By Millicent Senava Mannah
In a concerted effort to foster peace and national unity following the recent elections, the Independent Commission for Peace and National Cohesion (ICPNC), in collaboration with UN Women, successfully concluded a series of Post-Elections Dialogue sessions across five districts in the East, North, and South regions of the country.
The districts that benefited from this pivotal initiative were Pujehun, Kono, Port Loko, Bombali and Kerene. The program was a vital component of the global observance of the International Day of Peace, celebrated in Freetown on September 21st, under the theme “ACTION FOR PEACE, OUR AMBITION FOR THE GLOBAL GOALS.” Additionally, this initiative formed an integral part of the Commission’s National Dialogue on Reconciliation, symbolized by the hashtag #BePartOfTheConversation.
A diverse range of participants, representing various sectors, including law enforcement agencies, political parties, women’s groups, civil society organizations, electoral management bodies, the transportation sector, youth groups, school children, religious leaders and local authorities, actively engaged in these dialogues.
In Pujehun and Kono, the welcome addresses were delivered by Board members Edward Kpakra and Alhaji Abdul Salam Conteh, respectively, representing the South and East regions. They took the opportunity to provide a historical context for the establishment of the Peace Commission and highlighted some of its notable achievements to date. Board members representing the North and Northwest, Joe Turay and Alhaji Sulaiman Bah, also shared similar insights.
Charles Lahai, Director of Conflict Resolution and Management provided an overview of the program and presented on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as they relate to peace, security and development. The event featured a series of presentations on various topics, including “Elections and Peace in Sierra Leone,” “Peace, Security, Human Rights, and Development,” delivered by Salia Kpaka, Deputy Director of Communications; Racheal Kuyembeh, Deputy Director of Conflict Resolution; Adekali Kamara, Deputy Director of Research; Henryson Jusu, Deputy Director of M&E; James T. Turay, Senior Prevention Manager; and Mand E. Lansana Sheriff, Senior Project Manager. Fatmatta Kamara Jalloh, Director of Communications, also discussed the establishment of the Peace Situation Room and the Toll-Free Line 898, urging people to utilize these resources to report issues affecting the peace in their communities.
This district engagement marked the first major outreach by the Commission since the June 2023 Election and provided a platform for citizens to voice their concerns regarding issues that could potentially threaten peace in the nation.
During the dialogues, participants raised several pressing issues affecting their respective communities, including political intolerance, rampant youth unemployment, drug abuse, rising crime rates (particularly theft), tribalism, high inflation, increased cost of living, injustice, and the misuse of social media to spread hate speech and violence.
Notable recommendations stemming from the group discussions included calls for state institutions, including security forces, to maintain neutrality, demands for justice and equal rights, a ban on the importation of illicit drugs (including kush), and a review of the 1991 constitution to bolster the independence of State institutions. Participants also stressed the need to empower law enforcement agencies to combat crime, create jobs and provide skills training through the strengthening of technical and vocational institutions to develop a skilled workforce. Moreover, they advocated for a conducive environment to attract private sector investment, Government subsidies for essential commodities to alleviate the high cost of living, and increased Government investment in the agricultural sector.
The significance of fostering nationalism through dialogue and community awareness campaigns was another key point of emphasis.
Stakeholders in the various districts commended the Peace Commission and UN Women for initiating such a vital dialogue and urged the Commission to extend these dialogues to chiefdom and community levels to ensure long-term peace and unity in the nation. Furthermore, they pledged to disseminate the knowledge gained within their respective communities, ensuring that the spirit of peace and cohesion continues to thrive.