By Millicent Mannah
A partnership has been formed among the African Union Economic, Social and Cultural Council, (AU ECOSOCC) and the Independent Commission for Peace and National Cohesion, the ECOSOCC National Chapter and Campaign for Human Rights and Development CHRDI, with support from the European Union through Expertise France, to hold a stakeholder’s dialogue in preparedness to deliver a free, fair and incident-free elections for the people of Sierra Leone.
These institutions will use the opportunity to promote social cohesion by providing an inclusive space to convene key actors of Government and Civil Society as well as religious leaders both at regional and national levels to facilitate platforms of engagement and forums for solutions in order to support concrete initiatives on the ground.
Speaking at the occasion, ICPNC’ s ,Deputy Executive Secretary, Moses Margo, said the dialogue session will provide an opportunity for all stakeholders to share ideas and collaborate in creating a conducive environment for a successful election.
He noted that while elections are an integral part of the democratization process, if marred by violence, intimidation or fraud, they can undermine the very essence of democracy and destabilize a country.
He noted that Sierra Leone has had four successive peaceful elections and two transfer of power from one political party to another since the end of the rebel war, but that to sustain this trend requires the collective responsibility of all, to not only ensure peaceful, free and fair elections, but to put measures in place to guarantee the safety and security of all citizens, political parties, elections officials and international observers,
He urged all political parties and candidates to conduct their campaigns with decorum and respect for their opponents, pointing out that political differences should not be a pretext for violence or incitement.
“Let us compete based on ideas, policies and plan to move the country forward,” he enjoined and called on Law enforcement agencies to be impartial in the discharge of their duties, and to enforce the law without fear or favour and ensure that anyone who violates the law is held accountable.
“It is vital to investigate and prosecute all cases of election-related violence, intimidation or fraud to serve as a deterrent to others,” he stated.
The Deputy Executive Secretary also spoke about what he called the crucial role of the media in promoting peace during elections, urging them to report accurately and responsibly to avoid sensationalism, which has the tendency of inciting violence. He also called on them to provide equal access to all political parties and candidates to air their views and plans for the country.
He further called on all Sierra Leoneans to exercise their right to vote peacefully, pointing out that the actions of individuals during this election would have far-reaching consequences on the future of Sierra Leone.
ECOSOCC will also hold an awareness and popularization workshop with the Sierra Leone Interim Chapter of ECOSOCC, targeting CSOs with mandates in good governance and human rights, build capacity on the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Good Governance (ACDEG), engage with AU organs and learn about the Early Warning and Response Mechanisms of the African Union.
The objectives of these two activities are to facilitate dialogue between the election management bodies and CSOs and to assess the state of preparedness for a free, fair and incident free elections, and as well as to introduce the newly adopted National Chapter Frameworks to CSOs.