds here in Kono that President Koroma has instructed NEC officials to return an APC victory at all cost or face retaliation.

There are already questions being raised as to whether the opposition will accept the outcome of the elections presided over by an overnight commissioner from the stronghold of the ruling party, particularly given that they consider this bye-election not only in their stronghold but clearly theirs to lose. Based on our investigation, Mr. Smith took over as DEO about a year ago after Momoh Kanneh, who was the position during the 2012 elections was promoted.