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Sierra Leone 2018 – Run-Off Presidential Election Preliminary Declaration





It will be recalled that the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) Candidate, Brig. (Rtd) Julius Maada Wonie Bio, and the All Peoples Congress (APC) Candidate, Dr. Samura Matthew Wilson Kamara, emerged first and second respectively during the first round of the 2018 presidential election, which was held on 7 March 2018. As no candidate obtained the required 55 per cent votes for an outright victory in the first round of the presidential election, a run-off was scheduled to take place on 27 March 2018 between the two leading candidates.

Against this backdrop, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, His Excellency Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, authorized the return of the ECOWAS Election Observation Mission (EOM) to the country to support the electoral process and observe the 27 March 2018 run-off presidential election. The 45-member Mission was led by His Excellency Professor Amos C. Sawyer, former interim President of the Republic of Liberia, and supported by the Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security of the ECOWAS Commission, General Francis A. Béhanzin and a technical team from the Commission.


In the period between the two polls, the electoral process of Sierra Leone remained dynamic, especially with respect to legal and political interactions among actors and institutions. Outstanding among these was the Interim Injunction issued by the High Court ordering National Electoral Commission (NEC) to suspend all preparations for the 27 March 2018 poll, based on a complaint submitted to the High Court on 21 March 2018 by a Sierra Leonean citizen. Following hearing of the case, the High Court vacated the Interim Injunction on 26 March 2018 and allowed NEC to proceed with its preparations for the Presidential run-off election. In a meeting between NEC and the two flag bearers and their party leaders, witnessed by the Heads of International Observers Missions, an agreement was reached to conduct the runoff election on 31 March 2018.

  1. On its part, NEC approached the Supreme Court to obtain a pronouncement enabling it to exceed the constitutionally allowed 14-day deadline for the conduct of the run-off poll. Meanwhile, the Observer Mission contributed tremendously in defusing tensions associated with the post-election period and the uncertainty occasioned by the Interim Injunction of the High Court that suspended the activities of NEC.

Following the release of the results of the first round election, The President of the ECOWAS Commission embarked on an official visit to Sierra Leone, from 22 to 24 March 2018, during which he met with all stakeholders involved in the electoral process including H.E. Ernest Bai KOROMA, President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, delegation from the All Peoples Congress (APC) and Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP), NEC, International Partners, some Civil Societies Organizations. The objective of the visit was undertaken in the context of preventive diplomacy to support the electoral process and to engage all stakeholders towards a peaceful and credible election.

Under the leadership of ECOWAS, the Heads of International Election Observation Missions (IEOMs), including the African Union (AU), the Commonwealth and the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA), met with the APC and the SLPP Candidates separately, then jointly with the NEC on 26 March 2018, and also with the development partners on 27 March 2018. The Heads of IEOMs finally met with H.E Ernest Bai KOROMA, President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, who reiterated his commitment to a peaceful conduct of the poll and to hand over power to the winner in a peaceful atmosphere.

Furthermore, as part of technical support to the runoff election, ECOWAS conducted an intensive training for agents of the two political parties to enhance their capability and understanding of their roles as poll watchers. The trainings took place in Freetown, Bo and Makeni from 23 to 24 March 2018.

At the end of the series of consultations, and having successfully obtained an agreement in principle for the conduct of the run-off election, the Head of the ECOWAS Election Observation Mission (EOM) in a widely broadcast interview conveyed the solidarity of the West African Community to the people of Sierra Leone. He called on the stakeholders, in particular the candidates, political parties, the Police and the Electoral Commission to play the roles expected of them to ensure a peaceful and credible outcome of the run-off election, and also reiterated the commitment of the Community to continue to accompany the country in the post-electoral drive towards social cohesion, economic growth and development.


  1.  Briefing and Pre-deployment Training

The 45 members of the ECOWAS Election Observation Short Term Mission (STO) were briefed on the political situation and also taken through a pre-deployment training. Following the briefing and orientation session, observers were deployed throughout the regions of the country. Having analysed the reports and feedbacks from Team leaders in the field, the ECOWAS Observer Mission to the 2018 Run-off Presidential Elections in Sierra Leone makes a Preliminary Declaration as follows:

Opening, conduct of the polls and vote counting

  1.  Most of the Polling Places visited opened not later than 15 minutes after the official opening time of 7:00am, except for Polling Station #1 Open Space Falaba Town, where voting started at 10:40 am due to a damaged ballot box that had to be replaced.
  2. Voting started with an effective presence of representatives of both Parties (APC and SLPP) in all the Polling Places covered;
  3. Voter turnout was generally sluggish in the early hours, but picked up during the course of the day;
  4. On the whole, the processing of voters and casting of ballots followed acceptable standards and were in accordance with the laws and procedures governing elections in the country. The improved management of the voting process, the greater familiarity of polling agents and voters with the process, and the vastly reduced number of candidates on the ballot paper, ensured a speedy turn around, with each voter needing about a minute as to complete the process;
  5. The vote counting processes at the polling places were conducted transparently and professionally in the presence of the agents of the two candidates (APC and SLPP) and some local observers National Election Watch (NEW) – WANEP – Women’s Situation Room (WSR) – the Confederation of Churches of Sierra Leone (CCSL) and the International Observation Missions : ECOWAS, AU, EU, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC),   the Commonwealth, Mano River Union (MRU) and the US Embassy;
  6.  The mission noted an effective presence of security personnel at most of the Polling Stations visited. However, this presence was sometimes intimidating in places such as Benevolat Islamic Primary School in Bombali District, Eastern Polytechnic Campus in Kenema District, and the Sierra Leone Grammar School in Western Area Urban, where the deployment of armed security agents caused panic among some voters;
  7. The Mission also noted the conflicting issues of the exact number of deployed police officers allowed to vote in polling stations. This was the case at Cockerill Primary School in Western Area Urban. This situation created tensions in the course of the process between NEC officials and Local Unit Commanders of the Sierra Leone Police (SLP).


  1. The ECOWAS Election Observation Mission is satisfied with the conduct of the 31 March 2018 run-off polls, despite the issues highlighted above.

The Mission urges the National Elections Commission to approach the concluding phases of the process with fairness, openness and transparency until the proclamation of results. The ECOWAS Observation Mission also urges NEC to work diligently and expedite action on the tallying and announcement of results in order to avoid creating anxiety within the polity.

The ECOWAS EOM commends the APC and SLPP candidates for their exemplary conduct demonstrated so far, and urges them to maintain their statesmanlike posture until the completion of the electoral process. The Mission also congratulates the fourteen (14) other candidates and political parties for their role in ensuring healthy political competition and a peaceful electoral process. It urges both candidates, in particular, and their political parties and followers to accept the verdict of the ballot box as will be declared by the competent authority, the NEC, and refrain from prematurely declaring results of the vote.

  1. The Mission appeals to the candidates to gracefully accept the will of the people and, in the event of genuine grievances, to resort exclusively to legal means to seek redress.

The Mission specifically congratulâtes the members and staff of the NEC for the efforts made to correct the shortcomings observed during the first round election and for the professionalism demonstrated throughout the run-off presidential election.

The Mission expresses gratitude to the Government and people of Sierra Leone, the National Electoral Commission (NEC), and security agencies for creating the enabling environment for the smooth conduct of the electoral process, and urges everyone to maintain their commitment to a peaceful outcome.

  1. The ECOWAS EOM thanks all development partners for providing support to Sierra Leone and requests them to continue providing more support in order to ensure that the country maintains its progress towards economic development.





His Excellency AMOS C. SAWYER

Head of Mission



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