ππ€π“πˆπŽππ€π‹ 𝐀𝐃𝐃𝐑𝐄𝐒𝐒 𝐁𝐘 𝐃𝐫 π’π€πŒπ”π‘π€ πŒπ€π“π“π‡π„π– π–πˆπ‹π’πŽπ πŠπ€πŒπ€π‘π€, ππ‘π„π’πˆπƒπ„ππ“πˆπ€π‹ π‚π€ππƒπˆπƒπ€π“π„ πŽπ… 𝐓𝐇𝐄 𝐀𝐋𝐋 ππ„πŽππ‹π„π’ π‚πŽππ†π‘π„π’π’ ππ€π‘π“π˜ 𝐎𝐍 𝐓𝐇𝐄 𝐔𝐏𝐃𝐀𝐓𝐄 𝐎𝐍 𝐓𝐇𝐄 πˆπŒππ‹π„πŒπ„ππ“π€π“πˆπŽπ πŽπ… 𝐓𝐇𝐄 π‚π‘πŽπ’π’-ππ€π‘π“π˜ π€π†π‘π„π„πŒπ„ππ“ π…πŽπ‘ ππ€π“πˆπŽππ€π‹ π”ππˆπ“π˜, π…π‘π„π„π“πŽπ–π, π’πˆπ„π‘π‘π€ π‹π„πŽππ„

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𝐌𝐲 𝐟𝐞π₯π₯𝐨𝐰 π’π’πžπ«π«πš π‹πžπ¨π§πžπšπ§π¬,

I speak to you today in the name of Truth, Justice, Peace, Love, Democracy, and Honour.

First and foremost, let me extend warm greetings to all who truly fear God. But let me convey sincere best wishes to our Muslim brothers and sisters who have recently celebrated Eid al-Adha. I also pray for the safe return of those Muslim compatriots after performing the HAJJ. May the Almighty guide and protect all us during these challenging times.

I wish to recognize the recent speech by President Bio on the Agreement for National Unity. I am also addressing you today on the same subject and your expectations for full implementation of the Agreement, to restore and strengthen our democracy, especially after the contested June 24, 2023 multi-tier elections.

π…πžπ₯π₯𝐨𝐰 π’π’πžπ«π«πš π‹πžπ¨π§πžπšπ§π¬

Nearly a year ago, you stood in long queues under the sun, for many hours, and in some cases, stayed until after dark, to vote for a new leader and government in our beloved Sierra Leone. We are all aware of the numerous issues and public concerns, over the way and manner the Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone (ECSL) conducted the June 24th, 2023 general elections. The greatest shock was the way the results were produced and communicated to the public. The Chairman of the ECSL read out final figures of winners as President, Parliamentarians, Mayors, Chairmen and Councillors without providing to the voters the supporting Results Reconciliation Forms (RRFs), as required by law and democratic best practice.

Based on popular judgement, and commonality in the reactions of national and international election observers, it is evident that the ECSL set a new low for organizing one of the worst elections in the history of Sierra Leone as well as of global democracies.

π…πžπ₯π₯𝐨𝐰 π’π’πžπ«π«πš π‹πžπ¨π§πžπšπ§π¬,

Justifiably, the All Peoples Congress (APC), which had been serving as the main Opposition party, decided not to accept the results as announced by ECSL and hence withdrew our participation in parliamentary and local council governance. The prolongation of this governance boycott could have paralyzed the entire governance system in the country. However, thanks to the timely intervention of the international community, the goodwill of the APC, and the patience and understanding of all Sierra Leoneans, a solution was found in an internationally mediated cross-party dialogue between the APC and the SLPP government, that brought hope and relief to millions of citizens who had exercised their democratic vote on 24th June, 2023 for electing the political leaders of their CHOICE.

An Agreement for National Unity was signed by the leadership of both the SLPP government and the APC, which among other things, provided for a review of elections management, retribution, and other elements for advancing political tolerance and cordial interpersonal relationship among politicians and their respective supporters.

