Religious Leaders in Sierra Conducting Civic Education to Prevent Post-election Chaos

Members of the Inter-Religious Council of Sierra Leone (IRCSL). Credit: IRCSL

Members of the Inter-Religious Council of Sierra Leone (IRCSL) are conducting voter education and training of faith-based leaders in the West African nation to ensure that the country holds free, fair and peaceful elections slated for June next year.

Archbishop Edward Tamba Charles of the Catholic Archdiocese of Freetown in Sierra Leone, who also serves at the President of IRCSL told ACI Africa that the Council had already completed voter education for registration of new voters, an exercise that he said saw new first-time voters turn up for registration, and was now gearing up for sensitization ahead of elections to ensure that those who will be casting their votes are well informed about the exercise.

“We have done sensitization during the voter registration exercise. We are also planning to do voter education, targeting especially the first-time voters, to make sure that they mark their ballot papers well in order to avoid losing their votes,” Archbishop Tamba Charles said in the Friday, November 25 interview.

He added, “Invariably, there are disgruntled losers at every election. Therefore, we are going to organize training for religious leaders nationwide on conflict mitigation, prevention and resolution.”

The Serra Leonian Archbishop said that the interreligious Council had also meetings with key stakeholders in the country’s elections, including political parties, which had been asked to commit towards working for a peaceful poll next year.


He however expressed frustration that a majority of political parties in the country had given the call for peace a wide berth.

He said that not all political parties had sent their representatives to the July meeting that the IRCSL had convened and that leading political parties, in particular, had completely ignored the call.

“Against the background of previous elections, in July the inter-religious council in Sierra Leone held a meeting with the representatives of the 17 registered political parties to convince them to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to commit them to avoid the use of violence during the coming elections. After all our persuasion, only five of the political parties signed the MOU. Up to now, the other political parties, including the ruling SLPP (Sierra Leone Peoples’ Party), the main opposition APC (All Peoples’ Congress), and others have not yet signed the MOU,” Archbishop Tamba Charles said.

He said that such snubbing casts a dark shadow over the possibility of having a peaceful poll in June next year.

The inter-religious Council had also convened a meeting with the police and youth following the August 10 riot that led to the death of six police officers and dozens of civilians, an incident that the Catholic Archbishop said had heightened political tension in the country ahead of the polls.

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“Since the 10th August riot, the IRCSL has organized another meeting with the representatives of the political parties, and many of them were rather remorseful, but they blamed the security forces for the many deaths,” Archbishop Tamba Charles said.

He added, “Most importantly, as religious leaders, we shall do what we do best; namely to pray to God for free, fair, peaceful and credible elections.”

The IRCSL was established on 1 April 1997 to consolidate the religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence that the religious communities, especially the Christians and the Muslims, enjoy in Sierra Leone.

Because the Council was formed during the 11-year Sierra Leone civil war that ended in 2002, the first executive members took the initiative to go into the bush to talk to the various factions to persuade them to collaborate with the various efforts by the international community to organize peace talks.

The members of the Council also attended all the peace talks, including the last one in Lomé, Togo, that produced the Lomé Accord in 1999 that eventually led to the end of the war.


In recognition of the active role played by the IRCSL in the peace negotiations, the Council was designated a moral guarantor of the peace-building process.

And added to its original task of consolidating religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence among the religious communities in Sierra Leone, the Council was given other responsibilities, such as collaboration with humanitarian agencies in the accompaniment of the internally displaced persons, reconciliation exercises in communities affected by the war, and other post-war intervention strategies.

The immediate post-war elections also saw the Council taking on more responsibilities as election monitors, resolution of conflicts, among others.

The Council has also been involved in sensitization on health matters, including the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone in 2014 and 2015, and the COVID-19 pandemic, which started in Sierra Leone in March 2020.

The Council organizes for relief during natural emergencies like mudslides, flooding, fire incidents, and advocacy campaigns in relation to social problems such as gender-based violence, female genital mutilation, rape and teenage marriages.

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“We have done a lot of mediation in political conflicts and we intend to continue to do so in the future,” Archbishop Tamba Charles who started his Episcopate Ministry as the Archbishop of Sierra Leone and Bo before the two were separated says.

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.