WATHI propose une sélection de documents sur le contexte économique, social et politique en Sierra Leone. Chaque document est présenté sous forme d’extraits qui peuvent faire l’objet de légères modifications. Les notes de bas ou de fin de page ne sont pas reprises dans les versions de WATHI. Nous vous invitons à consulter les documents originaux pour toute citation et tout travail de recherche.
Sierra Leone: Constitution and politics
Status: Republic with executive president
Independence: 27 April 1961
The independence constitution was abrogated during the series of military coups which followed. The 1971 constitution allowed for a ceremonial president; an amendment later that year created an executive presidency. A new constitution in 1978 established a one-party state, with the All People’s Congress as the recognised party, and there was further constitutional amendment in 1985. The 1991 constitution marked a return to a multiparty system, with many of the parliamentary features of the independence constitution, though the country was to remain a republic with an executive presidency. Implementation of this constitution was interrupted by an army coup.
The National Provisional Ruling Council became the governing body, and rule was by decree. These developments were in turn reversed by the implementation of the 1995 constitution, which (with amendments) restored the 1991 constitution, returning the country to a multiparty system with an executive presidency and a unicameral legislature. For the elections of May 2002, the legislature had a total of 124 members, comprising 112 directly elected – eight in each of 14 constituencies – and 12 paramount chiefs. Presidential and parliamentary elections are held at least every five years, under universal adult suffrage and proportional representation. The president forms a government and appoints a cabinet.
Following signature of the July 1999 peace agreement UN peacekeepers proceeded with disarming rebel troops and took control over a growing area of the country, and in May 2002 presidential and parliamentary elections were held with Commonwealth observers present. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah and the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) won a landslide victory, receiving about 70 per cent of the votes in the presidential election, defeating Ernest Bai Koroma, and in the parliamentary elections taking 83 of the 112 elective seats; Koroma’s All People’s Congress (APC) secured 27 seats and the Peace and Liberation Party two. The Revolutionary United Front Party failed to secure any seats. The Commonwealth observers said that the conditions were such as to enable the will of the people to be expressed.
In the parliamentary elections in August 2007, the APC was the largest party with 59 seats, the SLPP won 43 seats and People’s Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) ten. The simultaneous first round of the presidential election was won by APC leader Ernest Bai Koroma with 44 per cent of votes; the incumbent SLPP candidate, Solomon Berewa, came second with 38 per cent and Charles Margai of PMDC third with 14 per cent. Since no candidate received the 55 per cent needed to secure the presidency, the leading two candidates, Koroma and Berewa, went into a second round. Koroma received 54.6 per cent of second-round votes and was sworn in as President. Commonwealth observers reported that both parliamentary and presidential elections had been conducted in a democratic, credible and professional way in accordance with internationally accepted standards.
Presidential, parliamentary and local council elections were held in November 2012 with Commonwealth observers present. President Koroma was re-elected with 58.7 per cent of the votes cast, his main challenger, the SLPP’s candidate, Julius Maada Bio, taking 37.4 per cent. In the parliamentary elections the APC secured 67 of 112 directly elective seats and the SLPP 42. The Commonwealth observers concluded that ‘the organisation and conduct of these elections had met international standards and benchmarks for free and transparent multiparty elections’.
Sierra Leone: Country Profile
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Legal system: Three different legal systems coexist in Sierra Leone. General law, based on the British colonial-era system, is administered through a formal court system comprising the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, the High Court of Justice and magistrates’ courts. The President appoints, and Parliament approves, justices for these courts. Customary law, consisting of unwritten traditional codes and practices, is protected in the constitution and administered by local/chieftaincy courts. An estimated 85% of the population falls under the jurisdiction of this form of law. Statutes in Islamic law concerning marriage, divorce, and inheritance are also applied locally.
Local councils: The councils (14 district and five city councils) are the highest political authority in the localities, and have legislative and executive powers. Each local council is led by a chairman or, in the case of city councils, a mayor, elected ACAPS – Country profile Sierra Leone 3 by universal suffrage, who is responsible for overseeing the implementation of council decisions, for submitting an annual budget, and supervising the Local Council Chief Administrator.
Chiefdom governance: The power of the paramount chief is determined by the local social order and cultural beliefs. In theory, chiefs can be questioned by tribal authorities, but in practice these authorities are often co-opted through gifts or informal alliances. The ultimate oversight institution of chiefdom government is Parliament, however, this mechanism is weak. Chiefs are meant to be politically neutral, supporting the current Government, but in practice chiefs mobilise local support for Freetown politicians in return for patronage, as central government grants alone are often insufficient to pay wages at chiefdom levels.
