With this training the Board’s staff across the country will be able to identify and mediate disputes which in the past have erupted into violence during the electioneering period because of political differences. Also, community outreach events on elections will be organized to counter divisive messages by political parties and their agents.
In addition, it will build the capacity of the Board’s staff and partners in increasing their knowledge on the Public Elections Act 2012 with particular emphasis on Electoral Offences, Causes of Election Disputes, and Legal Framework for Elections Management and exploring alternative ways of resolving election disputes outside the courts through Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).
The Chairperson for the training, Lawyer Francis Gabiddon said the country has made progress in conducting peaceful elections since the reintroduction of party democratic elections in 1996. He said that continued peace and stability will depend to a large extent on the credibility of the March 2018 Elections. He recommended that the country should begin to look at resolving election disputes outside the court. ‘We should use Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to resolve some of the disputes,’ he said.
The Commissioner for the North, National Electoral Commission, Mr. Gibril Sesay welcomed UNDP’s support to the electoral process and underlined the Commission’s commitment to working with partners to deliver credible elections. He noted the Public Elections Act 2012 consolidates laws and instruments relevant to the electoral process. He said that there are threats to the electoral process such as the use of secret society to intimidate voters. He disclosed that 1,539 people were allegedly involved in double registration.
The Team Lead for Governance at UNDP, Ms. Annette Nalwoga said the training is funded by the UN Peace building Fund through the UNDP. She said Sierra Leone has made progress in conducting peaceful elections which it should build on going into the March 2018 Elections. She said this is the first election that the UN Security Council is not directly involved in. She pointed out that the UNDP is also funding other partners to address issues that may arise before, during and after elections. This includes the Office of National Security, The Sierra Leone Police, Judiciary and the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone.
The Executive Director of the Legal Aid Board, Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles said the training will empower staff to contribute in a meaningful way in enhancing free, fair and violent free elections. ‘This exercise is of extreme importance to the Board’s clients in ensuring that through our work we contribute to ensuring free, fair and violent-free elections,’ she stressed. ‘By undertaking this function, we will be able to provide effective legal education and representation for clients in the districts, through our Community Advisory Bureaus and Trusted Partners.’ She said the Board’s ADR service has been effective in reducing the number of cases taken to the courts noting this will be replicated with election related disputes.
Ms. Carlton-Hanciles said the Board will embark on legal education, advice on issues of electoral violence and provide a deeper understanding of the electoral laws to educate the Board’s clients on the electoral offences and methods by which electoral cases and disputes can be mediated.
The Consultant for the training, the Head of Department for Peace & Conflict Studies at Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone, Madam Memunatu Pratt presented papers on Elections and Elections Management; Elections, Peace and Conflict Prevention Framework; Alternative Elections Dispute Mechanisms; Causes of Electoral Violence and Conflict Mitigation and Causes of Electoral Violence and Legal Framework in Sierra Leone.
Ms. Carlton-Hanciles and Lawyer Francis Gabiddon presented a paper on the Public Elections Act 2012 which included a detailed explanation of the electoral offences.
The training was climaxed with group work focusing on Electoral violence, Inter Political Party Disputes, legal education and nonviolent messages and kinds of dispute resolution mechanisms. Also, the WANPOT Comedians staged a performance on election related violence and the need to accommodate political differences.