The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRCSL) took a proactive step in promoting human rights, peaceful elections, and non-violence by engaging 500 young people in the western area.

The move comes as the country prepares for the upcoming elections on June 24th, with the Commission recognizing the potential risks posed by vulnerable youths who are often manipulated by politicians to create disturbances during the electoral process.

The two-day engagement initiative, held on May 17th and 19th, focused on reaching out to young people from various marginalized backgrounds, including those from ghettos, car wash points, hook-up girls, bike riders, cliques, and ataya bases. The primary objectives of the program were to understand the factors driving youth participation in election violence, establish Human Rights Non-violence Ambassadors, and raise awareness among the youth population, which constitutes one-third of the country’s total population. Startling statistics reveal that 70% of young people are either underemployed or unemployed, and 50% are illiterate, making them susceptible to misinformation and involvement in criminal activities.

Mrs. Patricia Narsu Ndanema, Chairperson of HRCSL, emphasized the importance of freedom in enjoying human rights and expressed the Commission’s trust in the youth present at the engagement, reiterating their commitment to ensuring a violence-free election.

National Youth President, Tejan Z. Kellah, expressed gratitude to the Commission for organizing the event, considering it the most effective engagement with young people thus far. Kellah highlighted the importance of individual responsibility, urging fellow youth to exercise their right to vote while ensuring peace and non-violence during and after the polls.

He called on participants to become ambassadors of peace within their communities and social circles.

Bike riders, a significant youth community in Sierra Leone, were also recognized during the engagement as a critical group that could potentially be involved in violence.

Umaru Talie Bah, President of the Bike Riders Association (BRA), commended the Commission for including them in the program and assured their commitment to refrain from engaging in violence during and after the elections.

Mohamed S. Turay, the BRA East District representative, emphasized the importance of bike riders’ role in maintaining peace, stating that they suffer the most when peace is disrupted and that their responsibility is to serve as ambassadors of peace.

Assistant Inspector General of Police Sylvester Koroma, Regional Commander-West, reiterated the police’s commitment to maintaining law and order.

He urged the youth to enjoy their rights responsibly and refrain from violence, emphasizing that it is the police’s duty to ensure citizens’ entitlement to peace and security.

During the engagement, youth leaders from the targeted groups made a commitment pledge to abstain from violence before, during, and after the elections, as well as to educate their peers about the importance of non-violence.

As a symbol of unity and empowerment, the Commission unveiled a theme song on human rights and non-violence in elections, composed and performed by the participating youths.

The HRCSL’s engagement with the youth population highlights the importance of fostering understanding, promoting human rights, and ensuring peaceful elections in Sierra Leone. By empowering young people to be ambassadors of peace, the Commission strives to create a society where the rights of the majority are safeguarded and protected.

Source: HRCSL Communications Team