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Sierra Leone: UN, partners voice ‘utmost concern’ at electoral violence

Sierra Leone: UN, partners voice ‘utmost concern’ at electoral violence

The United Nations and its international partners have voiced renewed concern at widely reported cases of intimidation and violence ahead of elections in Sierra Leone next month, calling on all concerned to avoid incitement and provocation in the small West African country that is still recovering from a disastrous decade-long civil war.

“The UN and international community remain fully committed to supporting credible, fair and violence-free elections,” the partners said in a weekend statement, which welcomed positive steps by the Government, including a successful voter registration exercise and preparations for polling, counting, tallying and the announcement of results.

“However, since the official start of campaigning, cases of intimidation and violence have been widely reported. We view this development with utmost concern. It constitutes a threat to the democratic process. It also goes against the interests of the people of Sierra Leone, who want peaceful, free and credible elections,” they added.

The statement called upon leaders of all political parties to promote a peaceful campaign and prevent provocative conduct on the part of their supporters as the country prepares to vote in presidential and parliamentary elections on 11 August, the second since emerging from the civil war in 2002.

It urged the political parties, Paramount Chiefs and the media to respect the codes of conduct that they have signed and to use existing and legitimate mechanisms to resolve disputes peacefully.

“We urge all political parties to use accredited party agents at polling stations to monitor the elections. The leaders of all political parties are urged to declare that they will accept the results of the elections and to encourage their supporters to do the same,” it added.

Sierra Leone is one of the first beneficiaries of the UN’s new Peacebuilding Fund, launched last October to ensure that countries emerging from war and conflict do not relapse back into strife. Earlier this month the Fund approved four new projects to support the ongoing electoral process and improve the judiciary, water, sanitation and health facilities.