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Sierra Leone News: Preparing the minds of first time voters

Chairman of the National Electoral“If you fail to prepare, you have already prepared to fail,” a wise axiom says.
This is indeed true for an electoral process where elections preparedness is integral, especially for first time voters’ who are often swept away by the enthusiasm of being part of the process.
However, youthful exuberance of first time voters could be easily manipulated by politically deep-dyed or politicians.
Yesterday, senior high school pupils of various secondary schools in Freetown, which would be voting for the very first time had a discourse on policy-based voting and tolerance at the Mary Kingsley auditorium, Fourah Bay College.
St Joseph’s Secondary School, Pen Club President and Senior Prefect, Francess Magdalene Momoh, said, to preach on policies and not personalities “it is very much important because if we… do that it will help minimize violence.” She emphasized that personality attack instead of discourse on policy issues is a recipe for violence.
However, she appealed to first time voters, “please cast your votes very well and don’t allow anyone to intimidate you. … Be yourself and don’t engage in violence or any other activity or activities that would make you regret voting for the first time.”
St Edwards Secondary School Prefect, Ibrahim B. Koroma, said, “As school going pupils we need to understand what are our responsibilities and duties.” He explained that we need to be the change we want to see adding that “as youth it is my responsibility not to be an economic, regional or tribal voter, rather a policy-based voter. … I should vote on policy that gives premium to better education, better employment that would make Sierra Leone a better nation.”
His appeal to young people was for them to understand their rights and responsibilities noting that if you know you rights and responsibilities you would know that you should not engage in violence to let your being heard. “As young people know that Sierra Leone is your country and your vote is your right.” Please vote on policy and not on party, regional, tribal affiliation or because you were paid to do so, he said.
Head girl of the Freetown Secondary School for Girls (FSSG), Lovetta Tengbeh, also commented, “…as first time vote, please make sure you do not engage in any violence activity because our future is ahead of us and the younger one are also looking up to us.”
“Violence is not good for the image of our country,” she emphasized.
Senior High School pupil of the Albert Academy, Sahr Amara Kessebeh said” the outcome of violence is always negative.” Don’t allow someone to use you or misuse you vote for someone you think that would change the nation to a better height.
James Sanu of the Prince of Wales Secondary School advised, “Don’t build someone else’s future by destroying yours.”
Department of Political Science lecturer, Rev. Dr Palo Bangura, said, “You may think of yourself as an individual but the votes are a collection of individual votes that is why we have to cast our votes and cast them well, so that on election day voters would not only select their representatives in government for the next term, but they would also have the ability to decide on socio-economic opportunities on education, on health, on job opportunities. This is why my vote is my life.”
He explained that it is against the backdrop that the Institute of Governance Reform (IGR) in collaboration with the University of Sierra Leone is engaging you so that you know the importance of your vote.
Lucien Momoh, of the Political Party Registration Commission (PPRC) cautioned voters about violence noting that if they are caught they would be treated like adults and would feel the fire and fury of the 1965 Public Order Act.
The Chairman of the National Electoral Commission (NEC), Nfa Alie Conteh, engaged the pupils with a trivia game about the electoral processes and procedures.
By Ophaniel Gooding
Wednesday November 29, 2017.

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