Fellow Sierra Leoneans, on 10th November 2011, I caused my office to announce the dates for the 2012 Local Council and Parliamentary elections; it was little over a year to those elections.
Today, as envisioned by our Constitution, and in line with established practice, I have again instructed my office to put forth a public notice announcing that parliamentary and local council elections will be held a little over one year from now, on March 7th, 2018. Having consulted with me, the National Electoral Commission (NEC) will also announce that the presidential elections shall take place on the same date. With my Government’s support, NEC and the National Registration Commission have further indicated their readiness to commence registration for electoral and related activities.
My Government is also in the concluding phase of a White Paper for a new constitution. As provided by law, this will be tabled in Parliament in due course. If enacted by Parliament and in line with ECOWAS protocols on democracy, a referendum on the new constitution will take place before the end of September this year.
Fellow Sierra Leoneans, our country is building a democracy. We have held regular elections since 1996. During every one of our four general elections since that year, we have moved forward to take charge of our destiny, strengthen our democratic agencies and create greater awareness on the relevance of participation for everybody, in every town, in every district and every region of our country. Today, I call on all Sierra Leoneans to continue to support this strengthening of our democracy. And no better way exists to render this support than in ensuring that we all register, that we all show discipline and civility, that we obey the rules and regulations set forth for the conduct of free and fair elections. Registration is the first step to making sure that your preferences are accurately reflected in the new constitution, and that the new government enjoys your mandate.
Democratic discipline requires the awareness that if you belong to a party, that party is bigger than you. The place of political parties in our constitution is sacrosanct; no member of a political party is above the rules and regulations of his or her party; but no political party is above the laws of our country. As President, I am under oath to maintain law and order, peace, security, and the democratic character of the Republic of Sierra Leone. And I will use all the powers vested in my office to continue to ensure peace, security, law and order during the electoral cycle.
Fellow Sierra Leoneans, announcement of the dates for elections is not an announcement for the start of the campaign period. The commencement of the campaign period will be announced by NEC. When that time comes, we expect every party and every individual to follow the rules and regulations set forth by the appropriate authorities. Political activity is no excuse for breaking the law. My government is determined to ensure peaceful and orderly elections; and anyone caught disturbing the peace or violating the laws in the name of campaigning or other political activities will meet the full force of the law.
We applaud our international friends for their continued support to the consolidation of our democracy. Elections are a tedious process; they require patience, tenacity and understanding of a country’s social and political complexities. We have demonstrated our commitment to free and fair elections; and we will not yield to electoral models and practices that would be vulnerable to hacking, manipulation and other negative external influences.
Elections are an expensive enterprise and the fact we are conducting a national registration, referendum, local council, parliamentary and presidential elections requires substantial resources. My government has already committed billions of Leones to the exercise and we are engaging our international partners to support us fill some of the funding gaps and capacity needs we have identified in the elections process. These engagements are critical to the overall success of the elections. That is why we are insisting that these partnerships must render elections that are free, fair, credible and reflective of the will of the Sierra Leonean people.
I strongly believe that Sierra Leone will once again deliver free, fair and credible elections. Though we still face challenges, our democracy is growing stronger; our resolve to build on our democratic gains remains unshakeable; and together, men and women of goodwill in all parties, both within and outside the country, young and old, in the executive, parliament and the judiciary, in every profession and field of endeavour, together, this country will continue to be a beacon of unity of purpose, freedom, justice and democracy.