• May 24, 2023

NCD Engages First-Time Voters, Youth, Persons with Disabilities and Women on Civic/Voter Education and Violence Prevention

NCD Engages First-Time Voters, Youth, Persons with Disabilities and Women on Civic/Voter Education and Violence Prevention
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The National Commission for Democracy (NCD) has engaged first-time voters, youth, persons with disabilities and women on civic/voter education and violence prevention in Kenema and Bo with support from International IDEA through funds from the European Union.

The programmes were hosted at the Albertson Hotel in Kenema on May 10 and the Olive’s Garden in Bo on May 11, 2023, with over 200 participants drawn from targeted communities including first-time voters, youth, women and persons with disabilities to enhance their civic orientation so that they can participate effectively in the forthcoming elections.

In order to get the targeted category of voters fully understand their democratic rights and responsibilities, with particular emphasis on the June 2023 elections, the Commission projected through power point presentations well designed messages produced as jingles, posters, text messages, radio drama and TV drama to enhance their understanding in order to effectively participate in the June 2023 multi-tier elections.

The messages were focused on providing education on eight thematic areas that included: Understanding the District Block Proportional Representation system, Trust in the Electoral Process, Understanding Elections Related Offences and their Sanctions, Dealing with Hate Speech, Political Tolerance, the Importance of Elections and the Participation of Citizens, the Conduct of Citizens during Elections and What should Citizens Vote for. PowerPoint presentations were done by the PR and Communications Director of NCD, Rev. Gibrilla Kargbo, followed by interactive sessions moderated by the Programmes Director of the Commission, John Augustine Lahai, where participants contributed immensely to the discussions and made the programme very animated.

In her brief statement, the Chairman of the Commission, Madam Marian Angela Samu, underscored the need for these categories of people to be educated about the elections. She noted that first-time voters need to be orientated about their democratic rights and obligations so that they will be able to effectively participate in the electoral process with the kind of attitude expected of patriotic citizens.

Madam Samu stated that the youth need to be provided with the requisite education that will mold them into good citizens even before they reached the stage of attaining leadership responsibility in the future. She reiterated that the purpose of the Town Hall Meeting is to educate first-time voters, youth, women and PWDs with a view to providing them with the right kind of orientation that will enable them to vote properly.

Madam Samu admonished her audience not to be involved in any form of violence even as he encouraged them to promote peaceful elections come June 24, 2023. She further encouraged her audience to share the education they have acquired from the Town Hall Meetings with their peers and members of their various communities.

In his welcome address, the Commissioner for the Eastern Region, Pastor Momoh Bockarie, noted that the meeting was designed to engage those that will be voting for the very first time, persons with disabilities and women to provide them with voter education and to also advise them against engaging in elections violence. He said election is a crucial component in the democratic process, but they should not allow politicians to divide them because they are a family. He encouraged every participant to play their part in ensuring that peaceful and credible elections are conducted.

The Executive Secretary of NCD, Abdul Rahman Conteh, noted the importance of organizing such a meeting where first-time voters, PWDs and women are educated about civic rights and responsibilities with emphasis on voter education. He said the Town Hall Meetings will give first-time voters the opportunity to learn more about the District Block Proportional Representation system, the electoral system that will be used to conduct elections for parliamentarians and councilors in the 2023 elections.

Welcoming participants in Bo, the Senior Public Education Officer for the Southern Region of the Commission, Abdulrahman Gassama, admonished his audience to be mindful of the fact that unscrupulous politicians might want to use citizens for their selfish gains against the general interest of the public. He said people should not allow such politicians to take them for granted and that they should all contribute in ensuring that the 2023 multi-tier elections are peaceful and credible.

Representing the Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone (ECSL) in Bo, Anthony Aiah Senesie, thanked the Commission and its partners for organizing a programme that is geared towards educating first-time voters, persons with disabilities and women, which he said is crucial for the forthcoming elections. He noted that ECSL is the institution that has the mandate to conduct public elections and is therefore pleased to announce that ECSL is committed to conducting credible elections in June 2023. He said elections preparedness is well underway as adequate measures have been put in place to ensure that the elections are conducted in a free, fair, transparent and credible manner.

The PPRC representatives in Kenema and Bo also encouraged participants to be law-abiding even as they engage in the electoral process. They noted that their institution will ensure that proper regulatory mechanisms are put in place to enhance peaceful elections come June 24, 2023. They commended NCD for its astute move in engaging first-time voters, women and PWDs on voter education and violence mitigation.

Representing the Office of National Security (ONS) in Bo, the Regional Security Coordinator, Momoh Conteh, noted that they will ensure that adequate security is provided for the people in the Southern Region. He, however, noted that there are some security challenges, but that ONS in collaboration with the police and the military are working on addressing some of the challenges.

The Regional Coordinator encouraged his audience to reflect properly on the words of the National Pledge with a view to understanding and applying them even as they put the interest of the country above every other thing. He said that the concept of civic education is crucial and very significant while noting that civics is the study of rights and responsibilities even as he cited section 13(b) of the Sierra Leone Constitution, Act No. 6 of 1991, that provided for the cultivation of nationalism and patriotism in the citizenry with emphasis on loyalty to the state over and above all other things.

Momoh Conteh also noted that the use of narcotics is a serious challenge. He said drug abuse has been on the increase especially among youth even as he cited an incident at Hastings where a youth used a cutlass and chopped off his hand while under the influence of hard drugs. He encouraged his audience to advise others to refrain from the abuse of drugs. The Security Coordinator assured his audience of their commitment and determination to providing security for the region and the country.

The Meeting was concluded with statements of commitments made by representatives from first-time voters, persons with disabilities, and women’s groups. They committed that they would contribute to the promotion of violence-free elections and also share the information they have acquired with others in their various communities.

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