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Sierra Leone: Mapping Out Real-Time Election Data

Sierra Leone holds its third national election since the end of their civil war on 17 November, 2012. A coalition of monitoring organisations in the country, National Election Watch, will map out real-time election-related data using OneWorld's monitoring technologies.

In an email conversation, Amanda Fortier, OSIWA Communications Assistant, describes the project:

The election monitoring project, Sierra Leone Elections Live: Citizens’ Situation Room implemented by National Elections Watch, is named for the wartime situation room, and uses an online tracking tool to monitor polling results in real time. It was used for the first time ever in Nigeria, Liberia, Senegal and now in Sierra Leone. The idea is to ensure credible elections that are fair and transparent, and to help put civil society at the forefront so they can diagnose, anticipate and prepare for immediate action in the event of fraud or violence. It was a very successful project that Hilary Clinton even mentioned during her recent visit to Senegal a few weeks back.

Map of districts of Sierra Leone. Photo released under Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0) by Wikipedia user Acntx.

What exactly is Sierra Leone Elections Live?:

Sierra Leonean civil society will have unprecedented access to real-time data on information including turn-out, voter demographics, corruption levels and results during their national election on November 17. In Freetown, National Election Watch (a coalition of monitoring organizations), will receive coded SMS reports sent from a statistically significant sample of their 9,493 trained election observers – based in every polling stations across the country. The messages will be deciphered, verified and mapped using OneWorld’s real-time monitoring technologies, enabling NEW to make informed and immediate interventions. The data will also be published on this website for anyone to see, in real-time – or as soon as local internet access permits!

Why does Sierra Leone need real-time election data?:

Traditionally, collecting and analyzing data from election observers can take hours or even days, which is often too late to affect the course of events. A Situation Room, powered with real-time data from a statistically significant sample of polling stations, will enable NEW to coordinate immediate responses to serious incidents (calling on election officials, law enforcement and local and international media) and to make informed pronouncements about the status of the elections as they are happening.

Who are the people behind Sierra Leone Elections Live?:

The National Election Watch (NEW) is the largest coalition of monitoring organizations in Sierra Leone. It began operations in 1997 and deployed over 5,500 observers during the 2007 Presidential elections. OneWorld has seventeen years’ experience of innovating and deploying cutting edge technologies for social good, in some of the most challenging countries and environments in the world. SMAG Media were behind the votentext.org initiative in Liberia during the 2011 elections. Salonevote.com is supported by OSI West Africa.

One has to wait and see if real-time data from Sierra Leone Elections Live will enable the National Election Watch and other stakeholders to coordinate immediate responses to violence during and after the elections. There have been incidents of violence between supporters of the main political parties, each party blaming the other side:

Last weekend`s clashes were between supporters of the APC and those of the main opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP), and it comes just 19 days before voting.Reports say at least ten people were wounded.
Both parties have claimed the other side attacked first. Kono is the home of the incumbent Vice President Alhaji Samuel Sam Sumana, but the area previously voted in favour of the opposition SLPP.

The main opposition party, Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP), claims that supporters of the ruling party have been engaging in illegal activities:

The SLPP alleges that the Sierra Leone Police on one occasion on the 20th of October arrested members of a dance troupe coming out to support the party after the dancers were accused of being Kamajors.

[... ]Lastly, the opposition party says that posters of its presidential candidate Julius Maada Bio are turned down by APC supporters. The party is calling on the police, NEC, and PPRC to take note as the laws of Sierra Leone guarantee certain rights to all political parties.

Mohamed Kabbah Turay argues that election violence sabotages nationalism in the country:

Violence seems to be garnering weight of momentum amongst some political gurus, one needs no evidence, but only to scan through the literature of their political discourse you could find your answer. Comments like: we are not going to tolerate political intimidation without retaliating further, by few people who called themselves state-men or working to be one are indeed reckless and un-nationalistic.

Only yesterday a man was beaten and lost his car through vandalizing act at the Saint John roundabout just because he was expressing his political freedom of choosing party regalia bearing the emblem of red. This simple democratic value cannot be stomached by certain party hoodlums and power drunkards who left their fellow citizen for the hospital. This uncultured act was carried out by no lesser political party, but the one that prouds itself with the spirit of ‘one people one country philosophy’, forensic the act only spells doom and cast negatives as against the kind of leaders we are breeding for the mere feature.

Another isolated incident is a case of where the flag-bearer of the SLPP party Julius Maada Bio was not welcomed in the spirit of democracy and as a Sierra Leonean, especially the leader of the second most powerful political party in the country at the Dwarzark community is despicable and militates against nationalism.

Another organisation, Journalists for Human Rights (JHR), has a campaign to keep Sierra Leone's elections free and fair. You can view JHR's film about the need to keep elections coverage balanced in Sierra Leone or to find out more information about the campaign here. You can also visit them on Facebook.

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