NAI present during Sierra Leone elections

Sierra Leone goes to the polls on 17 November. The ruling party All People’s Congress (APC) has dominated politics since independence, with the exception of two elections after the end of the civil war, which the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) won. In the last election, APC regained power and is likely to win this election as well.
− I believe it will be an easy win for APC. As a consequence, the SLPP probably will be marginalized, at least until next elections. This is not unusual. Political parties not in power seem to disappear between elections, says Mats Utas, leader of NAI’s Conflict Cluster.

One reason for Utas’s predicted outcome is the SLPP presidential candidate Solomon Berewa. He is not popular because of his association with violence during the war. Even inside the party there is discontent, which divides and weakens the SLPP. On the other hand, the ACP’s vice-president, Samuel Sam-Sumana, has recently been associated in the media with the Timbergate scandal, a dubious project that included selling large areas of forest. However, APC needs Sam-Sumana, according to Mats Utas, because he will win the necessary votes in Kono, his home district. To win an election in Sierra Leone it is important to have a strong showing in the capital Freetown as well as in the diamond-rich Kono area.

Mats Utas is following the upcoming elections on Facebook. Spokespersons from each party are very outspoken on their personal pages.
− Of course, much of it is political propaganda. But interestingly, politicians from different levels are leaving comments. This means there is a dynamic political debate on Facebook, says Mats Utas.

The Revolutionary United Front (RUF), the former rebel movement during the civil war since transformed into a political party, presents a potential risk of violence during the election campaigns. RUFP has no chance of winning the election and is instead acting as mercenary of democracy, providing its services to whoever is in need of muscles.
− It is APC that uses RUFP as a proxy force to take votes from SLPP. Then in a second round APC counts on winning RUFP votes, says Mats Utas.

Two researchers from NAI are present in Sierra Leone during the election campaign, Mimmi Söderberg Kovacs and Johanna Söderström. They will conduct a survey on electoral violence for the ongoing NAI project Between Big Man Politics and Democratisation: Local Perceptions and Individual Agency in Processes of Electoral Violence.

Read `Mercenaries of Democracy´ by Utas and Christensen in African Affairs about the “politricks” of remobilised combatants in the 2007 general elections in Sierra Leone (pdf opens in new window).

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