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Sierra Leone Election Campaign Encouraging, Says Carter Center

People walk past a campaign poster for incumbent President Ernest Bai Koroma, in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Oct. 19, 2012.
People walk past a campaign poster for incumbent President Ernest Bai Koroma, in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Oct. 19, 2012.
Official campaigning ends Friday for Sierra Leone’s general election on Saturday, November 17.

The U.S.-based Carter Center poll monitoring group says its observers are encouraged with the peaceful campaigning and other political party activities in the run up to the vote.

“This campaign period has been relatively peaceful, and political parties by and large were able to conduct their activities… peacefully ahead of the November 17 elections,” said Gregory Houel, the Carter Center’s country representative.

Houel says the political parties made efforts to encourage their supporters to shun violence in the run up to the vote.

The 10 political parties recently reaffirmed their commitment to a pledge to desist from acts that could create tension and violence. Houel says the pledge appears to have prevented widespread violence ahead of the election.

Sierra Leone police say there were a few isolated cases of violence reported during the campaign period in the capital, Freetown, as well as the Bo and Kono districts.

“The Carter Center observers,” Houel said, “have acknowledged that at least publicly political parties are making a considerable effort to encourage their supporters to refrain from violence, especially during the campaign period.”

Houel said the Carter Center is hopeful of a peaceful election Saturday.

The Carter Center had earlier expressed concern about a number of developments that it said could undermine public confidence in the balloting.

Houel said one such area of concern was what he described as inadequate voter education, mainly at the local level.

“There are a few shortcomings to this electoral process,” he said. “One of them is the lack of voter education across the country, particularly at the local level, which is a concern for a number of stakeholders.”

But Albert Massaquoi, spokesman for Sierra Leone’s National Electoral Commission, says the electoral body has taken steps to address that.

“The commission did address these concerns and the commission came out with certain strategies. One of these is the use of the WEEKS, Ward Electoral Education Committee. The members go out and about doing some amount of electoral education and of course the commission has also been using the traditional forms of media,” said Massaquoi.

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