The meeting took place at the Sierra Leone Labour Congress new hall and had in attendance the President of the Sierra Leone Labour Congress Mr. Jennings Wrights, National Coordinator for Civil Society Movement – Sierra Leone Ms. Juliet Anderson, President of the Women’s Forum Ms. Maude Peacock, President of the Central One Football Association and Chairman of National Ojeh Council Mr. Sama Sesay, James Lahai of the National Elections Watch, Ms. Jenny King of the 50/50 Group and Arthur Scotland Nicol of the National Farmers Federation.
The Executive Director of the Legal Aid Board, Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles told participants they have a crucial role to play in ensuring peaceful and credible elections and therefore urged them to come onboard and take ownership of the Anti-Election Violence Platforms that are being established around the country.
‘We are in this as one,’ she said, adding ‘We must engage the electoral processes and one way of doing so is to support the Anti-Election Violence Platforms in your community.’
Ms. Carlton-Hanciles warned against ignoring the early warning signs which she stressed are visible around the country. She drew attention to gangs and cliques who provoke violence within their ranks during rallies to steal and in the process destroy vehicles and properties.
Also, she noted there are those who spend time wiping posters of political parties and in the process throw insults at passers-by which sometimes lead to violence. She said some of the marauding gangs are not wreaking havoc simply because they want to inflict pain on members of their community or stop people from participating in politics. ‘Some of them are in the payroll of politicians who tell them what to do,’ she said. ‘The Anti-Election Violence Platforms will be addressing these issues and ensure they do not happen.’
Speaking on the relationship with the Sierra Leone Police she said the Platforms will support the police in ensuring peace and security in the community. ‘We will give you the mobile numbers of three senior police officers you should contact when the security of the community is being threatened,’ she said. ‘With 36 police stations in Freetown, you will be able to contact police officers in stations closest to your platform.’
Ms. Carlton-Hanciles urged her audience to take the message to their respective organizations noting that the more people are on board the better for the elections.
Various speakers underlined the need to work with the platforms as part of a concerted effort at ensuring peaceful and credible elections. The President of the Women’s Forum, Maude Peacock said the Women’s Situation Room that will be established by her organization will work closely with the Platforms.
The President of the Sierra Leone Labour Congress, Mr. Jennings Wrights said he will call a meeting of labour unions to develop a common strategy on how to ensure the Platforms work and become meaningful to communities. In addition, they will call a meeting of alcohol producers to discuss challenges posed alcohol on the elections.
The representative of the National Elections Watch (NEW) James Lahai said in spite of the fears and concerns expressed by people, civil society and other groups have been engaged with the March 2018 Elections than any other in the history of the country. He said NEW has been observing all the electoral processes including the election of village heads. He added that NEW will set up Situation Rooms and deploy election observers in all the 11,200 polling stations.
The meeting was climaxed with the election of Juliet Anderson, National Coordinator of the Civil Society Movement to coordinate civil society organizations for the launch of the Anti-Election Violence Platform on 31 January 2018.