In a bid to enhance the peaceful and successful outcomes of the elections on March 7, 2018, the National Commission for Democracy (NCD) in collaboration with Network Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (NMDHR) and other key stakeholders including state and non-state actors has officially launched the Citizen’s Platform for Political Tolerance and a song titled “We all Nar Family” with support from the United Nations Development (UNDP) through a project titled: ‘Conflict Prevention and Mitigation during the 2018 Electoral Cycle in Sierra Leone’ on the theme: ‘Civic Engagement for Peaceful Elections’.
The event that was hosted at the Atlantic Hall, National Stadium Hostels, Brookfields, Freetown on November 1, 2017 witnessed commitments made by political parties representatives vowing to adhere to the principle of political tolerance in order to ensure peaceful and successful elections come March 7, 2018 in the full view of the media and members of the Platform.
In an attempt to commit political parties to maintain political tolerance, thirteen out of the fourteen registered political parties that graced the occasion were given five minutes each to commit themselves to uphold and promote the principle of political tolerance even as the nation gets closer to the March 7, 2018 elections and all of the political parties present made the commitment assuring the people of Sierra Leone of their willingness and determination to respect the views of others even as they campaign to win the support of the electorates.
In his keynote address, the Secretary General of the Inter-Religious Council (IRCSL), Rev. Moses Kanu, applauded NCD for the initiative of creating the Platform and choosing his Council to officially launch the Platform. He said the Commission made no mistake in choosing the Inter-Religious Council to launch the Platform even as he noted that the IRCSL is, apart from being one of the most highly tolerant institutions in the country, the moral guarantor for the peace the Country enjoys today.
He prayed that the people of Sierra Leone will find the Platform as an instrument where the political parties, their candidates and supporters tolerate each other for the purpose of fostering free, fair, credible and violent free elections in the March 7, 2018 elections.
The Reverend remarked that tolerance is an important socio-political and religious concept geared towards the respect of the human rights of other people regardless of who they are and what they believe and practice even as he said that human beings are created with a free moral conscience and they have the right to choose whom to relate with and what to believe and practice.
He said tolerance occurs in different human relationships such as political, religious, economic, cultural and ethnic activities whilst noting that political tolerance is unique in the sense that it is the willingness to extend basic rights and civil liberties to persons or groups whose viewpoints differ from one’s own.
He said modern democracy ensures competition for power and in the case of Sierra Leone there are more than ten political parties that are going to contest for one seat and in that regard political tolerance is crucial to maintain the peace and ensure the credibility of the elections.
Welcoming participants to the launch of the Platform, the Chairman of NCD, Dr. Abubakar Hassan Kargbo, noted that the Citizens’ Platform is a project sponsored by UNDP and constitute a very crucial activity of the Commission in the effort to promote, free, fair, credible, transparent, violent free and generally accepted elections in 2018
Dr. Kargbo noted that the history of elections in Sierra Leone has been characterized by violence whilst pointing out that it could be argued that the key factors for such violence have been among other things, ethnicity, regional consideration or sentiment, party affiliation, intolerance on the part of party supporters from the respective parties, hate speech, youth alienation etc.
He said the reality of violence in elections and the danger of reducing the state to the state of nature having brought about the need to prevent and mitigate conflict during the 2018 elections.
In his opening remarks, the Chairman for the occasion who is also the Commissioner for the Northern Region of NCD and the Focal Person for the Performance Contract signed with State House, Bai John Conteh, noted that ‘in our drive as a nation to imbibe the much needed culture and practice that, if So engrafted in the governance and socio-political climate, will not only usher relief and hope to this very pulsating citizens of Sierra Leone, but will also help us find our way up into the class of civilized nations of the world’.
He said the occasion is meant to launch an outfit that can help to punctuate and mould their political discourse amidst a climate of opposing views to promote tranquility in a pluralistic democratic arrangement. He said it is time for politicking in the country and everyone must be reminded to work hard to make it very peaceful and memorable for all the good reasons.
The representative from the Network Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (NMDHR), Abdul Karim Habib, called on Sierra Leoneans to actively participate in the governance process of the state so that the Country can witness peaceful 2018 elections. He said his institution, NMDHR, advocates for good governance and a peaceful way of life in the country.
He urged Sierra Leoneans to imbibe the culture of political tolerance and embrace one and other even when they belong to different political parties. He said he would like to see a situation wherein political parties campaign side by side without any form of violence like it happened in Liberia where the two major political parties campaigned side by side without any event of violence.
The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Alhasan Konde, expressed his delight for being part of the launch of the Platform, saying that as a coordinating Ministry of the project they are pleased that NCD is determined and committed to implementing the programme with a view to ensuring that the Country witnesses peaceful 2018 elections.
Applauding the effort of the Commission, he said he hoped that other institutions can learn from the good work of the
Commission even as he used the opportunity to thank the UNDP for sponsoring the project. He said the Platform can create a forum for a continuous and sustained engagement of all stakeholders on all elections and elections related activities in order to ensure peaceful and violent free elections throughout the country.
Representing the Chairman of the National Electoral Commission (NEC), the Special Assistance to the Chairman, Abu Turay, applauded the Commission for what he referred to as a laudable effort in ensuring peaceful elections in 2018 even as he thanked UNDP for sponsoring the project. He said he is pleased to learn that one of the objectives of the Platform is to identify and document electoral offences and follow them to their logical conclusion.
The Registrar, Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC), Zainab Morseray, said the creation of the Citizen’s Platform is the right step in the right direction as the Country needs it this time more than any other time as it will help promote the peaceful outcomes of the elections come March 7, 2018. She said the citizens are the most important component in the electioneering process and they can make or break the elections. She said a Platform of such nature is crucial to enhancing the peaceful outcomes of the elections.
The representative from the Office of National Security (ONS), Francis Langumba Keilly, expressed strong conviction that if a coalition or a platform of likeminded people in their actions and in their course is in place, it can resist any kind of unethical political machination that might be manifested by politicians.
He said such a coalition can go a long way in ameliorating most of the security hiccups that are likely to be faced as they approach the 2018 elections. He noted that the challenges they are going to face in 2018 far surpass the challenges in the previous elections.
In a power point presentation, the Communication and Public Relations Manager of NCD, Rev. Gibrilla Kargbo, elucidated on the mode of operations of the Platform by highlighting the objectives of the Platform and the methodology the Platform will be using to achieve its objectives. The event was climaxed by the launch of a song on political tolerance done by the Artists for Peace Sierra Leone projecting the fact that in spite of the differences in political views, differences in tribe or region, Sierra Leoneans are members of the same family.