Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Sierra Leone election results...

Sierra Leone Election News. Freetown, Sierra Leone: The last 24 hours have been a little tense in Sierra Leone as we have been waiting for the results to be announced from the presidential election held on 7 March 2018. 

There was a lot of anticipation on the 12th of March 2018 with the hopes that the results would be announced by the National Electoral Commission (NEC). There were rumors that they would communicate at 14:00 hrs, then 16:00 hrs, then 19:00 hrs. However, the announcement did not take place and instead we were informed that ballot papers were going to be recounted at 72 polling stations in various districts. This was in addition to recounts in 82 polling stations, announced the previous day. These recounts were being conducted after deliberations with political parties. 

During the day on the 13th of March there were more rumours that the results would be announced. Finally at 16:30 hours, NEC announced that there would be a briefing held at a press conference at 19:00 hrs today. 

At 19:00 hrs today thousands of people in Sierra Leone were tuned in to their radios, waiting in suspense for NEC's announcement. Finally, at 19:46 hrs, NEC announced the election results for the presidential election with the opposition party, SLPP, leading with 43.3% of the votes and the ruling party, APC, closely behind with 42.7%. Since neither party has 55% or more of the votes, a run-off election will be held on 27 March 2018, two weeks from today.  NGC has 6.9% of the votes, C4C 3.5% and the remaining 12 parties all have 1.1% or less. 

NEC reports that the results from 221 polling stations were excluded, including stations where votes cast exceeded the number of registered voters at those stations.  Also, after deliberations with political parties, recounts were conducted in 154 polling stations, none of these results were nullified. 

There were 3,178,663 people registered to vote, of which 2,676,549 people voted (with 139,427 invalid votes), meaning there was a 84.2% voter turnout on 7 March 2018. 

Well done Sierra Leone for conducting a credible election. Let's continue to keep the peace in the lead up to the run-off and the transition of power to whoever is elected as the next President of Sierra Leone. 

National Electoral Commission results: 13 March 2018

#SierraLeoneDecides #SierraLeoneElections #sierraleone #keepthepeace #undivided #votesalone #presidentialelections #NEC #votesalone

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Let girls be girls...

Today on International Women’s Day I want to be a voice for the many girls, who are yet to become women; those who have already experienced pregnancy. Sierra Leone has the 7th highest adolescent pregnancy rate in the world, with 38% of women aged 20-24 giving birth by the age of 18. This has significant consequences for their own health and that of their baby, as well as vast socioeconomic impact. Children bearing children. This is wrong. 

Sierra Leone has some of the highest maternal, infant and child mortality rates in the world and 40% of maternal deaths are as a result of adolescent pregnancy. Infants born to teenage mothers are at higher risk, with stillbirths and deaths in the first week of life being 50% higher, compared with babies born to 20-29 year olds. 46% of adolescents with no education become pregnant, compared to 22% with secondary education or higher. The third most common cause for school dropout among girls is pregnancy. Education is crucial. For every year a girl remains in primary school her income increases by 10-20% with an extra year of secondary school increasing earnings by 15-25%. These wages are likely to be reinvested into their families, creating better opportunities for their children. Every year of secondary school may reduce child marriage by 5% and for each additional year of girl education, child mortality decreased by 9.5%.

There are many health and gender inequalities that contribute to adolescent pregnancy: poverty, lack of education, gendered social norms, child marriage, traditional practices, and the list goes on. Girls in other countries face similar risks. What is being done about this? Can we do more?

As we stand up for women today, let us also stand up for girls. Let’s educate them and empower them. Let’s provide the needed health and social services for them. Let’s enforce legislation that protects them. As the government in Sierra Leone states: “Let girls be girls, not mothers”. 

Let’s work together to make this happen. Whether you are a government official,  or a teacher, or a nurse, or a social worker, or a stay at home mother, or an aunty, or a grandmother, let’s all play our part. Change policies, provide better services, be a positive role model. Encourage. Empower. Educate. For the girls you have the privilege to interact with, invest in them and raise them up to be strong women.  

#internationalwomensday #letgirlsbegirls #empowergirls #educategirls #endchildmarriage #educationforall #genderequality #healthcareforall #raisestrongwomen #adolescentpregnancy #teenagepregnancy

Note: Data in this post is taken from my end of module project for my Masters in Public Health submitted 28 February 2018.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Sierra Leone Decides...

