Global Policy Forum

Parliament Extends Presidential Term

Panafrican News Agency
February 13, 2001

Sierra Leonean legislators Tuesday unanimously passed a motion to extend the life of Parliament and the term of office of the President for a period of six months.

Under the country's Constitution, President Tejan Kabbah's term was due to expire 28 March while the validity of the current parliament would have ended on 1 April 2001.

Majority Party leader in the House, Sawa Bockari Marah of Sierra Leone People's Party, said one of the reasons for tabling the motion on extension of both terms was the continued rebel control of a large proportion of the country.

Also, he said, there was need to repatriate Sierra Leonean refugees and to resettle the population that has been internally displaced by the civil war.

The Members of Parliament admitted that the present security situation in Sierra Leone is not conducive to holding elections and called for total disarmament of all warring factions.

Marah also explained the Government's inability to meet "the enormous cost of elections" which is estimated at 44 billion Leones.

The legslators called for a more robust action by the government of Sierra Leone to end the war.

Earlier, National Electoral Commission chairman, Walter Nicol had written to President Kabbah, stating, among other things, that it would be "unrealistic to expect elections to be held within the prescribed date".

Nicol too underlined the lack of funds, manpower support and the current security situation in Sierra Leone as reasons for postponement of the polls.

In response, President Kabbah sent a letter to the Speaker requesting the extension of the life of Parliament and the term of the President.

A provision in the Constitution of Sierra Leone states that if the country is at war "in which the national territory is physically not practicable to hold elections, Parliament may by resolution extend the period of five years, but no such extension shall exceed a period of six month at any one time".

Some political analysts, however, were struck by the unanimity with which the House agreed on the need to give the government a further six months.

But members of the opposition in Parliament seemed to agree that the alternative to an extension of the government's term would be chaos.

People's Democratic Party leader Osman Kamara told PANA that though the government has failed "woefully" there was no alternative but to grant the six-month extension the government sought for the constitution to be retained.

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