In November 2023, Liberia set an admirable example of a peaceful and orderly second round of its presidential elections. Now, President Joseph Boakai defeated then President George Weah by just over one percentage point in the closest runoff in Liberia’s history. The former world footballer of the year conceded the election peacefully. This week, the 79-year-old Boakai was inaugurated as the new President of Liberia, almost two months after his election.
In contrast, Sierra Leone has long been accustomed to a hurried and somewhat chaotic swearing-in process, reminiscent of the Wild West. The President is sworn in hours after the Electoral Commission announces the result. Chief Justices are brought to the most bizarre places just to administer the oath to the new President. This hasty transition lacks a structured framework.
The swift swearing-in of presidents on the day results are announced leaves minimal room for due process and legal safeguards. To fortify our democracy, we must enact a comprehensive transition law outlining a systematic and dignified handover of power.
One key element lacking in our current system is the provision for a reasonable period for any potential legal challenges or appeals. Liberia’s election process allows for a process of challenging the results. We must institute a similar mechanism in Sierra Leone, allowing candidates to address concerns and ensuring the public’s confidence in the electoral process.
The hurried nature of our transition process leaves little room for a well-planned and dignified handover of power. A transition law should include provisions for a thorough and organized transfer of responsibilities, ensuring that the incoming administration is adequately prepared to govern effectively from day one. This is essential for the stability and continuity of governance in our nation.
Parliament must take the lead in enacting a transition law that addresses these concerns to bring about this necessary change. The law should be a product of careful consideration and collaboration among all political stakeholders, emphasizing the importance of upholding democratic values and the rule of law.
We do not live in the jungle. Our commitment to democracy should be reflected in the legal frameworks that govern our electoral processes. A thoughtful transition law will not only strengthen our democracy but also showcase our dedication to fairness, justice, and the principles that underpin the democratic system.
In the spirit of fostering a robust and enduring democracy, Sierra Leone must learn from the recent elections in Liberia. We need a transition law that guarantees a fair, transparent, and orderly transfer of power, providing time for legal recourse and careful planning. It is time for our leaders to demonstrate their commitment to democratic values by enacting legislation that ensures the sustainability and integrity of our democratic institutions.