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Sierra Leone News: Appealing to youth to prevent election violence

Although the nature of violence recorded in past elections in Sierra Leone is less severe to that of other countries, the need to prevent violence in the 2018 general elections has become a concern for both the international and local communities. Sierra Leone has a long history of youths’ involvement in election-related violence.
An April 2011 report by the Africa Research Institute (ARI) states, since Independence in 1961, every major political contest in the country has been marred by some level of hostility. “Youth groups have become a more potent force in Sierra Leone’s elections than ethnicity or regionalism,” the document reads. “Young men are brought into the party youth wings – for token payments or promises of future benefits – to intimidate voters and break up opposition rallies.” During the past elections, Kalie Kamara, a participant, noted, politicians give out drugs, alcohol and organise youths to perpetrate violence, to disturb the election process with the aim to benefit their political parties. “They have used us and dumped us and it is high time we learn from all these experiences and advise ourselves to stay away from any form of violence.”
On Thursday 18 October 2018, at National Stadium hostel in Freetown, the National Youth Commission in partnership with Child Fund, Sierra Leone engaged youth on non-violent elections in the upcoming March 7 election.
The focus of the engagement, according to Momodu Wudie, Programme Officer, NAYCOM, is to increase youth leadership and participation in peace building, promote non-violence campaigns, increase youth knowledge in conflict management, human rights and civic responsibilities and to enhances peaceful participation in the 2018 election.
The objective is also to develop and recommend strategies and actions to prevent escalation of tensions or incidence of violence for a peaceful 2018 election.
Deliberating on the need for a stable and peaceful society that caters for youth development and advancement, James Pimundu, Child Fund, SL, Country Director, encouraged youth to embrace political tolerance and be an ambassador of peace at all times.
Pimundu underscored the beauty of unity in diversity and encouraged the audience to take a positive approach for the benefit of the country during and after the 2018 election.
He reiterated the huge potential of the youth population noting that a positive utilization of such potential will create a better Sierra Leone.
Abubarr Kargbo, Chair, National Commission for Democracy, spoke on the democratic right for every citizen to participate in the electoral process in a peaceful and safe environment.
As a way to ensure peaceful elections, Kargbo added, political parties should engage in dialogue that preaches against hate messages, violence and other odd practices that affect electioneering process.
Aminata Turay, a participant, also reflected on the consequences of the civil war pointing out that as a way to avoid the re-occurrence of such ugly incident everyone must respect each other’s view.
By Sylvia Villa
Friday January 19, 2018.

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