ECOWAS intervenes in Sierra Leone parliamentary crisis

The ECOWAS Community Parliament has concluded its intervention mission in the Sierra Leone’s parliamentary crisis.

Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament Moustapha Cisse Lo selected a parliamentary mission, from April 29 to May 2, to look into reports that police forcibly removed elected members of parliament of the opposition party.

The elected members are from All People’s Congress (APC), who had already taken the oath of office.

The mission, in its Preliminary Statement, noted that the leadership of Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) and the APC had agreed to work towards an amicable resolution of issues.

The statement was signed by Mr Edwin Snowe Jnr, Head of Mission, Mr Mahama Ayariga, member and Secretary and Mr Sale Poli, Member.

It was reported that tensions developed on April 23 after the country’s High Court Justice Alusine Sesay placed injunctions on 14 elected APC parliamentarians and two SLPP politicians, barring them from participating in the parliament’s opening session.

The injunctions followed claims by the SLPP that opposition party, APC, had illegally received government salaries throughout their election campaigns.

However, on April 24, violent clashes between rival party members outside parliament shut down the proceedings before they began.

The tensions in Freetown led to police officers on April 25 escorting 16 members of the APC’s party from the chamber for disruptive behaviour.

The number of injunctions against APC parliamentarians also rose to 16.

The opposition APC called for the high court injunctions imposed on 16 of their members to be lifted before they could return to parliament.

The SLPP also insisted that the opposition party go to the High Court to argue its case and prove itself innocent of all charges relating to electoral malpractice.

The ECOWAS Parliament Mission to Sierra Leone, however, stated that both parties had agreed to take immediate steps to ensure the vacation of the court’s interim orders of injunction.

“This measure will pave the way for the swearing-in of all the 68 Members of Parliament elected on the ticket of the APC and all the 49 Members of Parliament elected on the ticket of the SLPP.

“This will provide for the people of Sierra Leone a fully and properly constituted parliament, consistent with the popular will.

“Thereafter, members can deal with any outstanding matters in accordance with the Constitution and Laws of the Republic of Sierra Leone as well as the Standing Orders of the Parliament of Sierra Leone.”

The mission further said it was confident that the leadership of Sierra Leone would deal with outstanding issues in a way that would sustain democracy and ensure the well being of all.

Earlier, on April 27, a joint high-level delegation of ECOWAS and the United Nations, aimed at helping the return of normalcy in the Parliament, concluded a four-day visit to Freetown.

The delegation comprised the ECOWAS Commission President, Mr Jean-Claude Brou and the Special Representative of UN Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel, Mr Mohamed Ibn Chambas.

According to a joint statement by the UN and ECOWAS, the delegation held wide consultations with former President Ernest Bai Koroma, the Speaker, Clerk and leadership of Parliament from the ruling and opposition parties.

Consultations were also held with, the Chair of the Governance Transition Team, religious leaders, members of civil society organisations, members of the Diplomatic Corps, and the United Nations Country Team.

The delegation recommended the establishment of effective mechanisms of dialogue to resolve political differences and urged political leadership to desist from actions that could undermine state peace and stability.

“Similarly, the Delegation encourages the Judiciary to ensure prompt, fair, independent and timely adjudication of all grievances and pending petitions regarding the recently concluded electoral process.

“The delegation underlines the confidence of ECOWAS and the United Nations in Sierra Leone’s democratic system to promote national cohesion through a sustained process of dialogue,” it stated. (NAN)