Catholic Peace Entity in Sierra Leone Concerned about “fragile” Security ahead of Polls

Participants at the AGIAMONDO workshop that brought together peace workers in Sierra Leone

The Justice and Peace Commission (JPC) of Caritas Freetown has expressed concern over a rise in crime and violence in Sierra Leone as the country approaches general elections slated for June 2023.

In a Thursday, November 3 interview with ACI Africa, the Programs Manager of Caritas Freetown- JPC, Eliza Sillah, said that Sierra Leone’s security is fragile, noting that people were aggrieved and seemingly “waiting for an opportunity to be violent”.

“Based on how people react violently to any simple provocation, you can tell that the levels of depression and trauma are high and people seem to be waiting for the slightest aggravation to become violent. This is not a good thing for a country heading to elections,” Eliza said.

She added, “People appear to have so many bottled-up grievances. Many people look so agitated and they are aggrieved by their poor living conditions. They are not happy with the way the government is giving people jobs in uncompetitive processes.”

“Our security is very fragile,” Eliza said, and added, “Crime is on the rise. The other day, we received reports of people who had been found wounded in the provinces. We want to think it is an act of robbery, but we also worry about the deteriorating security in the country.”


The Caritas Freetown-JPC Programs Manager spoke to ACI Africa on the sidelines of a three-day workshop that was organized by AGIAMONDO, a German development agency that is working with partner organizations to promote peace initiatives in conflict regions.

The meeting brought together Civil Peace Service (CPS) workers that AGIAMONDO has strategically placed in Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) already running grassroots peace initiatives in various parts of the country. 

Representatives from various organizations that the German development entity has partnered with also attended the AGIAMONDO-CPS partner meeting. These are Justice for Peace and Human Rights Commission (JPHRV), Advocacy Aid (ADVOCAID), Center for Democracy and Human Rights (CDHR), Women Against Violence and Exploitation in Society (WAVES), Green Scenery Sierra Leone (GSSL), and the University of Makeni (UNIMAK).

Participants at the meeting shared their work in various kinds of advocacy, promotion of access to justice especially among vulnerable groups, as well as what they are doing to prepare the citizens for a peaceful election.

Those who spoke to ACI Africa expressed concern that tension was already building in the country that “has a history of violence” and a tendency to slide into unrest that is mostly perpetuated by the youth and the police, as well as by politicians who use criminals to intimidate their opponents.

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Highlighting some of the areas considered hotspots in Sierra Leone, Eliza noted that Waterloo, a town in the country’s Western region is usually one of the most affected places whenever violence erupts.

With a peri-urban setting, Waterloo is known to be a home of ex-combatants and soldiers who participated in the country’s worst civil war that ended in 2002 following 11 years of immense devastation. Some of these, the Caritas Freetown official said, are usually used to perpetrate acts of intimidation against political opponents in an electioneering period.

Other hotspot areas are slum communities surrounding Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown. Here, youths who are jobless and use drugs are also used by politicians to cause chaos.

Eliza told ACI Africa that the justice and peace arm of Caritas Freetown has always embraced dialogue in various peace mitigation initiatives in the areas served by the Catholic Church in Freetown.

“First, we seek to understand the violence triggers and the parties involved. We respond to people’s economic challenges and provide psychosocial support and counseling,” she said, adding, “Our initiatives have greatly roped in the police and the youths since we understand that the two groups are the major actors in most violent activities around Freetown.”


In a dialogue session that Caritas Freetown organized in September, young people from Sierra Leone’s Western Area Rural District were allowed an opportunity to interact with the police, and to address their deep-seated differences.

“We organized the dialogue after the August 10 violence in which six police officers and 21 civilians were killed in riots. It was a very successful dialogue session, with each party being given an opportunity to air their grievances,” Eliza said.

She added, “While youth complained that they are always manhandled by the police, the latter confessed that they are sometimes scared of the youths, especially the motorbike riders, and are always watching their backs when dealing with them.”

Caritas Freetown had also organized civic education for young people who were equipped with knowledge of their rights and roles in the country’s forthcoming elections.

Highlighting the success of the training, Eliza said, “We did it a day before the announcement of the election process. The following day, a huge number of first-time voters turned up for registration.”

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“We are also working to be accredited by the electoral commission so as to be allowed to observe, monitor, and even make inputs in the electoral processes,” she told ACI Africa.

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.