During a short ceremony took place at the Legal Aid Board head office on Wellington Street in Freetown on Friday, 31 March 2023, 12 motorbikes were given out to staff mostly Paralegals drawn from 12 of the 16 sixteen districts in the country.
The motorbikes are part of a support from the UN Peace Building Fund through the UN children’s agency, UNCEF to the Board’s Anti Election Violence Campaign. The six months funded project is dedicated to school outreach to educate pupils on the electoral laws and for community outreach events. 432 Junior and Senior Secondary Schools in Kono, Port Loko, Bombali, Kenema, Western Area Rural and Western Urban Districts are targeted for the project. 253,432 pupils in these schools will benefit from the project.
Schools in the other 10 districts will equally benefit from the campaign. 753 schools in the remaining 10 districts will also be targeted for the campaign. 458,219 pupils in these schools will benefit from the campaign.
This will help pupils in both Junior and Senior Secondary Schools understand the electoral laws more so the offences and rights contained therein and by extension become less prone to falling foul of the electoral laws.
Those who are minors (below 18 years) and therefore ineligible to vote will avoid participating in the elections while those who are of voting age will engage with the electoral processes in a peaceful manner, knowing full well the consequences of breaking the electoral laws.
Speaking to the Paralegals during the handing over ceremony, the Executive Director of the Legal Aid Board, Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles challenged the Paralegals to use education as an effective took to ensure the elections are free, fair and peaceful in their respective districts and chiefdoms. She noted that their achievement in the campaign will be measured through; voter participation in the electoral processes, number of electoral offences committed, number of disputes among members of the community resulting for political differences and affiliations, incidence of elections related violence including the number of pupils used to perpetrate election related violence.
She urged Paralegals to go into the schools and teach pupils about the electoral laws. She added that they should surmount whatever obstacles or constraints that may stand their way. ‘As we all know, young people including pupils are the most prone to electoral violence, we must therefore pay utmost attention to them if we should have free, fair and peaceful elections before, during and after the elections in your communities,’ she said. ‘Your strength lies in the fact that you understand your communities and command a lot of respect from the people, make sure you pay special attention to the remotest schools and communities because most times they are left out during election outreach.’
The Regional Programme Manager for the North East and North West Region Mohamed Alpha Jalloh described the motorbikes as a major boost to the campaign noting that access to some communities outside the district headquarter towns is a huge challenge not least the cost involved. ‘The bikes he promised will be used for their intended purpose and will go into lengths to address the challenges and by extension achieving the objectives of the campaign,’ he said.
The Senior Paralegal from Pujehun, Kakpama Lansana expressed delight at the allocation of a bike to Pujehun noting that his Wanjama people will see him a lot more. ‘I have been energized, services delivery will increase in folds and delivery time will also improve,’ Kakpama said.
The UN Peace Building Fund through the UN children’s agency, UNCEF had also donated Loud Speakers (MP3 players), Tablets, Laptops and Printers to the Board under this project.
The handing-over ceremony follows a two-day training of trainers of Legal Aid Board staff on the electoral laws at the City Council Hall in Freetown on the 17 and 18 March 2023. The training was replicated in the regional headquarter towns of Makeni, Bo and Kenema for staff upcountry. These trainings in turn follow the launch of the Anti-Election Violence Campaign at a ceremony at the Freetown City Council marking International Women’s Day in Freetown on 8 March 2023.