Osinbajo calls for credible elections in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone
Prof. Yemi Osinbajo SAN, Chairman of Commonwealth Observer Group (COG), flanked by Head of Electoral Support, the Commonwealth Secretariat, Mr Linford Andrews, and another member of the team, during a press conference to launch election observation activities in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on Monday, June 24, 2023. Photos: Photos: Tolani Alli

• Launches election monitoring activities as Chair, Commonwealth Observer Group

The Chairman of the Commonwealth Observer Group (COG), Prof Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, has called for peaceful and credible elections that will reflect the will of the people in Sierra Leone.

Osinbajo, the immediate past Nigeria’s Vice President, made the call on Monday, June 19, 2023, as he launched election observation activities during a press conference in Sierra Leone.

At the press conference, the COG Chair, Prof Osinbajo, former, urged all citizens in Sierra Leone to do their part to ensure that a peaceful and credible process takes place during elections on Saturday, June 24.

At least 17 registered political parties are contesting local council, parliamentary and presidential elections, with approximately 3.37 million registered voters expected at the polls.

The coming polls will be the fifth time the Commonwealth is observing national elections in Sierra Leone since the end of the Civil War in 2002.

“The eyes of more than 2.5 billion people of the Commonwealth, more than 60% of whom are young people under the age of 30, will be upon Sierra Leone. Watching, in solidarity and hope.

“The peaceful and prosperous future of the nation lies in your hands. And in that future, violence, division and hate cannot play a part. The hard lessons that history has taught us through the tragic loss of lives and livelihoods – we cannot afford to repeat,” Prof. Osinbajo said.

The Professor of Law, Osinbajo, noted that the COG team members are in Sierra Leone in their individual capacities as eminent and experienced Commonwealth citizens, and the assessment they make will be guided by the principles of neutrality, impartiality, objectivity and independence

“In conducting our duties, we will be guided by the principles of neutrality, impartiality, objectivity and independence. As we are here in our individual capacities as eminent and experienced Commonwealth citizens, our assessment will be our own, and not that of any member government.

“As this great nation expresses its will for its future, may peace, justice and national unity prevail above all. We enjoin all political parties and their supporters to uphold the commitments of the Electoral Pledge to free, fair and violence-free elections, admirably signed barely two weeks ago,” Prof. Osinbajo said.

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The COG Chairman, Prof Osinbajo, who arrived in Freetown on Saturday, June 17, to lead a group of 12 (Chairman inclusive) international experts, to observe and assess the election process, emphasised that the Observer Group has no executive role.

He said its function is not to interfere with, but to independently observe the pre-election environment, polling day and the post-election period, after which the group with then provide recommendations to improve the process.

The COG commenced intensive briefings over the past weekend and will spend the coming days in discussions with various stakeholders, including the Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone, government representatives, political parties, security agencies, civil society groups, citizen and international observer groups, diplomats and the media.

From Thursday, June 22, Commonwealth observers will be deployed in small teams across various parts of the country to observe the voting, counting and results process, as well as meet with other stakeholders in respective locations.

Among other factors, the observers will assess whether conditions exist for credible elections, including a fair election environment; whether public media has been impartial; the transparency of the entire process; whether voters are free to express their will; and whether the counting and results process is transparent.

The COG plans to issue an interim statement on its preliminary findings on Monday, June 26, before members depart Sierra Leone by 30 June.

Sierra Leone