By: Nyamacoro Sarata Silla
Over the last week it has been brought to our notice that with regard to the elections which are to be held in Sierra Leone in 2018 all citizens are required to register for voting (if they would like to) in the forthcoming elections.
The notice from the National Electoral Commission (NEC) informs citizens that voter registration starts on Monday 20th March 2017 and ends on the 16th April 2017.
It further elaborates by saying that anyone who does not register to vote during this period will be ineligible to participate in the electoral process in 2018.
This notice raises several questions for all Sierra Leoneans worldwide. Firstly has previous registration for general elections been made void?
As a Sierra Leonean citizen who had been registered previously it would be useful to know why we as a nation are required to incur the additional expense of re registering nationals previously registered.
The registration period is also very time limited. A month to register for millions of citizens seems to be needlessly ruthless. Are there any valid reasons for these limitations?
I believe it is incumbent on NEC to inform us of these reasons.
My own personal research has not yielded any answers so far. The other very important issue is that there are thousands of Sierra Leoneans now living all over the world. During the ten year civil unrest in the country many families and individuals were able to make their way to other parts of the African continent and further afield.
BBC news website informs us that the growth of Sierra Leonean communities in the UK can be attributed to the civil war. It further states that the numbers rose by about 10,500 between 1991 and 2001.
The largest clusters of Sierra Leoneans in the UK are to be found in Lambeth and Southwark boroughs in London. The US Department of State website also informs us that there are many thousands of Sierra Leonean born individuals who reside in the United States.
The actual number cannot be verified via my research. More recently Sierra Leoneans can be found living and settled on the Australian continent and on mainland Europe too.
The right to vote in the Sierra Leonean elections has so far been denied to all Sierra Leoneans who live outside of Sierra Leone.
Section 18 of the Public Elections Act 2012 in Sierra Leone states that NEC may make arrangements for citizens outside the country to vote and that this is discretionary rather than mandatory.
Section 31 says every citizen of Sierra Leone being eighteen years of age and above and of sound mind shall have the right to vote, and accordingly shall be entitled to be registered as a voter for the purposes of a public elections and referenda.
Section 33 states that subject to the provisions of the constitution, the electoral Commission shall be responsible for the conduct and supervision of the registration of voters for,and of,all public elections and referenda; and for that purpose shall have the power to make regulations by statutory instrument for the registration of voters,the conduct of Presidential, Parliamentary or local government elections and referenda, and other matters connected therewith ,including regulations for voting by proxy.
It’s seems to me that our constitution does make adequate allowances for those Sierra Leoneans living abroad to participate in the elections of 2018.
We are asking the current government of Sierra Leone to make diaspora voting possible for the citizens of Sierra Leone who live abroad.