Sierra Leonean Women Are Speaking Up About Harassment, Abuse, and Intimidation
Polling agents and elections observers should be free from harassment. Still, numerous reports say that was not the case in a recent by-election in Koinadugu, the largest district in Sierra Leone and one of the least densely populated.
"It has become too much the case that thugs overrun our polling stations during bye-elections with the police throwing their hands in the air as if it is not their job to keep the peace," wrote Vickie Remoe, a media producer. She writes about society, culture, and good governance in Sierra Leone.
A leading voice in the widespread condemnation of elections violence and intimidation, Remoe praised the Sierra Leonean observers of National Election Watch (NEW) for their commitment to transparency at our polling stations. "Had it not been for their diligence, we would not have the facts," she said.
The following Sunday, on Africa Young Voices (AYV) television, Lahai Lawrence Leema, the deputy minister of internal affairs, launched attacks on Marcella Samba Sesay while on-air with AYV's Samuel Wise Bangura. Marcella has worked as the executive director of the Campaign for Good Governance (CGG) and the chairperson of NEW.
One viewer wrote that instead of addressing the allegations of election fraud and violence raised by NEW and the opposition party, the All People's Congress (APC), Leema launched attacks on Marcella and her husband on national television.
"This is the kind of political intimidation some of our brave women face every day, putting their lives at risk," noted the observer on social media. "Unfortunately, this has become a pattern," they added.
First was (Freetown) Mayor Aki-Sawyerr, next, Femi Claudius-Cole, leader of the Unity Political Party in Sierra Leone, then Lara Taylor Peace, auditor general of Sierra Leone, and now Marcella Samba-Sesay.
"Lahai Lawrence Leema, I condemn your act of bullying and intimidation against Marcella Samba-Sesay. And to Marcella Samba-Sesay, I stand in solidarity with you because I am that woman who says *"NO TO POLITICAL INTIMIDATION."