A Tripartite Committee (TC), comprising representatives of the APC, SLPP government, and the International Community, was established, to examine shortcomings and irregularities in the 2023 and past electoral cycles, relative to the thresholds for free, fair, transparent, and credible elections. Understandably, the entire nation awaits the results of the Tripartite Committee’s analyses, deliberations, findings and recommendations by end of day, today, June 19, 2024, as time-lined in the Agreement for National Unity.

We have received incredible support from the AU, ECOWAS, the Commonwealth, European Union, United States, UK, Ireland, and many other development partners. The Committee has also benefited from interactions with election management bodies and the people of Sierra Leone.

The work of the Tripartite Committee is a public good, Yet, despite the agreed Terms of Reference, demanding a thorough examination of the 2023 election results, and repeated requests by the APC, the work of the Tripartite Committee has to date been frustrated by and downplayed as the ECSL has contemptuously refused to submit the disaggregated results at the polling station level, backed by the relevant RRFs.

π…πžπ₯π₯𝐨𝐰 π’π’πžπ«π«πš π‹πžπ¨π§πžπšπ§π¬,

The Agreement for National Unity is an opportunity to end the political divisions that for too long have paralyzed nationalism, development and economic growth in Sierra Leone. It is not perfect, but it represents our best opportunity to end the culture of political retribution that for too long has characterized Sierra Leone’s body politic.

I have clearly heard your demands that your national leaders must break with their collective past and do better. Political leaders must come together to focus on governance, service delivery, and above all, poverty elimination. They must create new economic and livelihood opportunities for us all. When we agreed to take the courageous step of embarking on a new direction through the Agreement for National Unity, this was our primary motivation.

The 2023 elections stand as a sad chapter in our political history. The ongoing disputes and disagreements over the ECSL announced results are solely due to the failure of our national institutions to deliver for the common good, in particular, the ECSL. The final report of the Tripartite Committee, which is now under active preparation, will work to change this long-standing reality. It will begin the hard legislative and regulatory work of putting in place safeguards to ensure that never again in our national life will the ambitions of the few be allowed to overcome the will of the many. It will protect our national electoral institutions from the corruption and incompetence that has marred successive electoral cycles in our country, leading to the divisions and retribution that we now seek to end going forward.

At the same time, the Tripartite Committee is not a panacea. It was never intended to address all political ills in our society or to repair all political and electoral wrongs. The damage that has been done through the failure of our electoral institutions has been done. The wounds to our body politic can never be fully repaired. But we can grow, learn, and change from them as time goes on. And that is why the APC will continue to urge for appropriate sanctions on persons responsible for inflicting this national damage.

As with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, that helped to heal our country’s wounds, following our brutal civil war, the Tripartite Committee started from a simple premise, that, to correct the problem, we must understand what happened. To that end, the Tripartite Committee initiated its work including an examination of the 2023 elections, seeking to understand the perspectives and facts that underlay this contest. It did so, as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission before it, to right every wrong and bring every wrongdoer to justice; to shine a light on where radical change and institutional reforms are desperately required; and to build, to the extent possible, a shared historical narrative, a foundation on which we can build better and stronger democratic systems and institutions.

We have already encountered aspects of the 2023 elections on which the Tripartite Committee, and Sierra Leoneans of different political stripes, likely, will not agree or may never agree on. That is to be expected. However, our differences and these contentious aspects should be reflected in the report and recognized as such, while allowing equitable space for respective parties to pursue their positions further. Notably however, these aspects represent proximate determinants of accepting the WILL of the people and thereby, building a sustainable democracy, peace and stability. They should also not stop us from grasping simultaneously the opportunity to change electoral systems, institutions, and personalities going forward. We agree on enough of the diagnosis that we can treat the disease.

There is no question that the final report of the Tripartite Committee is a political necessity. We knew that would be the reality, when we elected months ago, in the committee’s terms of reference, to have it operate by consensus. We did so to ensure that recommendations coming out of the report had a strong national basis to move forward rapidly into law and best electoral practices. We did so to guarantee that our key concerns were fully addressed in the report. We did so to enable the political class to move forward on the fundamental irregularities of the 2023 elections while also focusing on the issues of governance, economic growth, and poverty reduction that are also presently core concerns for every Sierra Leonean.

