It appears as though the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) has adopted a dogged approach to elections; and they will stop at nothing to edge their opponents even if it means promoting thuggery, gangsterism and machismo in the process of achieving their goal. This stratagem was first introduced in the Constituency 110 bye-election where observers noted the commandeering of political thugs who went berserk destroying ballot boxes in full view of police personnel and election observers.
And it is clear that the destruction of election materials during elections is a Paopa phenomenon; a trick deliberately contrived to steal votes in situations where a loss to the ruling party is imminent.
In the two local council bye-elections for Ward 115 and Koinadugu District Council Chairmanship held past Saturday, it was observed that the ruling party employed the same or similar strategy but it eventually boomeranged as the opposition All People’s Congress (APC) had upped its game to raise the red flag on any irregularity or political gerrymandering.
According to the unbendable election watchdog group, National Elections Watch (NEW), the two bye-elections were characterised by widespread violence and political intimidation, destruction of election materials, and use of thuggery. The tense atmosphere in which these bye-elections were conducted signals an early warning of the mayhem that will be unleashed by Paopa thugs come the next general and presidential elections.
What is shockingly shocking in these elections is how Cabinet Ministers conducted themselves during the poll. NEW observed a strong presence of political party stalwarts in the district on polling day, and this contributed to heighten chaos in the elections. Two prominent senior government officials named in NEW’s report are Amara Kallon, deputy minister of Political and Public Affairs and Mohamed Orman Bangura, the minister of Youth Affairs.
NEW said these two government ministers “forcibly pushed people out of the polling station” in centre code 6048. Having witnessed the exhibition of their commandos, the marshals accompanying the two ministers then went on the rampage vandalising the driving mirror of a vehicle belonging to Minkailu Koroma of the APC.
NEW also reported that the SLPP agent in polling station 2 DEC Kagbasia ordered some hoodlums who had entered the polling station carting away with voting and election materials to forcefully take away observation documents including mobile phones belonging to NEW observers deployed on the ground. These observers narrowly escaped the scene.
Also, the SLPP candidate for the Koinadugu District Council Chairmanship election physically assaulted a disabled party agent for the APC and assaulted and wounded another party agent who was trying to have a photograph of the scene. During the tallying process, it was observed that a staff of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) altered the figures in favour of the SLPP candidate. The commotion that ensued led to the suspension of the tallying process. And this was seen as the last straw that breaks the camel’s back.