December 4, 2012.
For almost a whole week after the November 17 polls, she kept the nation on tenterhooks. The nation came almost to a standstill with the hope that she was going to break her silence at any moment. For a day and days, they waited with baited breath and on her very first appearance, her words were measured. She announced to the whole world that 75 percent of the total ballots had been tallied, but no provisional results even; she did not read anything. (Photo: l-r NEC Chief Christiana Thorpe and Chief Justice Haja Umu Hawa Tejan Jalloh)
Next, when she appeared, it was to respond to claims of election irregularities made against the commission by the opposition SLPP and PMDC and immediately she finished the nation went into overdrive. A new catchphrase was added into local lexicon, “If you get evidence, na for go police.”
Then, finally she was all smiles but very stern when she called a Press Conference on Friday evening to announce the results of the Presidential polls – President Koroma was re-elected and the opposition cried foul.
Yes I am talking about Madam Christiana Thorpe, the National Elections Commission Chief who has successfully conducted two Presidential elections in this country.
Within that short period, while Thorpe was preparing to exit the stage after performing her electioneering role, then stepped in the Hon. Chief Justice Madam Umu Hawa Tejan Jalloh. She is one of the country’s most experienced and credible legal luminaries. Her leadership as Sierra Leone’s Chief Justice has produced more decent courtrooms and judges in the history of the country’s judicial system.
Resplendent in her judicial outfit, the Chief Justice later that Friday afternoon, in fact, barely less than one hour after Thorpe the National Returning Officer had declared Koroma as the winner, was on hand to swear into office, President–elect, Ernest Bai Koroma. Unlike Madam Thorpe, the former nun, her role may have been very short but very symbolic if not significant. For once, let us just imagine what would have happened if the learned Chief Justice was not at hand within a period of twenty-four hours after Koroma had been declared winner – of course, you guessed it right ; a constitutional crisis. Lucky for us, we did not have to go through that headache as she was hale and hearty and looking forward to perform this singular task on that day.
For us who have daughters or sisters or even mums, this must have been a very proud moment for us. Roles must have changed and our womenfolk who had found it very difficult to break the crack ceiling are now doing that with effortless ease and if you had doubted that Sierra Leone women cannot do things better than even some of us men, then you need to re-think and please do it fast.
While Thorpe was more than competent to protect our voice by duly pronouncing Ernest Koroma as President- elect, within that same period our lady the Chief Justice Umu Hawa Tejan Jalloh was also on hand to legalize Koroma’s mandate for the next five years in an exemplary fashion.
Comparatively, these two Sierra Leonean women have confirmed the phrase ‘’what men can do, women can do better,’’ but if you are still asking for justification, then let’s briefly go down memory lane; Dr. James Jonah in 1996 and Mr. Walter Nicol in 2002 were not competent enough to protect the voice of the people. They endorsed over voting to be the order of the day, especially in Kailahun and negotiated with the opposition candidates at that time to let go because of PEACE. Christiana Thorpe, a woman of substance, in 2007 said NO!!! She said the time for electoral fraud was over and stood firm to protect the interest and will of every citizen, regardless of the numerous threats on her precious life.
Also, have you forgotten so soon that following the elections in 2007, our then Chief Justice Ade-Renneh Thomas was not too prepared to legalize the people’s mandate by swearing in Ernest Bai Koroma? He was not well dressed even though he knew he was going to do it hours after the pronouncement of the presidential results. Thank God we now have a strong woman in that position, Chief Justice Umu Tejan Jalloh, who was well dressed for the occasion and did exactly what she was constitutionally supposed to do.
Did I also tell you that these two ladies epitomize the strength of our religious women, thus the beauty of Sierra Leone’s inter-religious culture? Yes, they are! Christiana Thorpe, a former nun represents the true character of God fearing Christians, while Haja Umu Hawa Tejan Jalloh, a devout Muslim who had been to the holy land of Mecca symbolizes the charisma of a true Muslim. Unlike in other countries in the sub-region where Christians and Muslims cannot live together, Christiana and Umu can live, dine, and sleep in the same bedroom with utmost peace and tranquility.
For this, I salute all of our mothers, sisters, aunts and more importantly our two African Soldiers in the persons of Madam Christiana Thorpe and Chief Justice Haja Umu Tejan Jalloh.
December 4, 2012.