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Sierra Leone’s Electoral Body Claims Police Intimidation And Distruptions

Sierra Leone’s election commission has alleged police are disrupting its activities ahead of a March 27 presidential run-off as a top polling official was summoned for questioning.
Tensions are high ahead of the vote in a campaign marked by violent attacks and intimidation against politicians and supporters, along with an uptick in inflammatory tribal rhetoric.

The National Electoral Commission (NEC) said in a statement late Wednesday the police had “unwarrantedly entered NEC premises, unannounced and at random, interrogated NEC staff; and obstructed them from performing their duties.”

Their actions “served to intimidate some staff”, it added.

The police have meanwhile demanded the NEC’s Executive Secretary face questioning based on an “allegation of electoral offences”, according to a summons issued Wednesday and seen by AFP.

The move is likely to inflame opposition accusations that the police are in the pocket of the ruling All Peoples’ Congress (APC), whose candidate came second in the first round of voting on March 7.

The home of opposition leader Julius Maada Bio was surrounded after polls closed that day, leading to a stand-off, though he was not arrested and police dispersed hours later.

Bio, from the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), took 43.3 percent of votes, while Samura Kamara of the APC took 42.7 percent, propelling them into the run-off.

The APC and SLPP alike have complained that fraud marred the vote, which was declared fair and credible by international and domestic observers.

The APC took 63 seats against the SLPP’s 46 in parliament, according to results of 125 seats announced so far. Seven have yet to be declared.

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