As citizens of the West African nation wake to an election morning, NEC says it has recruited 70,000 Polling Staff. Our correspondent reports how Sierra Leone is preparing for it Election Day.
By Abubakarr Kamara | The AfricaPaper
FREETOWN, Sierra Leone – The National Electoral Commission (NEC) announced in Freetown that it has recruited an estimate of 70,000 polling staff nationwide. Many have been trained at wards and polling centers on electoral polling and counting procedures.
“NEC is on top of situation and things are going as planned. Ballot papers for the elections arrived on Monday 5th November 2012 at the Lungi International Airport and was witnessed by relevant stakeholders,” said Dr. Christiana A. M. Thorpe, NEC Chairperson “I received the final consignment of four trucks at Government Wharf on Tuesday morning while the next consignment is due by the end of the week.”
The announcement came at a press conference on Tuesday Nov. 6 at the Commission’s Tower Hill headquarters in Freetown.
However, in a bid to restrict vehicular movement on Election Day, the Dr. Thorpe said only accredited vehicles displaying stickers provided by NEC will be authorized to ply the routes between 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM.
“Party flag bearers can be accompanied by three vehicles with no more than four people each,” Said Thorpe, who she further stated that, “They will be required to return home after voting.”
To alleviate transportation challenges on polling day, the Commission has engaged the services Sierra Leone Road Transport Corporation (SLRTC) buses, with sponsorship from the Rokel Commercial Bank, American Chamber of Commerce, and Sam King Group, to ply routes along major streets in Freetown and some district headquarter towns on polling day free of cost.
From 24 buses acquired, 11 will be allocated in the Western Area, of which, nine will commute within Freetown and two between Waterloo and along the Peninsular unto Goderich. Two buses each will be allocated for Bo, Kenema and Makeni Cities, one bus each for Pujehun, Koinadugu, Port Loko, Kambia, Bonthe-Mainland, Tonkolili and Moyamba Districts.
“Commuters will not pay for the bus services but must produce voter ID cards to gain access and two NEC staff will be on duty to verify voter ID cards and also to supervise operations on board the buses,” said Dr. Thorpe. “Priority will be given to the aged, physically challenged, pregnant women and lactating mothers.”
Various representatives from the registered political parties were asked by The AfricaPaper to comment on the polling-day arrangements, and agreed with the conditions. However, the representative from Citizen Democratic Party (CDP) was quick to note that the blind and amputees were not given preferential treatment in the execution of their democratic rights.
“I was hoping to see a mechanism put in place to enable the blind and amputees vote without the aid of another person. But NEC says, they are not prepared for that and it is their right to provide it,” said Joshua Albert Carew, CDP Presidential Candidate.
Meanwhile, some 2,692,695 registered voters will decide on November 17, who among the nine presidential candidates will lead the country for the next five years. There are 9, 493 polling stations with 2, 995 voting centers nationwide.
The president may invoke Military Action to Civil Power (MACP) if election violence erupts on the Election Day.