Despite the false news circulating, it is important to note that fact-checking organisations like Dabuwa and the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) have been working tirelessly to keep the public informed and clear up false information. With tensions running high, it is crucial that we rely on verified sources of information. Let us continue to prioritise factual information over misinformation.
Sierra Leone military has not threatened to take over power if the elections that took place on Saturday are not free and fair. In addition, the mayor of Freetown has not called for an election boycott, despite a widely circulated letter purportedly signed by her. These are facts posted by Dabuwa, Sierra Leone’s independent verification and fact-checking project, during and after Saturday’s elections, following a series of false news that circulated during the voting and post-voting.
Dabuwa has used its verified social media platforms to fact-check and inform the country, which has been tense during and after the elections. The organisation has cleared up false news about military takeovers, children voting, and boycotting ordered by powerful persons in the country, among others, in a series of tweets in the past two days.
While fake news is seen as fuel for violence in tense situations, such as during and after elections in the West African country, the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) has also continued to fact-check the news and inform the country accordingly during and after the elections.
In Saturday’s election, President Julius Maada Bio, 59, of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), ran for a second five-year term, while his main rival among the 12 challengers is Dr. Samura Kamara, 72, of the All People’s Congress (APC).
As of yesterday, fake news, such as results purporting to show a winner between the two main rival parties, continued to circulate. “The results that are being spread on social media from personal tally centres, situation rooms, groups, and parties are not official and have the tendency to mislead,” said SLAJ in one of their fact-checking clarification tweets last night.
Despite some misinformation, some of the information circulating is true and has been confirmed not only by SLAJ and Dabuwa but also by other fact-checking organisations that worked tirelessly during and after the elections. For example, it is true that 80% of polling centres did not start voting at 7 am on election day. “Our findings from @NewSierraLeone showed that in 84% of the polls where they observed the elections, polling centres opened at 8 am – an hour later than the official voting time of 7 am,” Dabuwa said in a tweet on Sunday.
There were also protests in Makeni as some voters could not find their names in the register, and Dubawa fact-checkers also went to the venue (Baptist Model Primary School) and spoke to voters who confirmed the situation. The voters had not yet cast their ballots even after voting had officially ended at 5 pm GMT.
As tension grows while results are awaited, the two rival parties both had complaints to make. On Sunday, the chairman of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), Prince Alex Harding, outlined a handful of alleged cases of intimidation or violence against its agents, “despite the relatively peaceful conduct of the elections,” France24 had reported. On the same day, the presidential candidate of the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC), Samura Kamara, alleged in a statement that the electoral commission was making it “impossible for us and other political parties to compare, reconcile and verify” tallying.
There are also reports of the military firing live ammunition at APC offices. “Yes, Dr. Samura Kamara and his running mate, Chernor Maju Bah, are being surrounded by armed soldiers of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces at their APC party office in Freetown,” SLAJ confirmed yesterday. In some cases, APC Party Agents were evacuated by security forces for fear of being attacked by SLPP thugs, SLAJ, and other fact-checkers further confirmed.
Saturday’s vote is the country’s fifth presidential election since the end of a 11-year civil unrest more than two decades ago.