By Moses Kay Fembeh & Alice Rugiatu Conteh.
As per the mandate of the Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone to register eligible citizens for the 2023 general elections, Reporters of Heroes Media Newspaper have been closely monitoring the voter registration exercise in some communities, in the East of Freetown. The first phase of the registration process started on the 3rd of September and ended on the 17th of September, 2022.
Some centres in both the Kissy & Wellington communities were visited during the first phase of the registration process. We would like to bring to the notice of our general readership and members of the general public from what we have collected so far from fields Staff of Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone, political parties’ agents & registrants. Amara Lahai a staff of ECSL and a resident of Samuels, Kissy Community said that the registration process at New Apostolic Church Primary School by Kissy Bye Pass Road was peaceful and smooth as they did not face any major obstacles in terms of electoral gadgets given to them and the registrants were peaceful with all the protocols attached to the registration process. Lahaieven sighted a 54-year-old man who has never registered in his life but this time round got registered easily. The 54-year-old man attested to the fact that he has never been registered because he has never felt like registering and voting for any political party but this time round, he felt compelled within himself to register.
Santigie Kargbo an observer for the All People’s Congress Party (APC) at Bambara town, Gideon Primary School, said that the first time registrants were asked by the ECSL staff to produce their birthday certificates or any relevant documents or to bring their religious leaders or parents to sign up in the witnessed box as per the criteria of ECSL. “For instance, if I am 18 years old but I do not have any ID card, I should come with my relation or a stakeholder in my community for a recommendation,” Kargbo said. He further continued that rejection forms were available for persons whose ascents were not clear and had no identification card. “We the party agents complained to the Ward Coordinator but a little effort was made, and I believe those whose ascents were not clear are those who should be given rejection forms. Besides them nobody should be given that form even when they have issues with pronunciation,” he said. He affirmed that the community people closely worked with them and the people also helped to readily set the centre at 6:30a.m. before the commencement of registration at 7:00 a.m. daily. He further said that they didn’t face any major change and the community people helped to control the queues as they were actively involved in the process. “Two queues were provided for the aged and the young/adults and special chances were given to pregnant women, persons with disability, and lactating mothers to be chosen from the two queues provided,” he added.
Philip Koroma another party agent at the same centrealso remarked that the first phase of the registration process was peaceful as the registrants devoted themselves to complying with the ECSL mandate and he suggested some minor changes to be done in the 2nd phase of the registration process. “Some people even got angry but in the end they obeyed,” he said. He also expressed the mutual understanding that was among them, parties’ agents and ECSL Staff as they worked amicably to produce efficient results in the end.
Santigie affirmed that the registration process started at 7:00 a.m. and sometimes ended at 6 p.m. daily. “Although we are to start at 7 am and end at 5 pm, we sometimes extend the time for progressive work to be done. We extend time per day in consultation with the centre manager and fellow party agents so that more people could be registered,” he remarked
Some ECSL Staff in the Wellington community complained about the impatient of some registrants and their mischievous actions like giving false information about themselves, especially first-time registrants who are still 16 years plus but because of their physical body structures which look older than their ages they lied that they were 17 years old and will be 18 years old before 24 June 2022. Unfortunately, when those young registrants were asked about their date of birth, they would say that they were born in July, August,September, and so on, without being specific.
The voter registration process started with some hiccups in the country, not only in the Kissy and Wellington communities but nationwide. According to our findings, some centres and communities faced huge challenges with equipment provided by ECSL and the registrants had to give a tough time to some Staff due to inadequate knowledge about the registration process.
This media was also informed by the Commander for Freetown East, Deputy Superintendent of Police,Edward Senesie of Ross Road Police Station that 12 persons were arrested that were not up to the age of 17 or 18, for illegal registration. He added that they will not even be 18 years old before June 24, 2023, and they also arrested an APC chairlady at Lunsar. According to him (the commander), the chair lady was giving wrong messages to the people such as “If you are 16 years and above go out to register,” this message was given to the residents of Lunsar. He further said that the woman will be sent to court for misinforming people about the registration process.
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