By Abubakarr Harding
The Independent Commission for Peace and National Cohesion (ICPNC) conducted a two day workshop in its Conference Hall of its 9 Lamina Sankoh Street Head Office in Freetown, on the 26th and 27th July, 2023 targeting Editors and Reporters from both the print and electronic media, including Station Managers, Bloggers and members of the Civil Society Organizations (CSO) on the need to have a national conversation on reconciliation.
Present were the Chairman of the Board for the Peace Commission, Rev Dr. Shodankeh Johnson, the Executive Secretary of the Commission, Hawa Samai, some members of staff of the Commission journalists from various Media Houses as well as Facilitators.
According to the Executive Secretary, Hawa Samai, the targeted beneficiaries of the workshop were deliberately chosen as they are critical persons to the conversation. She maintained that it is important to capture the views of journalists on how we should attain reconciliation in this post-election era. According to her steering a conversation of this nature by capturing the views of members of various sectors in society, including the Press, will go a long way in helping to build a country that we all want. She went on to state that to a large extent the traditional media influences the Social Media underscoring the importance of using various platforms to disseminate the significance of attaining national reconciliation and what must be done to ensure that reconciliation is gained.
The primary goal of bringing journalists onboard, as articulated by Rev. Shodankeh Johnson, the Board Chairman of the Pace Commission, was to ensure that every voice was heard. Rev. Johnson emphasized the importance of creating an inclusive platform that allows for open dialogue, with the intention of continuing the peace dialogue even beyond the elections. The ultimate aim was to help the nation become one of the most peaceful countries in Africa.
Speaking passionately about the objective of the workshop, Rev. Johnson stated that they intend to build upon the progress made after the elections, acknowledging that issues often arise before, during, and after such crucial events. By highlighting these issues and collectively formulating recommendations for resolving them, the nation could further improve the hard-earned peace it has enjoyed over the years.
The Chairman stressed that the convention was organized to cater to people from all walks of life, as everyone has a vital role to play in the reconciliation process. He urged participants to engage actively in the dialogue and take the conversation back to their respective platforms to promote wider engagement across the country. Acknowledging the challenges ahead, Rev. Johnson underlined the importance of the nation’s prosperity in all aspects – economically, physically, and spiritually – hinging on its ability to foster enduring peace.
Nicky Spencer Coker Esq., the Senior Legal Adviser, expressed her commendation for the Peace Commission’s initiative in bringing actors from various sectors across the country onto one platform for a constructive dialogue on national cohesion and peace. She regarded this as the first step towards a more extensive and inclusive process, recognizing the need to involve even more sectors in future conversations.
Ms. Coker expressed her optimism that after the workshop, there would be widespread engagement throughout the nation. She emphasized the significance of implementing the recommendations emanating from the two day programme, urging all sectors to work together in unison to strengthen the fabric of national cohesion. She called for the removal of divisive elements that threaten unity and encouraged a focus on shared values that bind the nation together.
During the two days participants were divided into various groups to have discussions on thematic questions bordering on the threats to peace and development, specific threats to peace, recommendations on resolving the threats, the actors that should be involved, if there is need for national reconciliation, the role of the media in continuing or deepening the conversation, where the conversation must go, the way forward etc.
Participants were divided into groups in order to brain storm on the thematic areas and after which presentations were made by the various groups suggesting plausible ways of making national reconciliation possible and attainable.
The two-day workshop concluded with a renewed sense of hope and determination. Stakeholders and journalists left the event inspired to carry the mantle of peace reconciliation forward. The ICPNC’s efforts have set the stage for a united and prosperous nation, where peace is not only a cherished goal but a living reality that thrives in the hearts of every citizen.