Sierra Leone elections: Mahama refutes 'rigging' allegations

By Clement Edward Kumsah

Former President John Mahama has refuted allegations that he was part of a plot to rig the just ended Presidential Run-off election in favour opposition leader Julius Maada Bio.

John Mahama, who Chaired the Commonwealth Observer Group in the Sierra Leone elections had earlier saved Sierra Leone from what would have marred an otherwise peaceful and smooth voting process.

Through John Mahama’s timely intervention and display of his unique diplomatic and conflict resolution skills resolved a disturbing confrontation between the main opposition party, the Sierra Leone Peoples Party, SLPP led by Julius Maada Bio and the Police when counting was underway after close of poll.

After the March 27 election, the main opposition Sierra Leone Peoples PartySLPP won by close to 1.1 million votes followed by the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC). Given that none of the top two candidates got the 55% mark, a runoff was required by law.

Meanwhile, Sierra Leone's opposition party says its candidate won the country's presidential election runoff, according to its own tally of the results.

Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) said opposition leader Julius Maada Bio took 54.11 percent of the votes, while Samura Kamara of the ruling All People's Congress (APC) won 45.89 percent.

However, on Tuesday evening, social media was overflowing with a viral message claiming that John Mahama “prevailed on the NEC boss to cook the figures and announce the SLPP candidate Julius Bio winner.”

The allegation on social Media also added that John Mahama had to come back to Ghana because of the 'vote rigging conspiracy'.

But in a quick and a detailed rebuttal, John Mahama narrated why he arrived in Ghana on the evening of Tuesday, April 3, 2018.

The former President also stated categorically that “I have absolutely no interest in who becomes President of Sierra Leone at the end of this elections. I just believe that a credible election would consolidate not only Sierra Leone's democracy but also its peace, bearing in mind it's past gruesome civil war.”

Below is John Mahama’s response to the ‘rigging allegations’

I arrived in Accra this evening to a flurry of social media stories and other worrying reports attributed to officials of the Sierra Leonean Government, that I had cut short my mission and left Freetown because of my support for one of the Candidates and Political Parties in the just ended Presidential Run-off election.

As Chair of the Commonwealth Observer Group to the Sierra Leone Election, I was officially due to complete my Mission and leave Sierra Leone on Monday, April 02, 2018, via Kenya Airways as per the ticket bought and issued to me by the Commonwealth Secretariat in London.

Following multiple issues that arose just when the tallying of the result from the run-off began, I was requested through a call from the Secretary General of The Commonwealth, Baroness Scotland, to stay one more day to work with my colleague Heads of International Observer Missions to resolve issues that had stalled the tallying process.
My departure was therefore delayed until Tuesday, April 03, 2018.

With this extension in mind, I joined my colleagues in multiple meetings with the political stakeholders on April 01, 2018 until well after midnight to achieve consensus in order to have the tallying process proceed. All these meetings were chaired by Professor Amos Sawyerr, Head of the ECOWAS Observation Mission.

In the afternoon, just before my departure from Freetown, I joined my colleague former Presidents, Amos Sawyer of Liberia, Kgalema Motlanthe of South Africa and the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas at the Presidential Lodge to brief President Ernest Bai Koroma on our efforts in reaching an agreement between the political parties and the National Electoral Commission in order that the tallying process could proceed.

I bid farewell to President Koroma before I drove to the sea coach to leave for Lungi Airport.
My departure from Freetown was not sudden and when I bid farewell to President Koroma I did not get any indication in word or deed that I was not wanted anymore in his country.

I was leaving because by my agreement with The Commonwealth my mandate as Head of Mission had ended. The Commonwealth technical team were also due to leave Freetown on April 03, 2018 but a cancellation of their Air France flight is keeping them there till Wednesday April 04, 2018.

International Observers have no capacity to change the will of the people, in any election. I, John Dramani Mahama, have no interest in who governs the people of Sierra Leone. The long nights, early mornings, long meetings, diplomatic shuttles were all aimed at helping Sierra Leone choose their leader freely, maintain the peace and consolidate their democracy.

As President of the Republic of Ghana and Chair of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government in 2014, I visited Sierra Leone when all others abandoned the country and foreigners were leaving. I offered my country as the staging post for the fight against Ebola.

I have expressed openly to anyone who would listen the progress Sierra Leone has made since I last visited when the country was at its most vulnerable, at the height of the Ebola crisis. I have absolutely no interest in who becomes President of Sierra Leone at the end of this elections. I just believe that a credible election would consolidate not only Sierra Leone's democracy but also its peace, bearing in mind it's past gruesome civil war.

If my presence, in the midst of a volatile and violent situation, at Goderich during the first round of voting to prevent what would have clearly marred a beautiful day of election, or my actions in conducting my mandate as head of my mission has so angered some people so much, as to throw such accusations at me, I can only respond that, I wish Sierra Leone well and that on this exhausting mission, I put my best experience at the service of that nation's democracy and I pray that the in the end, whoever emerges as leader will continue to consolidate this process and continue to build on the good works of his predecessors.
Let us all continue to join the good people of Sierra Leone in prayer.