By Alpha Good Kamara
In a joint effort, Caritas Freetown Justice and Peace Commission, in partnership with the Christian Relief Service (CRS) and with backing from the UN Peace Building Fund, organized a one-day peace rally for the youth of Waterloo. The event took place on August 26th, 2023, under the theme: “Empowering Youth for a Prosperous, Unified, and Peaceful Sierra Leone.” The rally, aimed at raising awareness about the importance of peace among young people, commenced at Tombo Junction and culminated at the 555 Parking Ground Community Centre in Waterloo, located in the Western Rural District.
Hindolo John Langba, the Monitoring and Evaluation Officer at the National Council for Civil Education and Democracy, highlighted the core mission of the commission. He emphasized that their focus is on promoting the rights and responsibilities of young individuals. Established through a parliamentary declaration by President Bio, the National Council for Civil Education and Democracy is now a formal commission. Langba expressed concern over the lack of civil education among the youth, citing it as a significant factor that contributed to Sierra Leone’s 11-year civil war. Even two decades later, issues of violence persist in areas of peace and security, youth engagement, community advancement, politics, and decision-making.
Langba stressed the commission’s duty to ensure that young people are aware of their rights and responsibilities. He emphasized the importance of youth participation in governance structures and their entitlement to live in a secure society where personal safety and property are safeguarded. Access to education and healthcare, along with the capacity to foster community and personal development, are also integral rights that he outlined. He urged the youth to balance their rights with responsibilities, cautioning against solely focusing on rights and neglecting their duties. This imbalance, he noted, often makes them susceptible to manipulation by unscrupulous politicians or misinformation on social media. Langba encouraged the youth to remain focused, determined, and dedicated to realizing their dreams, thereby transforming their rights into tangible realities.
Langba acknowledged governmental efforts to provide essential infrastructure such as electricity, schools, and hospitals. He emphasized that the youth’s responsibility is to protect and preserve these resources rather than engage in destructive actions during protests. He advocated for universal commitment to maintaining peace, love, and unity, stressing that negative influences from politicians and certain segments of society can lead youth towards violence.
Marie Bangura, Chairperson of the Western Area Rural District Youth Council, warmly welcomed and applauded the youth for successfully conducting peaceful and credible elections. She recognized their pivotal role in reducing tensions and fostering an environment conducive to fair and democratic elections. Bangura attributed the newfound sense of security and safety to the youth’s dedication to peace and nonviolent elections, alongside Caritas’ efforts in promoting peaceful electoral processes. She narrated the positive shift in perception, stating that the district, once classified as a high-risk “red zone” for violence, has now transformed into a participant in the peace rally. Bangura urged unity among the youth, emphasizing their current leadership status and their collective determination to prevent any manipulation by politicians to undermine their communities, public offices, or healthcare facilities. Concluding her address, she invoked a call for unity, pledging loyalty and love to Sierra Leone as the means to ensure a peaceful and harmonious future for all its citizens, regardless of their ethnic backgrounds.