As Sierra Leone prepares for the 24th June 2023 elections and based on the role played by the media in promoting peace and democracy in the country, the West Africa Network for Peace Building –Sierra Leone (WANEP-SL) on Friday 10th March 2023 organized a press conference at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Aberdeen in Freetown at which event, the National Network Coordinator, Dr. Isata Mahoi, who also chaired the event, enlightened that their mission is to enable and facilitate the development of mechanisms for cooperation among civil society-based peacebuilding practitioners and organizations in Sierra Leone to promote cooperative responses to violent conflicts.
She disclosed WANEP-SL’s plan for the June 2023 elections which according to her involves “Operationalizing the National Election Response Group (NERG) and Insider Mediation and Negotiation Council during the 2023 Electioneering process in Sierra Leone”, further underscoring that WANEP is also providing the structure through which these practitioners and institutions would regularly exchange experiences and information on issues of peacebuilding, conflict transformation, social, religious and political reconciliation and promote Sierra Leone’s social cultural values as resources for peacebuilding and that they are exploring ways of replicating the training.
According to Dr. Mahoi, together with the efforts of other actors within and outside Sierra Leone, WANEP-SL is proud to be part of the process that has resulted in the ongoing relative peace prevailing in the country disclosing that it has been actively instrumental in working with other partners to manage pre-election conflicts in order to maintain and build the peace.
She informed that the Network has made significant contributions to building peace in the country through capacity enhancement of its member organizations underlining that its primary strategy is advocacy to push initiatives or influence policies that would consolidate the peace attained in the country and that since the war was officially declared ended on 18th January 2002, prominent initiatives undertaken include coordinating civil society initiatives and creating linkages with international partners, developing an effective National Early Warning System (NEWS) including training of peace monitors in early warning, early response and early action as part of its preventive peacebuilding approach.
Dr. Mahoi continued that WANEP is also working with Government line ministries and other women’s groups towards the development of a National Action Plan on 1325 in partnership with the Mano River Women’s Peace Network and the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, promoting women’s empowerment for protection, preventing abuses and violations and promoting women’s rights, promoting Peace Education programs in schools and colleges and the Peace and Development Forum which brings together peace building organizations to provide update on activities, share experiences and exchange knowledge as a learning platform and agree on common peace building actions.
Highlighting WANEP’s six strategic objectives, she articulated that it is to ensure that the network is well-capacitated, organized, stronger and functional demonstrated by building a common front in its advocacy work for a peaceful Sierra Leone, enhance the use of early warning and conflict prevention to promote violence free communities in the country and in support of response initiatives that remain a challenge to the network, the women in peacebuilding network aimed at building the capacity of women to enhance their roles in peacebuilding and transformation in Sierra Leone.
Other strategic objectives are to broaden the youth and peace education programs and support youth participation and voice issues of governance, peace and security, increase WANEP’s research capacity towards supporting policy advocacy, providing knowledge products for effective decision-making, leveraging partnerships and strengthening WANEP’s institutional capacity and that of its member organizations to deliver on their mandate.
She further informed that it is in these peace and human security deficits that WANEP is using the oppo0rtunity to inform the public about current challenges that lie ahead of the electioneering processes for citizens, partners and peacebuilding practitioners to reflect on and how to address those challenges and reminded all that three months to the elections and the process of consolidation of the Sierra Leone democratic process, it is fraught with constraints and challenges, especially with regards to the conduct of the elections .
The press conference was preceded by a five-day training of 22 participants on election mediation and dialogue with Mr. PerBajalkander, Peace Mediation Specialist from the Folke Bernedetta Academy in Sweden as one of the facilitators.
Mr. PerBajalkander disclosed that his organization works on peace, development and security issues to prevent conflicts worldwide, revealed that the training on election mediation and dialogue is for peaceful conduct of the June 2023 elections and pledged their continued support to WANEP.
In his statement, the United Nations Development Program Resident Representative, Pa Lamin Beyai asserted that the 22 participants would utilize the training many years after the June 2023 elections and commended the funders for the training, the UN Peacebuilding Fund. He encouraged them to settle disputes justly maintaining that the history of the country is not good in terms of conflicts, warning that countries that have emerged from war can easily slip back into war and expressed hope that the training would be utilized for credible and successful June 2023 elections.
Highlights of the event were presentation of certificates to participants and the question and answer session.