𝐌𝐲 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐩𝐚𝐭𝐫𝐒𝐨𝐭𝐬

Let me reiterate that leadership, at all times, means taking bold and difficult decisions even where they affect your ego and personality. That is what should be acknowledged and done in the current circumstances. As the major political parties in the country, we have voluntarily agreed to examine the outcomes of the 2023 elections. By so doing, we have made the difficult decision to place the national interest above partisan politics, to prioritize governance and the economic well-being of our people, to provide our local councils across the country inclusive environment necessary for them to deliver for the people of this country. A Southern African proverb says that β€˜when the elephants fight, only the grass gets trampled’. It is time in our beloved Sierra Leone for the elephants to stop fighting and allow the grass to grow.

I would like to firmly implore and encourage any voices wishing to use the final report of the Tripartite Committee as an excuse for violence, ethnic hatred, political vilification, and destabilizing our nation and the economy, to desist. This is unacceptable. Too much blood has already been shed, and too much treasure has also been lost in the history of our country. We cannot as a nation afford to lose any more innocent lives and hard-earned treasure. Peace, tolerance and mutual respect must remain an overriding priority.

Finally, the report of the Tripartite Committee, when it comes out and presented to the nation, is far from the end of this political transformation process. It is not even the end of the Agreement for National Unity. Much more remains to be accomplished, many more opportunities exist to make additional gains, and many more victories for democracy, national unity, and inclusive development will be forthcoming. I pledge to continue working within this process – with the firm support of our development partners and you all, to ensure that Sierra Leone has the strong, democratic, and effective national institutions we all so dearly desire. This is our wish and we must stay firm to defend it to its ultimate conclusion.

We are abundantly rich in nature, goodwill and religious tolerance. But, most unfortunately, we are unbearably poor in cash, political governance and integrity, which, together, form the bedrock of a peaceful, stable and prosperous nation.

The Cross-Party dialogue is continual and collective. It is not just a fight for the APC or any specific region or ethnic grouping. Here, the APC reiterates its firm challenge to the announced election result by ECSL and here again, calls for the publication of the disaggregated results by polling station, as required by our Constitution, electoral laws and the expectations of our people. People across Sierra Leone voted for change. Our main objective is to achieve electoral transparency, accountability and justice for the people, and rescue democracy in Sierra Leone. Regardless of where you were born, you deserve to know that your vote was counted and honestly reported. After our initial frustration, my party has resolved to return to the Tripartite Committee, hoping that the ECSL, which has lost integrity and public trust, will seize the opportunity to be more law abiding and respecter of the Will of the people.

I commend the members of the Tripartite Committee representing the APC, SLPP, and the International Community for their commitment and collective endeavour. I particularly recognize the extraordinary contributions of the APC comrades on the Committee. Their dedication to the ideals of our party and their determination to pursue electoral truth, institutional accountability and electoral justice for the people of Sierra Leone is highly commendable. While progress has been made relative to the implementation of the eight Resolutions on the Agreement for National Unity, a lot of work still remains to be done on the Resolutions beyond the stipulated six months. This will enable the Committee to complete its work and present a Report that truly reflect the Will and expectations of the people.

π…πžπ₯π₯𝐨𝐰 π’π’πžπ«π«πš π‹πžπ¨π§πžπšπ§π¬,

I have consistently resisted being dragged into violence and civil disorder. It is however, a grave mistake to believe there can be peace without justice. The TRC report clearly shows how acts of injustice and the lack of institutional accountability led to the brutal civil war in Sierra Leone. Justice, especially electoral justice, is essential for true and sustainable peace. The show of force by security personnel in Freetown and country-wide in an environment of peace and quiet can be interpreted as an indication of a crisis of legitimacy, resulting in heightened tension and chaos.

I will be remiss if I do not welcome, once again, in Sierra Leone, Madam Fatoumata Jallow-Tambajang, former Vice President of The Gambia, and the rest of the international assessment mission. We thank you for your continued personal effort to advance democracy in our beloved Sierra Leone.

I thank you and may God bless Sierra Leone.

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