Corona Virus Disease known for short as COVID-19 and politicking are strange bed fellows and a ban has been slammed on political activities.
The ban, authorities say, is to contain the spread of the virus which slowly destroys the country’s economy.
But, opposition parties especially the main opposition, All People’s Congress (APC) sees the ban as a form of prolonging the elections.
The mandate of APC’s executive comes to an end on 15th October this year, and a convention must be held to choose another executive.
The APC convention has to be put on hold if the ban remains in force.
The ban on politicking coincides with seeming government’s moves for a seven-year term.
The bill for the term, sources say, will soon be tabled in parliament for debates. Hopes by government to pass the bill into the law are high since it now commands majority in parliament.
Government is ready to justify its passage into law on the basis that it was begun by APC in its last days of its second-term mandate.
A prolonged 2023 elections is expected in light of COOVID-19 pandemic as the virus has shown no sign of receding.
The indefinite ban slammed on political parties’ regulator, Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) is a strong testimony of a foreseen prolongation.
The PPRC ban says no political party should embark on any form of politicking until the virus shows of recedes.
The ban was issued ostensibly to ensure that the virus is controlled and stopped from causing more harm to society.
National Covid-19 Response Centre (NACOVERC), few days back, puts the figure of Covid-19 cases at 2, 2023.
The statistics is sure to roll as the country continues to record new cases.
It is clear that Covid-19 restrictions are not friendly to an election atmosphere.
Congestion is prohibited during Covid-19, social or physical distancing is prescribed and most importantly wearing of facemasks is a norm.
The manner in which political rallies and campaigns are conducted, one will be right to foresee a blatant breach of COVID-19 rules.
However, the indefinite nature of the ban has been the main area of criticism made by political parties considering that every passing day takes the country to the elections.
Opposition politicians are calling for a definite timeline for the conduct of the 2023 elections in Sierra Leone.
One of the country’s civil society organisations has argued that Sierra Leone is under a state of public emergency which means government could resort to any action to stem the tide of the virus.
Government proclaimed a state of public emergency in April this year so that it can better position itself to combat the deadly virus.
As always the case, in a state of public emergency the fundamental rights, civil liberties and freedoms of the individual are considerably curtailed.
Most times the collective brutal actions of the security forces constitute an affront to the dignity of peaceful and defenceless civilians.
The operatives wear the apparel of law enforcers of the state of public emergency, but usually without the required professionalism.
It happened in Sierra Leone where a great number of police and military officers had it hot with the civil populace during the state of emergency.
A number of tortures and other serious forms of human rights abuse were reported during the emergency, but none was investigated.
Politicians in opposition parties, especially the main opposition have become highly suspicious of the indefinite ban.
Most of them made reference to the parliamentary debates that led to the pronouncement of the state of emergency from the throne.
Opposition parliamentarians were assured by the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Sengepoh Thomas during the approval debates that no politician would be arrested or harassed during the emergency period.
“The state of emergency will be directed only to the campaign against the virus,” he assured at that time.
The assurance made opposition parliamentarians to take ownership of the campaign and voted in favour of the state of the emergency.
Once approved by parliament, the state of emergency gained legal status, and it went unchallenged within public domain.
Today, opposition parliamentarians especially the main opposition, APC alleges that most of their officials were arrested during Covid-19 state of emergency.
As the PPRC ban has again descended on the political parties, they have come to see it as another threat to their political existence.
APC executive is on the verge of holding its national convention to have a new executive that will run the party’s affairs towards the elections. But, it has to be put on hold until the ban is lifted.
Members of the public have not reserved their condemnations for the PPRC ban saying it is a government manipulation.
A critical look into the prevailing global circumstances indicates that the opposition’s accusations are substantial, and must not be treated with a pinch of salt.
Most parts of the world where COVID-19 have wreaked the greatest havoc are going into elections.
Officials in various countries have been trained to conduct elections during Covid-19 period.
Africa has also held an election during the COVID-19 period without any major incident.
The United States, the world’s greatest nation where the virus wreaked the greatest havoc are into elections.
COVID-19 caused a death toll of over 100,000, but it has not stopped the Americans from going into the polls as heated debates and campaigns to have the next President are on-going.
Former President, Joe Byden and the incumbent, Donald Trump are seriously selling their ideologies through campaign trails.
The disruptive nature of viral attacks especially for weak states is glaring owing to its destructive nature.
Those on the other side of the argument have claimed that the country for now may not have sufficient money to run elections.
They say the ‘New Direction’ Government took over power from former President Koroma at a time the country was plagued with a heavy debt burden.
The argument goes that critical sectors of the economy have to be financed to prevent a collapse of the state.
In this current situation, an election may not be a priority for the government, but to address other areas of the economy in light of the prevailing circumstances.
However, Professor Karim Bangura is a renowned Sierra Leonean academic based in the United States.
He had earlier warned African countries not to embark on any activity that will prolong the virus since their economies are weak. He said they should not hope for loans and donations.
“African countries must make good use of the warm weather they are blessed with to contain the virus,” he urged.
Professor Bangura is a revered lecturer in Howard University, one of the prestigious universities in the United States.
He is also a well-known UN consultant, and has done a lot of researches to contribute to the academic university.
The global health watchdog, World Health Organisation (WHO) has predicted that COVID-19 would always be with people like any other disease known to mankind.
WHO’s forecast has been interpreted by many school of thoughts who hold varying shades of opinions.
To many Sierra Leoneans, the prediction is an insinuation that life has to get back to normal in the face of COVID-19.
Most countries in the world have gravitated towards WHO’s prediction as they hold elections which is a way of life in a democratic order.
Government’s move to postpone the 2022 elections and 2023 elections to 2024 became clear in April this year.
2022 is a date set aside for the conduct of local council elections while 2023 is meant for the conduct of the presidential and parliamentary elections.
Prominent legislation: the Local Government Act of 2024 and the Constitution of Sierra Leone, 1991 support the conduct of the country’s multi-tier elections on the said dates.
The SLPP’s twist for other dates to conduct the multi- tier elections has met with resistance from the European Union and other members of the diplomatic community.
An EU Press release in April this year seems not to agree with government which it forced to comply with the normal dates of the elections.
It is a worrying signal for the ‘New Direction’ Government to face such resistance by the international community.
The ‘New Direction, Government seems quite hopeful that it would successfully copy the Ernest Koroma’s style when Ebola Virus disrupted his rule for nearly two years.
Most Sierra Leoneans seem less ready for the ban and call on PPRC to reconsider its decision.
They refer to the ban as a political gimmick to unjustifiably offer an advantage to the incumbent.