Decentralisation: After the war, internal and external influences pushed for more decentralised institutions. DFID, the EU, the World Bank, UNDP and other donors believed that the country’s instability was due to the geographical and political marginalisation of some parts of society. In 2004, the Local Governance Act put councils as the single highest authority in the jurisdiction, and the chairman of the council as the most politically powerful. As a result, the population experienced improvements in service delivery, the health sector especially receiving more funding. Local authorities were in theory more accountable, although participation in local elections remains moderate, lower than national elections. Marginalised groups, such as women and ethnic minorities, have been the largest beneficiaries of the new space for political participation.
However, chiefs still see themselves as the highest political order, especially where resources and land come into play. The reintroduction of the chieftaincy system in 2004 appears to have allowed the same rural elite, mainly older men, to maintain political power and control over resources. Rather than empowering local councils further, national elites seem to be following a strategy of divide and rule, preventing local councils from becoming strong enough to seriously challenge the political hegemony of the centre.
Security forces: Originally established in 1894, the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) is one of the oldest police forces in West Africa. After independence, the security sector remained highly politicised and based on ethnic and patrimonial alliances. Prior to the war, the SLP was highly politicised and had been used by successive regimes to target political opponents and repress popular dissent. Inadequate and irregular remuneration have since exacerbated corruption. In 2008, the SLP had around 9,500 personnel, of whom 70% were unarmed. Insecurity is widespread. According to the Justice Sector Coordination Office Report in 2010, 54% people felt safe in 2006, and only 40% agreed with that statement four years later.
Military system: After the Sierra Leone civil war ended in 2002, the military was restructured and scaled down to 8,500. The reform and restructuring of the armed forces was prioritised. As Sierra Leone has built up its military, it has looked to taking part in peacekeeping operations and has been deployed to a number of countries, including Somalia in 2013 and Sudan in 2007. The military police and the Legal Defence Unit exercise internal oversight and the Court Martial Board was re-established in 2009. Corruption: More than 90% of Sierra Leoneans surveyed by Transparency International in 2013 said that they had to bribe police and/or judicial or government officials for all aspects of daily life, from avoiding unwarranted traffic tickets to evading false arrest.
Political Stakeholders and Background
Political parties: Party politics became the greatest obstacle to national cohesion and identity, as they created a de facto two-party system dominated by the All People’s Congress (APC) and the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP). The People’s Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC), which split from the SLPP in 2005, tried in vain to establish itself as a third force. While no major violent incidents were witnessed in the November 2012 polls, unlike during previous national elections, the political relationship between APC and SLPP was tense.
Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP): With strongholds in the Southern and Eastern regions of the country, the SLPP dominated the political landscape from the 1950s until 1967. The first Prime Minister was Mende and democratically elected with support of his ethnic group and Krio elites in 1962. This Government polarised public opinion in the country and laid the foundation for military involvement in politics. The party was in power from 1950 to 1967 and from 1996 to 2007. The loss of the 2007 elections was blamed on the newly created PMDC party splitting the Mende vote, weakening the SLPP.
All People’s Congress (APC): The APC is deeply rooted in the Northern region and among the Temne and Limba ethnic groups. In 1967, the APC won the parliamentary elections but was soon deposed by a coup. APC’s leader eventually took office in 1968, then in 1971 banned all other political parties. In 1978, a one-party system was introduced through a new constitution that declared the APC the sole legal party. Political pluralism was re-established through a new constitution in 1991.
2012 elections: Due to its 2007 and 2012 electoral victories, the APC Government of President Ernest Bai Koroma is endowed with some formal democratic legitimacy.? President Koroma was re-elected in 2012 with 58.7% of the vote, ahead of his main challenger, Julius Maada Bio of the SLPP, who garnered 37.4% of the votes. Over 87% of registered voters participated in the election. The APC took 67 of 112 parliamentary seats. In contrast, the SLPP ceded significant electoral ground in the Southern and Eastern regions. The PMDC lost its ten parliamentary seats and is holding on to a single local council seat in Pujehun district. In 2012, ten parties contested the elections, compared to six in 2007.
Sierra Leone: Political Parties
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Political parties are free to register and operate in the country. As of August 2016, a total of 11 political parties were registered with the Political Parties Registration Commission. Opposition parties complained that the ruling APC engaged in intimidation of other parties. In June supporters of the opposition Alliance Democratic Party reported that supporters of the ruling APC smeared feces on the party’s Lunsar office and attacked the vehicle of the leader of the party.
