Caritas Freetown Gears Up for Sierra Leonean Polls in Initiative for Peace Workers

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

The Justice and Peace arm of Caritas Freetown has joined organizations working to ensure that the June 2023 elections in Sierra Leone are free of chaos.

The development and humanitarian arm of the Catholic Archdiocese of Freetown is one of the organizations that participated in a workshop that was organized by AGIAMONDO, a German development agency that is working with partner organizations to promote peace initiatives in conflict regions.

In a Thursday, November 3 interview with ACI Africa on the sidelines of the three-day workshop that ended on Friday, November 4, the Programs Manager of Caritas Freetown- Justice and Peace Commission (JPC), Eliza Sillah, said that the meeting was an opportunity to learn from what other organizations were doing to foster peace across the West African country, and to forge collaborations on more peace initiatives in the country.

“We are here as a team from Caritas Freetown to evaluate the work that we have been doing, to learn from others and to link up with more partners in our projects. The purpose is to synergize our activities, and seek networks for collaborations on more peace initiatives,” Eliza said.

She said that the meeting was also an opportunity to plan for peaceful elections ahead of the Sierra Leone’s polls slated for June next year.


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, and protection of the environment, among others. The focus, however, was on what they were 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.

Eliza noted that youths especially go rogue immediately after the announcement of “electoral processes”.

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“In our studies, we realized that the youths are always stable before elections, going about their daily activities peacefully, but once announcement of electoral processes such as voter registration and verification is made, the political aspirants become activated. Youths follow suit by identifying with their preferred political candidates,” she said.

“Here, the atmosphere before elections is like a ‘now or never, do or die situation’ because the party that emerges winner in the elections takes it all. There is usually a total overhaul of the administration and the winning party takes all government positions and fires the old staff. This way, no one wishes to lose the elections and the incumbents do everything to stay in power lest they lose their jobs,” the Caritas Freetown official narrated.

She expressed concern that Sierra Leoneans were depressed owing to challenges of poor leadership, and warned that any provocation would likely result in chaos.

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

Speaking to ACI Africa on the sidelines of the meeting, Laura Miatta Lahai, the Project Officer of WAVES, warned that small pockets of violence especially in Freetown were “a potential recipe for chaos and violence” before, during and after the polls.


Ms. Laura who works with vulnerable women and girls said that it is this group that suffers the most during violence, and underlined the need for peaceful elections in the country next year.

“The lawlessness we encountered on August 10 is a potential recipe for chaos and violence in elections,” the WAVES Project Officers told ACI Africa, highlighting the violence in which six police officers were killed when youths went on rampage. Additionally, 21 civilians were killed in the fight that ensued.

“There was an agonizing curfew as youths took over the streets. Many lives were lost,” Ms. Laura said, and added, “Women and girls are among groups that suffer the most in situations of violence that's related to elections. They are raped and those who attempt to vie for political positions are intimidated during campaigns and forced to drop out of the race.”

In an interview with ACI Africa, Maximilian Vogt, AGIAMONDO’S CPS Coordinator in Sierra Leone also warned that the country’s security has always been fragile, underscoring the need for people to be constantly reminded to keep peace.

“Peace in Sierra Leone has been fragile since the end of the civil war. This is a peaceful country with a history of violence and the people are struggling with the effects of poor governance, social and economic challenges,” Maximilian said.

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He added, “With each approaching electioneering period comes fears for violence since there are always political powers that seek to destabilize the nation at such times. The period is also characterized with an increase in hate speech and all manner of provocation.” 

The Official of AGIAMONDO told ACI Africa that the organization supports peace initiatives across different countries through its peacebuilding project.

“We support activities that promote positive and sustainable peace. For us, peace isn't just the absence of violence; it is about access to justice, the access to dignified lives for everyone, democracy and giving spaces for everyone to be heard," Maximillian said.

The approach of the project, he said, is to support local CSOs by placement of CPS workers, “the ones we recruit and empower ourselves to work within the various organizations.”

“All people we recruit are international experts on their fields of work, be it advocacy, issues of the youths, and so on. Our role is limited to the long-term placement of peace workers within existing organizations in our target countries. We then work in the organizations for a period of six years,” the official said.

AGIAMONDO’s peacebuilding initiative has taken root in Sierra Leone since 2003, immediately after the civil war ended, Maximilian said, adding, “We have worked with so many organizations on six-year projects since then. But our approach has remained the same.” 

“Since we don't have any clear picture of the peace initiatives, our activities come from organizations we partner with in our staff placement approach. Our CPSs support peace initiatives of the organizations. In meetings such as these, we discuss how better to support those initiatives through capacity building,” he explained.

He said that in the workshop that started on Wednesday, November 2, participants were expected to share their peace initiatives, learn from each other and plan more for the period before, during and after Sierra Leone’s 2023 elections.

“We have also invited our development partners including the country’s Independent Commission for Peace and National Cohesion, the European Union delegation, Catholic Relief Services and the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund. They will all have a conversation on the role of CSOs in the upcoming elections in Sierra Leone,” the AGIAMONDO official 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.