Uncertainty over fate of Sierra Leone’s NEC chairman prevails

The fate of the head of Sierra Leone’s National Electoral Commission (NEC) has been thrown into doubt with the appointment of a commissioner in acting capacity after the substantive commissioner went on terminal leave.
Mohamed N’Fa Allie Conteh’s leave is scheduled to end in February 2020, and that also marks the end of his first term in office. He will require his contract to be renewed by the president for him to continue.

Before he left, Conteh wrote to the presidency, addressing the expiry of his tenure. The response of State House, which was leaked on social media, indicated that someone was appointed as chairman in acting capacity. That left the public talking about the intention of the government.

The electoral commissioner can serve not more than two terms of five years each. Conteh was appointed by former President Ernest Bai Koroma. He presided over the disputed presidential election that brought Bio into power in 2018.

It is therefore a surprise to many that his term will not be renewed. However, a government spokesman on Thursday, 2 January 2020, rejected suggestions about the president’s intention.

Information Minister Mohamed Rahman Swaray said whatever decision President Julius Maada Bio would take, would be done in line with constitutional provision.

“This president respects democracy. N’Fa Allie still remains the NEC chairman. His terminal leave will end soon – February,” Swaray said in a radio interview.

However, he declined to comment on the possibility of him coming.“The president will respect the law, but whether [Conteh] comes or not will be a matter for another day,” he said.

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