By Alvin Lansana Kargbo
In an inspiring effort to promote peace and unity among the younger generation in Sierra Leone, The Youth in Politics and Peace Building Project, funded by the United Nations Peace Building Fund and implemented by Caritas Freetown (CRS) in collaboration with the Government of Sierra Leone organized a remarkable peace football match.
This momentous event, which took place on the 24th of September 2023 at the Monkey Bush Community Football Field in Waterloo, Western Rural District, aimed to raise awareness about the profound significance of peace and its positive impact on communities. Utilizing the universal language of football, the organizers effectively conveyed powerful messages of harmony and unity to the general public.
The high-profiled event attracted esteemed representatives from various sectors, including the Ministry of Gender and Children Affairs, the National Commission for Persons with Disability, the District Council, the Sierra Leone Police, and numerous stakeholders from the Monkey Bush Community amongst others. Their combined presence highlighted the importance and support for initiatives that promote peace and inclusivity.
Eliza Sillah, the Project Coordinator, in her statement, expressed her heartfelt welcome to all attendees and conveyed her excitement at witnessing such community participation. She emphasized the existence of two notable groups within the Monkey Bush Community, namely the Advocacy Group and the Peace Ambassadors, who have been actively engaged in promoting peace within the region.
She further emphasized that the project extended its reach to eight other communities in the Western Rural District, including Monkey Bush, Five-Five, Deep Eye Water, Hastings, Kossoh Town, Grafton, Lakka, and Goderich Community. Eliza revealed that the football players, who actively participated in the peace match, represented these communities exemplifying their commitment to fostering peace and harmony.
She also underscored the significance of the peace football match in the Western Rural District noting that disturbances and conflicts often originate there and by hosting the event and spreading peace message, they aim to reinforce the importance of maintaining peace while fostering cohesion, love and harmony among community members.
Gifty Johnson, the representative of the Ministry of Gender and Children Affairs, in addressing those present at the event expressed gratitude towards Caritas and CRS for creating such a remarkable opportunity to raise awareness about the crucial role peace plays in the country. She called upon all attendees to embrace peaceful coexistence and refrain from engaging in activities that may disrupt the nation’s tranquility. She reiterated that without peace, the country cannot progress and develop.
Chief Pa Alimamy, one of the leaders of the Monkey Bush Community, highlighted the challenges faced by their community during the country’s war and the Ebola outbreak. Expressing his concerns, he urged the community members to prevent the recurrence of such hardships and advised the youth to resist the temptation of taking Kush, a substance he believed has the tendency to lead individuals towards illegal activities and disturb the nation’s peace.
Emphasizing the importance of unity and inclusivity, Dumbuya, the representative of the National Commission for Persons with Disability, expressed his delight at the initiation of a football match, which commenced with the participation of a young disabled girl who did the kick-off. He regarded that as a clear indication of inclusivity, and expressed a willingness to collaborate with Caritas in promoting peace and inclusion. He moreover stressed the urgency of putting an end to violence in the country.
Furthermore, a representative from the Sierra Leone Police affirmed their commitment to working closely with the community members to ensure peace prevails. He encouraged individuals to approach their community Chief for civil matters while emphasizing that the Police primarily deals with criminal matters. Underlining the significance of peace, he urged people to distance themselves from any form of violence and to view the Police as allies.
The peace football match concluded harmoniously, bringing satisfaction to both participating teams. The event was further enriched by a captivating musical performance centered on peace, delivered by the talented young musician, Leonous D Genius Jr. Shortly after that, a certification ceremony followed, wherein every player who took part in the match received a well-deserved certificate in recognition of their contribution to promoting peace.
The peace football match organized by The Youth in Politics and Peace Building Project serves as a shining example of how sports can be employed as a unifying force. Through this event, the importance of peace was emphasized, resonating not only within the Monkey Bush Community but also across eight communities within the Western Rural District. By fostering understanding, empathy and mutual respect, initiatives like this contribute significantly to building a peaceful and prosperous nation.