7 March 2018, Freetown, Sierra Leone 

Today was a big day in Sierra Leone as voters went to cast their votes at the polling stations. Across the country 11,000 polling stations were open for voting between 7 am and 5 pm and according to the National Electoral Commission, 3,178,663 people were registered to vote. At some polling stations, people starting lining up at 2 am, at others it was later, but by 7 am, most of the stations were open to voters. The voters were each given 4 ballots to vote for Presidential, Parliamentary, Local Council and Mayoral candidates. Once the ballots were marked, they were immediately deposited into the designated ballot boxes. After polling stations closed at 5pm, the manual counting of the votes began.

The day was peaceful and there was a great atmosphere in the air. I was able to visit two polling centres and it was great to sense the excitement. From what I could see, and from what I’ve read, NEC organised the election extremely well, and in most polling stations, it has been reported that voting was carried out well.

It wasn’t until after 5pm that there was some commotion reported in a few different areas in Freetown. Apparently the police searched the premises of the main opposition leader, where he and his team were monitoring the elections, on allegations that they were hacking results. This intrusion led to commotion. Thankfully the former Ghanaian President, also head of the Commonwealth election observer mission, diffused the situation. It is of note that counting of votes is all done manually.

A time of waiting and anticipation has begun and many people will be listening to their radios over the coming days while the counting continues. NEC will announce initial results once 25% of the votes have been counted and verified.

Let’s wait patiently and peacefully. Amazing patriotism was shown today. Please continue to make Sierra Leone proud. Stand United.

#SierraLeoneDecides #SierraLeoneElections #sierraleonevotes #presidentialelection #sierraleoneelection #electionsinsierraleone #sierraleone #undivided #keepthepeace

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Election eve in Sierra Leone...

It’s the eve before the elections. 
What a gorgeous sunset. 
There’s so much excitement in the air today. 
Everyone is talking about the elections. 
People are so keen to vote tomorrow.
Some people are still traveling to whichever town or city they are registered to vote.
A lot of people are scurrying about running errands.
I went to the supermarket after work today.
I’ve never seen it busier.
Many people are stocking up, just in case. 
Hopefully it’s not even necessary.
But maybe it’s better to be safe. 
It’s hard to judge what the risk is anyway. 
Some organisations made staff stay indoors today.
I’ve been going to work and other places using public transport. 
There’s no right approach except to be alert, listen for legitimate updates (there’s a lot of fake news) and be flexible. 
Right now, there’s a good vibe in the air. 
So far so good. 
I hope and pray it stays that way.
Let’s pray that tomorrow’s elections are free and fair. 
And that everyone who registered to vote can get to their polling station despite vehicle bans. 
Soon we will know who the people of Sierra Leone voted for.
The next week will be a week full of anticipation. 
Let’s pray that tomorrow, and the days following the elections are full of peace and unity.
Vote wisely Sierra Leone. 
Make your vote count.

#sierraleonevotes #presidentialelection #sierraleoneelection #electionsinsierraleone #sierraleone #undivided #keepthepeace

Stroll down memory lane: 2007 & 2012 elections...

With less than 24 hours to go until polling stations open in Sierra Leone, I thought I would take us down election memory lane, looking at the two elections I experienced in Sierra Leone in 2007 and 2012.

2007 Presidential election…

11 August 2007: the Presidential elections took place – 7 contenders, 2.6 million people registered to vote, half of which were below 35 years old. The polling stations opened late due to delays of ballot paper deliveries, likely due to heavy rainfall the night before. People lined up as early as 5 am to vast their vote. By evening, in the neighbourhood I lived in at the time, there was already a lot of cheering as their votes had been counted and they knew which party was in the lead at their voting station. Elsewhere in the city there were some disturbances, but nothing serious.

16 August 2007: 34.3% of the 6171 polling stations reported their results. There was a lot of fluctuation in who was taking the lead.

21 August 2007: 93% of the polling stations reported their results, with APC ahead at 44% and SLL following at 38%.

25 August 2007: 14 days after the election, the results of the 1,839,208 votes were announced at 10:00 am as follows: APC 44.34%, SLPP 38.28% and PMDC 13.89% Since no single party won more than 55% of the votes in the first-round, a run-off election was scheduled between the top two candidates.

In the lead up to the run-off elections, more campaigning took place. There was some unrest during this in-between stage, both in Freetown and up-country, in particular Kono, Kenema and Bo districts. Nothing major, however, both parties did agree to hold a peace rally to demonstrate their commitment to a peaceful run-off.

6 September 2007: Peace rally held

8 September 2007: Run-off election was held between APC and SLPP candidates.

11 September 2007: 22.2% of 4793 polling stations processed their results, with preliminary results as follows: APC 64% and SLPP 36%. Counting continued.

17 September 2007: At 10:00 am NEC announced that Ernest Bai Koroma won the presidential run-off. With 54.6% of the 1,740,058 votes, and the SLPP party receiving 45.4% of the votes.

