Police in Sierra Leone have announced a ban on unaccredited vehicular movement during general elections to be held next week (March 7).
According to a press release signed by the police chief, Richard Moigbe, the police had agreed with all registered political parties and other stakeholders to undertake the measure.
The release said only vehicles accredited by the elections body, the National Electoral Commission (NEC) will be allowed to ply the roads between 6 am to 7 pm.
This restriction is not in any way inhibiting the free movement of voters and other persons going about their normal lawful business, as long as they do not loiter within 300 meters of a polling center.
“No vehicle unaccredited by NEC will be allowed to ply on polling day. This is done in the interest of public order and public safety pursuant to Section 18(3) of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone, and Section 32 of the Police Act of 1964.
It further clarified that the said restriction will be based more in the urban areas known as the District Headquarter Towns including the Western Area Urban and the Western Area Rural. No inter-District movement of accredited vehicles of political parties will be allowed, it said.
“The vehicle restriction does not cover the rural areas or areas outside the District Headquarter Towns.
“This restriction is not in any way inhibiting the free movement of voters and other persons going about their normal lawful business, as long as they do not loiter within 300 meters of a polling center,” the statement added.
The police also listed classes of vehicles that will be granted accreditation on March 7, among others: unbranded vehicles of political parties, the security agencies, election management bodies, observer and civil society groups as well as essential services and the diplomatic missions.
There is also arrangement for hired state buses and other commercial operators. Commuters can use the state buses for free but upon the production of a voter identification card. Consideration it said will be given to shuttling persons exiting or entering the country via the airport.
The move has been criticized by a section of rights advocates who insist that free movement does not in any way threaten the conduct of the polls. They point to neighbouring Liberia, Ghana who have conducted successful polls without such restrictions.
1. Police are enforcing a vehicle ban in #SierraLeone on #election day, apart from accredited vehicles.— Sabrina Mahtani (Sabrina_Mahtani) February 28, 2018
CarterCenterraised concern in 2012 election that this impacts freedom of movement & recommended it not be implemented in future elections https://t.co/clTROxmjp0