The Sierra Leone Web



Fellow Citizens,

Today I want to talk to you about the forthcoming general elections the date for which though far away, has become the subject of intense debate and speculation.

As you all know the term of office of my Presidency will come to an end next year. It will become necessary for us to hold elections sometime next year to elect the next President.

According to our Constitution a general election of the members of Parliament shall be held within three months after the dissolution of Parliament. In the case of the election of the President the election is to be held during the period of three months beginning with the date when the office of President becomes vacant.

As President one of my constitutional responsibilities is to dissolve Parliament in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution in order to pave the way for the holding of the elections. It has been customary to announce the date of the elections on the occasion of the dissolution of Parliament. However after due consultations with the National Electoral Commission, I am pleased to announce today that the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections will be held on 28 July 2007 in accordance with the provisions of our Constitution. But I must hasten to state that the declaration of this date does not mean the start of political campaign activities. The Electoral Commission will determine the start of campaigning.

With this announcement I hope all the speculations and rumours surrounding the date for the holding of the elections will now be laid to rest. We can now prepare ourselves to ensure that the elections themselves will be conducted in a peaceful and conducive democratic environment.

The decision to announce the date almost one year before the conduct of the election itself is a further demonstration of my government's continuing commitment to pursuing the path of good governance and of promoting the democratic electoral process.

We have every reason to be confident because our past performance in the electoral process has been commendable. We have successfully conducted three sets of elections; Parliamentary and Presidential elections in 1996, and 2002, and also local council elections in 2004 and over seventy paramount chieftaincy elections from 2003 to now. All these elections which have been judged as free and fair marked a significant milestone in advancing participatory democracy and in consolidating the peace process.

We have established and reinforced independent political institutions vital for the effective practice of democracy. This can be seen in the establishment of the Political Parties Registration Commission and the restructuring of the National Electoral Commission. Both Commissions are currently engaged in developing procedures for the smooth conduct of the elections.

The Political Parties Registration Commission is in the process of preparing a code of conduct which will govern the conduct of all political parties, party members, candidates and their supporters before and during the elections. The code will require all political parties, members, supporters and candidates to comply strictly with rules and regulations that will ensure free, fair and peaceful elections.

I have also been briefed that the National Electoral Commission is developing topics to encourage candidates to focus during their campaigns only on national developmental issues and issues which will promote national cohesion. This will help create a healthy campaign environment for the discussion of subjects relevant to our national development. It will also compel parties to present only clear and coherent policies or programmes to the voters. In this way voters will have the opportunity to choose candidates according to the respective party programmes or policies presented to them.

There is general consensus that we have continued to consolidate the gains from restoring peace and security and re-establishing democracy and political stability. This can be seen in the existence of a free press and vibrant civil society organisations. Political debates are being freely carried out both in the print and electronic media all over the country. Our new democracy which we have built on a solid foundation is growing from strength to strength.

We are determined to maintain a safe and secure environment in which free and fair elections can be held and our political differences can be resolved through dialogue. In this regard I would like to appeal to all Sierra Leoneans as I have always done to see the forthcoming elections not as a warfare between warlords but purely as a friendly contest. It is only when we practise our democracy in this way that winners and losers can accept the result and continue to live once more in peace and harmony at all times for the sustainable development of our country.

I consider that the new initiatives of the Political Parties Registration Commission and the National Electoral Commission as outlined here can go a great way in further enhancing the peace that we now enjoy and in promoting the proper and conducive atmosphere for a really true democratic election which can only benefit our country.

I thank you for your attention and may God bless Sierra Leone.