2012 Presidential election…

17 November 2012: Presidential elections were held. Interestingly, on that day there was a vehicle ban in place – this has been demanded again by the Sierra Leone Police for the 2018 elections, however, the ban is being contested in High Court today, the day before the elections.

19 November 2012: 75% of the results from polling stations (9492 total) have been processed.

21 November 2012: There were rumours going around that the results would be announced, however, that didn’t happen and 90% of the votes had been processed. At 8:00 pm there was an announcement but it was NEC’s response to various allegations by the two political parties.

23 November 2012: At 18:25 hours the official presidential election results were announced: APC 58.7%, SLPP 37.4%, PMDC 1.3%, CDP 1% and there were a few other parties holding less than 1% of the votes. Shortly after this announcement President Ernest Bai Koroma delivered his swearing-in speech at State House.

I enjoyed a stroll down election memory lane. If you are interested, look at blog posts from August and September 2007 and November 2012:

We have less than 24 hours to go before the polling stations open.
Sierra Leone: vote wisely and keep the peace.

#sierraleonevotes #presidentialelection #sierraleoneelection #electionsinsierraleone #sierraleone #undivided #keepthepeace

Monday, March 05, 2018

Feeling thankful in February...

Here are my moments of thankfulness in February:
  1. Thankful for a good public transport system in Freetown that makes it very easy to get to and from work.
  2. Thankful for the opportunity to support families of children with cleft lip/palate defects.
  3. Thankful for a fabulous first day of our international church retreat at Tokeh palms. The location, food, sun, sea, swimming pool and bonfire were great and it was fantastic to spend time with our amazing church community.
  4. Thankful for some great times on day 2 of the retreat and for Faith church who blessed us with this special weekend away.
  5. Thankful that a Sierra Leonean medical doctor joined our OPC team. I’m looking forward to working with her!!
  6. Thankful for amazing friends who know how to encourage and say the right thing at the right time.
  7. Thankful for mosquito coils that protect me from mosquito bites while studying!
  8. Thankful that Haley arrived back this evening. It was great to catch up after not seeing her for 7 weeks.
  9. Thankful that Lunch is provided at AWC even thought it usually ends up being a very late lunch! It was potato leaves today, one of my favourites.
  10. Thankful to receive news from friends that they have started fostering a little boy. Amazing!
  11. Thankful for a fun time at an international dance event last night, especially since my Eritrean flat mate took part in the Ethiopian dance! So fun.
  12. Thankful for a lovely evening with friends yesterday - delicious pancakes and lots of catch up time.
  13. Thankful for a new colleague who arrived from Malawi to help out in the clinic for the next 6 months.
  14. Thankful for a great group of friends at Bible Study.
  15. Thankful that one of my patients is finally fever free after starting TB treatment a week ago. He’s growing well too!
  16. Thankful to meet baby Bah - a precious child who is being fostered by friends of mine.
  17. Thankful to be part of an outstanding Enable the Children beach gathering. I’ve been closely involved with this organisation since the beginning in 2007 and it’s awesome to see it continue to flourish.
  18. Thankful for international church and reflecting on this season of Lent.
  19. Thankful for a public holiday - brunch with friends and extra study time. Hurray for Armed Forces Day.
  20. Thankful to have been able to spend every Tuesday at the Kroo Bay Health Centre for the past 6 months. Sadly due to programme changes I won’t be able to attend as frequently but should still be able to be present every other week.
  21. Thankful for naps even though I should have been working on an assignment
  22. Thankful for precious time with friends - quality time spent with a friend before she travels, with an amazing sunset view, pizza and cocktails.
  23. Thankful to be able to introduce two families to each other who have children with cleft lip and palates - so encouraging!
  24. Thankful to be able to attend a baby naming ceremony and dedication.
  25. Thankful to be a part of a 24-7 prayer event focussing on the upcoming Sierra Leonean elections.
  26. Thankful for much better electricity these days - thanks to a ship off shore generating power - hopefully this lasts beyond elections.
  27. Thankful for a delicious chicken, mango, sesame, avocado salad at Swiss Spirit hotel.
  28. Thankful to have completed module 1 of my MPH. Wow, that was a busy 12 weeks. I’m excited about a 2-week study break.

For moments of thankfulness in January 2018 see: http://sandralako.blogspot.com/2018/01/moments-of-thankfulness.html

#momentsofthankfulness #somuchtobegratefulfor #embracingalifestyleofgratitude #thankfulness #bethankful #thanksgiving #February2018 #2018makeitcount #alwaysanadventure #actjustlylovemercywalkhumbly

~ Act Justly. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly. micah 6:8 ~