A high level of public skepticism about the electoral process pervades Sierra Leonean society. The All-People’s Congress, or APC, had been the ruling political party in Sierra Leone since the military handed power to Siaka Stevens in 1968. Having decided to institute a one-party state in 1978, the APC worked hard, in many ways, to assure its continued domination over the country’s political system. This included active intervention by APC officials in virtually all sectors of Sierra Leonean society. APC dominance was further maintained by single party monopolization of the national media – essentially, radio programming, which is broadcast to over two-thirds of the country – with the written press and television reaching only a tiny sector of the urban populace.
The nation’s president and head of the APC, first Siaka Stevens, then Joseph Momoh, had been accused of firing those local chiefs whom the APC found politically untrustworthy, in this way assuring APC loyalty even at the village level. As a consequence of this tradition of APC political dominance, it will be very important for the holding of free and fair elections in 1992 for the government to make clear to the public that it was impartial and would not act to assure an APC victory. The public perception of government impartiality was virtually as important as the actual practice of government leaders at election time. In mid-1991, following the constitutional referendum, as many as nine political parties were created, and one, the Sierra Leone People’s Party, was revived. They were all allowed to open offices and function freely. Of these parties, six (in addition to the ruling APC) have thus far officially registered.
These new political parties include the:
People’s Democratic Party (PDP), whose president is Thaimu Bangura;
National Action Party (NAP), headed by Shaka Kanu;
Democratic People’s Party (DPP), led by Jibril Alhaji Koroma;
National Democratic Party (NDP), headed by Ahmed Morie Bangura;
Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), led by Salia Jusu Sheriff; and,
Unity Party (UP), headed by Mohammed Amadu Deen.
There were two immediately noteworthy characteristics of Sierra Leone’s principal opposition political parties: they were very recently formed, several being two months old in December 1991, and most of the major parties are led by former APC leaders who had served as leading officials within the government for many years.
It would take some time for these new parties to “wet their feet” in the newly accessible political waters, but the fact that national elections would not be held until at least mid-1992 would make it possible for these parties to more effectively consolidate their party organizations. It appeared that the ruling government is working hard to create a highly pluralistic political environment in which the opposition parties are allowed to freely carry out their activities.
The fact that the vast majority of the political elites who constituted the leaderships of the principal opposition parties are recently resigned former members of the APC led many observers to question the integrity of the new party system. As one interviewee noted, the danger is that multi-party elections could bring a change of the tires of the car, rather than of the car itself. Would multi-party elections in Sierra Leone lead to a meaningful change of political leaders with the presently constituted parties? The answer to this question lies beyond the scope of this report, and ultimately only the people of Sierra Leone can provide an adequate response. However, it is important for the success of the democratization process to highlight the need for opposition party leaders to publicly clarify the distinctiveness of each party in order to overcome the view in many circles that the scope of choice provided by the new political parties is excessively narrow.
President Momoh’s effort to introduce a multiparty political system provoked an internal APC conflict in 1991, with younger party members backing political reform and older party stalwarts opposing it. The younger, reformist wing of the APC appeared eager to move the country toward multi-party democracy and to assure the carrying out of free and fair elections. However, some of the older, conservative wing of the APC continued to resist these changes and may seek to find ways to assure an APC electoral victory.
The pro-democracy faction within the APC had the advantage of relying on President Momoh as its ally. Nonetheless, the President and other government leaders will need to make strenuous efforts to convince the Sierra Leonean public that pro-democracy advocates have the upper hand within the APC. Failure to convince the general populace of this is likely to lead to rising public concern that President Momoh lacks adequate power over the APC party bosses and militants to assure that the APC plays by the constitutional rules before, during and following elections.
In May 1992, after its term had been extended by one year, the 127-member House of Representatives was dissolved in the wake of the military coup d’Etat of the previous month. The election date – for President of the Republic and Parliament – was set on 5 December 1995. The following month, the Head of State, Capt. Valentine Strasser, was ousted in another coup, and Brigadier-General Julius Bio ascended to power at the head of a National Provisional Ruling Council. He vowed to hold the elections as scheduled and called on the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF), which had waged civil war in the country since 1991, to participate in peace negotiations. The RUF, for its part, opposed polling prior to a peace accord with the Government.
