Caritas Freetown Urges Sierra Leonean Police to Address Trust Issues ahead of 2023 Polls

Credit: Courtesy Photo

The development and humanitarian arm of the Catholic Archdiocese of Freetown in Sierra Leone is calling on law enforcement agencies in the West African nation to start working to boost the confidence of the people in the agencies ahead of the country’s general election that is scheduled to be held in June 2023.

In his keynote address at a police and youth dialogue session that brought together young people from Sierra Leone’s Western Area Rural District, Caritas Freetown Executive Director, Fr. Peter Konteh, presented a set of proposals to tame violent activities during the country’s electioneering period, including the need for the authorities to work on trust issues among the electorate.

“We need to identify gaps and risk factors in the elections process that have the potential to generate a violent conflict. Let’s address all trust issues and public confidence in the Sierra Leone police to provide an election security strategy, which is based on a stable law and order environment in the entire country,” Fr. Konteh said.

The Tuesday, September 20 dialogue session also brought together representatives from Sierra Leone’s police department, the Western Area Rural District Electoral Commission, the Western Area Rural District Youth Council, and representatives from the Motor Bike Riders Union in the region.

Participants at the dialogue engaged broadly on the theme, “Preventing and Managing Violent Election-related Conflict between the SLP/OSD (police) and the Youth”.


The aim of the dialogue, Fr. Konteh explained, was to promote understanding among the police, electoral commission and youth on their roles and responsibilities to prevent and manage violent election-related conflict. This, he said, would in turn ensure an enabling peaceful environment for the general elections.

The June 2023 polls in Sierra Leone will involve the election of the President, Members of Parliament (MPs), and representatives of local Councils.

“Elections in Sierra Leone in the past have been characterized by varying degrees of violence, intimidation, fraud and resulting cynicism on the part of citizens towards the electoral process. In the past, the police have been accused of being used by politicians to intimidate opponents and to rig elections,” Fr. Konteh said.

The member of the Clergy of Freetown Archdiocese added, “It is therefore very important for men and women of the Sierra Leone police on election duty to discharge their functions with keen awareness of the national responsibility entrusted to them.”

He called upon the police in Sierra Leone to be impartial, neutral and to act professionally and with fairness in exercising their functions.

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The Caritas Executive Director underlined the need to develop the stakeholder capacity to avoid “destructive expressions of conflict” during Sierra Leone’s electioneering period, saying, “This is an important ingredient of a democratic culture and requires that people be able to talk to each other about the issues that divide them.”

“Stakeholders in the electioneering process must ensure that their utterances are not recipes for violent outcomes. Electing our governors should be characterized by a peaceful environment,” he said.

Fr. Konteh said that the role of the police during elections in the country is central, especially in providing security and ensuring safety during voter’s registration, political rallies and events, transportation of election-sensitive materials and keeping peace on the day of the polls.

The youth on the other hand, the Caritas Freetown official said, have an indispensable role to play in determining Sierra Leone’s progress towards a more peaceful, democratic and prosperous country.

He expressed regret that the youth have allowed themselves to be used by politicians seeking mileage in past elections.


“Over the years and till date, the youths of Sierra Leone have been the most affected when violence and conflicts related to elections are under analysis, but ironically, they have been the very group hugely responsible for the perpetuation of violence and conflict related to elections,” Fr. Konteh said.

He added, “Youths have been and continue to be instruments in the hands of political lords in Sierra Leone to have political opponents muscled and intimidated more during elections.”

He underscored the need for Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Sierra Leone to monitor and analyze the role of the police and the youth in election-related violence, saying, “CSOs sought to contribute to the promotion of peace, stability and democratic values in Sierra Leone and to support better policing, youth participation, and good practices during electoral processes in the future.”

In a set of proposals that Fr. Konteh presented at the dialogue session, he further underlined the need for Sierra Leone’s electoral body, the country’s police department and youth leaders in collaboration with the political aspirants to work on guidelines and rules for campaign rallies, meetings and house-to-house canvassing.

“It is recommended that dates be shared as well as constituencies divided into manageable zones which will minimize contact points between political actors,” he said.

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Fr. Konteh said that there is a need for Sierra Leone to move away from “politics of personalities and identity” to the “politics of manifesto or development programme”.

“Development plans and priorities must be given a priority in the choice of viable candidates for election. Each candidate must be able to show how they will raise their revenue as well as how they will spend such revenue,” he said.

The award-winning Catholic Priest urged political parties in Sierra Leone to refrain from using hate messages against their political opponents especially on radio.

“We need to focus on our violent turbulent past in terms of elections in order to build a roadmap to a peaceful election in the future,” he said.

Fr. Konteh further underscored the need to popularize the procedures for the country’s elections to ensure full participation.

He called upon those in charge of organizing the elections to ensure that rules governing the electoral process are non-discriminatory and apply equally to all citizens of the voting age, “whether it is nomination of candidates or polling day events.”

“There have been instances in Sierra Leone where the rules of the voting process have been altered while voting is in progress,” the Catholic Priest said.

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.