Catholic Priest Decries Rampant Use of Illicit “kush” ahead of Elections in Sierra Leone

Fr. Peter Konteh, Executive Director of Caritas Freetown in Sierra Leone. Credit: Fr. Peter Konteh/Facebook

The use of a cheap and dangerous drug known as kush has become widespread among the youth in Sierra Leone, a situation that a Catholic Priest in the West African country finds alarming.

According to Fr. Peter Konteh, the Executive Director of Caritas Freetown, the use of kush, and other illicit drugs among the young people in Sierra Leone exposes the country, which is preparing for the general elections on June 24, to possible violence.

In his reflection on “Substance Abuse, a Major Factor in the Electoral Violence”, Fr. Konteh notes that the importation of illicit drugs has increased during the country’s electioneering period, and that rogue politicians are sponsoring the uptake of drugs among the unemployed youth.

“We have seen a sudden rise in an illegal drug known as kush which is very cheap and readily available on the streets of Sierra Leone. We also realize from our research that 90 percent of admissions into Sierra Leonean psychiatric facilities are due to kush,” Fr. Konteh says, adding that the use of kush is “recent but it is affecting our communities.”

“We realized from our research that many people interested in political agenda will use young people to cause chaos after facilitating their access to drugs. This is especially the case as we approach elections. We have discovered that a lot of illicit drugs are being imported into the country at this time,” Fr. Konteh says in a report shared with ACI Africa Tuesday, January 17.


He says that in Sierra Leone, young people have been highly influenced by drugs and are not in their right senses. 

“Someone who is not in their right senses is not capable of making sound judgments. Influenced youth are also capable of causing disorder in such situations as elections,” he says. 

The Director of the development arm of the Catholic Church in Freetown notes that a majority of young people in the country, including motorbike riders, police officers, and military personnel, are all taking kush.

The effect of the drug, he says, does not take long to manifest. “It is immediate. You see how users immediately stop functioning well.”

The Caritas Freetown Director who recently underlined the need to tame hate speech in Sierra Leone ahead of the country’s elections says that it is in the use of kush and other drugs that young people incubate negative aspects such as tribalism and the feeling of being excluded instead of thinking positively and inclusively. 

More in Africa

He underscores the need for the youth to feel part of the process of inclusivity to keep rogue politicians at bay.

He appeals to the youth in Sierra Leone to keep off politicians who are capable of inciting the people to violence, saying, “All of these politicians responsible for violence have their children outside the country pursuing high-quality education. Let us not allow it to be used by them.”

He says that Caritas Freetown is looking at helping drug users access treatment as an alternative to their being sent to prison. 

“We want to encourage our youth to make a difference in 2023,” Fr. Konteh says, and adds, “Your youths should be focused, examine politicians' manifestos with sober minds, and eventually choose good leaders in the forthcoming elections.”

“We discourage dishing out drugs and alcohol to our youth to drive them to violent activities and hate. We are praying that this year will be a peaceful one wherein young people are not used to cause violence,” he says. 


The member of the Clergy of the Catholic Archdiocese of Freetown continues, “Young people are normally engaged, and the moment those rogue politicians become successful, they are disengaged and left on their own.” 

The recommendation of Caritas Freetown is youth empowerment to reduce the number of unemployed youth who Fr. Konteh says engage in drug abuse out of frustration. 

He says that at the moment, unemployed youth are easy prey to rogue politicians who he says are giving them money to buy kush and thereafter to engage in violence.

In an interview with ACI Africa last November, Archbishop Edward Tamba Charles expressed concern that a kush had found its way to the Sierra Leonean streets and that it was destroying young people’s lives.

“Last year, we had a drug that was called Tramadol. We have also had one called Relief, and now we have Kush. These things are destroying the lives of our young people,” Archbishop Tamba Charles said during the November 7 interview.

(Story continues below)

The Archbishop who is at the helm of the Inter-Religious Council of Sierra Leone (IRCSL) further said, “As the Inter-religious Council, we are appealing to the ministry of youth to put in place an organized way of dealing with this challenge. We need to find out who is behind this substance called Kush and who is benefitting from it.”

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.