Altogether 13 parties contested the 68 parliamentary seats at stake. Prominent among them was the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), the country’s oldest political organisation which had ruled from independence in 1961 to 1967; and the All People’s Congress (APC), in power from 1968 to 1992. The two leading presidential candidates among the 12 in contention were Ahmad Tejan Kabbah of the SLPP and John Karifa-Smart of the United National People’s Party (UNPP), both former officials in the United Nations system. In the legislative races, the SLPP emerged as the victor but fell short of an absolute majority; this could nevertheless be attained with the 24 seats captured by its four allies. The presidential contest required a runoff on 15 March, which was won b Kabbah. The overall outcome brought an end to the country’s 19 years of one-party or military rule.
In the elections held in May 2002 five months after the official end of the civil war the proportional representation system was applied as a temporary measure following massive population displacement which had made a constituency-based electoral system impractical. The ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah took 83 of the 112 directly elected seats while the main opposition party All People’s Congress (APC) took 27. The remainder went to a small party the Peace and Liberation Party (PLP). The former rebel group the Revolutionary United Front Party (RUFP) failed to win a seat. Under the SLPP-led government the country has made significant progress in consolidating peace and rebuilding basic government institutions. However it came under severe criticism from international donors such as Britain over widespread corruption and economic mismanagement.
Parliamentary elections which were originally scheduled for 28 July 2007 were postponed to 11 August due to logistical problems. The 2007 elections which were held in parallel with presidential elections were the first since United Nations peacekeepers (UNAMSIL) left the country in December 2005. They were deemed as a test of the country’s recovery from a civil war that lasted from 1991 to 2002 in which some 120,000 people were reportedly killed. In the 2007 elections the first-past-the-post system was re-established. By the official deadline for voters’ registration of 18 Mach 2007 over 2.6 million citizens had registered representing 91 per cent of the estimated eligible population of 2 873 000.
In all 566 candidates from seven political parties contested the 2007 elections. However only three of them were deemed to have any reasonable chance of entering parliament: the ruling SLPP the main opposition APC and the People’s Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC). The PMDC is a breakaway party from the SLPP which was formed in January 2006. Outgoing President Tejan Kabbah was constitutionally barred from running for the presidential elections having served the maximum two terms as president.
The SLPP which has its stronghold in the south and east of the country endorsed outgoing Vice President Mr. Solomon Berewa as its presidential candidate. The APC which has support in the north of the country was led by Mr. Ernest Bai Koroma who was considered to be Mr. Berewa’s main rival in the presidential race. The PMDC was led by Mr. Charles Margai a former SLPP member and son of former prime minister Albert Margai.
A total of 9 candidates were nominated for the 2012 Presidential Election, 602 candidates Ordinary Members of Parliamentary Election, 19 candidates for Paramount Chief Members of Parliament (PCMP), 31 for Mayoral, 47 for Chairmen and 1,546 for Councillors – making a total of 2,254 nominated for all elections. However, PCMP elections were conducted in four districts (Kenema, Kono, Koinadugu and Bonthe) while the other districts went uncontested.
In consultation with political parties, National Electoral Commission (NEC) drew up a Political Campaign Timeline which legitimised Political Parties Campaign activities to commence from 17th October 2012 to 15th November, 2012. The conduct of political parties in the November 2012 Multiple Elections sent a strong wave of optimism in the democratisation process of Sierra Leone. Political parties manifested that even though they had differences in opinions and ideologies, their differences should not deny Sierra Leoneans their rights to vote and elect a representative of their choice.
The 2012 multiple elections marked the third Presidential and General elections in Sierra Leone after the decade old civil war. Hence the success of these Elections not only continued to mend political fence but it also continues to create assurances at the international level. In addition, it was the first time after the declaration of the end of the war in 2002, that Sierra Leone Government’s contribution to the General Election Budget was greater than that of the donors. In the 2012 Multiple Elections, Sierra Leone decided to go Biometric – that is, the use of Biometric Voter Registration. This is the recognition of humans based on one or more intrinsic physical trait. By subscribing to this Voter Registration Technology, Sierra Leone has successfully joined the rank of advanced democracies in the world in the use of such advanced technology.
In the election held on 17 November 2012 President Ernest Bai Koroma’s All People’s Congress (APC) remained the largest party in parliament, taking 67 of the 112 directly-elected seats. During the campaign, it promised to consolidate stability by improving infrastructure, agriculture and foreign relations. The rival Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) took 42 seats, pledging to work for development, infrastructure, economy and governance. Political parties have an important role to help ensure that the Voter Registration process is carried out in accordance with legal regulations an procedures. They must agree to follow a Code of Conduct prepared by NEC.
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