By: Abdulai Sillah
Claim: Ballot stuffing at New London Community in Makeni
Verdict: False, evidence from the ECSL district office contradicts the claim.
On the polling day of Saturday, June 24, 2023, a video started circulating on various WhatsApp groups. The video depicted two men who had allegedly been assaulted by members of the public on the grounds of attempting ballot stuffing. It was claimed that one of the men, Hassan Khalil, had been caught with four boxes of ballot papers and that he was sent by the District Elections Manager of ECSL Bombali, Claude Samura, to commit the act.
The video showed an ID card belonging to Claude Samura with the designation of District Elections Manager. The men, along with the ballot papers, were subsequently handed over to the police for further investigation.
To investigate this claim, the SuperNewsRoom reached out to the regional office of the ECSL and spoke with Claude Samura, the District Elections Manager who was alleged to have dispatched Hassan Khalil with the ballot papers. Samura explained,
“Hassan Khalil is our office assistant and I had sent him to the filling station for fuel. As per our standard procedure, I usually provide him with my official ID card to authenticate the request at the filling station. However, I forgot to collect the ID card from him upon his return. Soon after, my Assistant District Manager asked him to urgently transport four sealed boxes of ballot papers to a location in Makeni that had been inadvertently left behind. It was during this task that he encountered the individuals who assaulted him, confiscated the materials, and handed them over to the police.”
The District Elections Manager further clarified that he had provided a statement to the police, providing an account of the incident. He emphasized,
“When we speak of ballot stuffing, it implies the use of already cast ballot papers. However, these seized ballot papers were brand new and sealed, so it cannot be considered as ballot stuffing.”
John Shanghai, the former district chairman of Bombali district, who reported the incident to the police, was also contacted for his perspective. Shanghai stated,
“Our APC party supporters at RC Kolo Kolo Primary School Center with centre code number 4149 in New London community informed me about a man caught with ballot stuffing at the polling centre. The crowd became agitated and beat up both him and the centre manager. I intervened promptly, halted the assault, and handed over the individuals, along with the ballot papers and the staff ID cards bearing Claude Samura’s name, to the Sierra Leone police for investigation.”
The SuperNewsRoom also reached out to the Deputy Regional Crime Officer and the regional Media officer of the Sierra Leone police, who confirmed that they were investigating the allegations. They had taken preliminary statements from the involved individuals, including the District Elections Manager, Claude Samura. However, they stated that the investigation was still ongoing and they would provide further updates upon its conclusion.
Conclusion: Currently, there is insufficient evidence to support the claim that the four ballot papers seized from Hassan Khalil, the ECSL district office assistant in Makeni, were intended for ballot stuffing. Until the police investigation concludes and presents their findings, the claim remains false.
Note: This fact-checked story is a product of the SLAJ/NDI SuperNewsRoom on Combating Disinformation in Sierra Leone’s 2023 electoral cycle. The project is supported by Global Affairs Canada to enable citizens to have access to credible and accurate information during the elections.
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