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Youth Activists Fear Limited Public Awareness Can Affect Sierra Leone’s 2023 Elections

[Accra- 13 June] - Sierra Leone’s government says the West African country is ready to hold peaceful, free and fair elections come June 24, a news report by Ghana News Agency, said on May 30.

In the report, Bockarie Albert Kalokoh, a Deputy Minister of Finance of the country, said in an interview with the news agency, that the country was all set to go to the polls to decide on who becomes the next President, Members of Parliament, Mayors and local councillors this month.

Despite all assurances on the country’s preparedness, some Sierra Leoneans youth activists say there has not been enough public education and awareness about the electoral processes which they fear can affect the outcome of the elections.

According to the activists, Philip Kanu who works with the Sierra Leone Autistic Society (SLAS) and Yorpoi Matilda from OTC Kenema Opportunity Training Centre, the country needs more public education and awareness regarding the electoral processes.

They believe there are thousands of Sierra Leoneans who have little or no knowledge about how they can freely cast their vote. For this reason, they are unanimously calling on the Electoral Commission (EC) to intensify public education about the electoral processes especially for young people to prevent any possible disenfranchisements.

The activists were speaking with a Team from the Electoral Integrity in West Africa (ELIWA) in Accra,Ghana on 23 May 2023.

Philip Kanu of SLAS also implored the Government to sensitise the youth about peace, security and violence prevention as he believed that was one of the best ways to ensure peaceful polls.

"Regardless of ethnicity, we are one people, and we have one country, so we should not allow elections to divide us. Elections promote unity, not disunity," he said.

While Kanu was optimistic this year’s elections, if well conducted, will help strengthen the democratic credentials of the country, he lamented the failure of some of the political parties to prioritise important areas of development.

“The political parties are not giving more attention to how to empower the youth and I am worried about that,” he said.

Yorpoi Matilda of OTC Kenema Opportunity Training Centre thinks there is a need for effective communication during and after the elections.

“It is very important for the EC to also ensure that the public has access to accurate and timely information about electoral results and related matters to promote transparency and trust in the process,” she said.

She admonished the youth to be agents of social, political and economic change to propel the country’s development for “a better Sierra Leone.”

" All of us should go out and vote. Sierra Leone is our country, and we must decide on how to run it. Our future is at stake,” Matilda said.

Meanwhile, a new research report by Issa Bangura, an Advocacy and Communication Officer at Defence for Children International in Sierra Leone, has revealed that the Sierra Leone’s EC is technically and financially less prepared for the country’s elections.

In the report scheduled to be launched on 15 June 2023, 47% of civil society organisations in the country think the electoral body is not fully prepared for the country’s big day.

Thirteen (13) candidates, including incumbent president, Julius Maada Bio of the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) and Samura Karama of the All People’s Congress (APC), who was the runner-up in the 2018 polls are contesting the Presidential slot in the Sierra Leone’s 2023 elections.

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