“Early warning signs of election violence”: Sierra Leone’s Religious Leaders ahead of Poll

Members of the Inter-Religious Council of Sierra Leone (IRCSL). Credit: The Calabash Newspaper/Facebook

Members of the Inter-Religious Council of Sierra Leone (IRCSL) have observed with concern the rising cases of ethnic-based campaigns, and unrest, among other occurrences that the faith-based leaders are terming “early warning signs of conflict and election violence” as the country’s poll date approaches.

In their statement to laud the April 20 launch of the Independent Commission for Peace and National Cohesion of Sierra Leone, the IRCLC members say that they are working to ensure that the West African nation holds a peaceful election slated for June 24.

They highlight the abuse of media, rampant hate speech, and rising tensions among the country’s unemployed youth, as some of the issues that need to be addressed ahead of the general elections. 

“The IRCSL continues to monitor the political situation and realizes there are early warning signs of conflict and election violence as we approach the June 24th multitier elections,” the IRCSL members say in a statement that was shared with ACI Africa. 

They say that the country was witnessing campaigns on ethnic and regional bases, destabilized by-elections, and prevention of political parties having access to certain areas, and add, “The IRCSL and other organizations are aware of these early warning signs.”


The religious leaders say that they are committed to ensuring that Sierra Leone holds peaceful elections through massive voter and civic education programs, encouraging dialogue amongst political stakeholders, and promoting harmony and co-existence amongst different communities in the West African country.

“We will encourage the election Management Bodies to ensure strict adherence to the electoral code of conduct by all political candidates and political parties,” the IRCSL members say, adding that they are also ready to engage the press on responsible and balanced media coverage and reporting on the electoral process.

“We will encourage and monitor political parties and candidates to ensure responsible and mature campaign patterns,” the religious leaders say, and continue, “From the point of the IRCSL, national cohesion is a dynamic process intended to instill in people a strong sense of belonging to the same nation, to encourage all to be engaged in a joint enterprise, and to face common challenges and opportunities.”

The Religious leaders say that sufficient civic education ahead of the Sierra Leonean polls will equip the electorate with a common vision and sense of belonging, patriotism, and appreciation of each other’s regional, and ethnic diversities. 

The IRCSL members laud the launch of the country’s peace commission, noting that the move was crucial and significant ahead of elections.

More in Africa

They appeal to the commission to act with faithfulness, humility, and accountability in the execution of their duties.

“The Commission must see her functions to be a sacred responsibility and an exercise of trust.  Therefore, IRCSL implores the Executive Secretary, the Board of Directors, and the staff of the commission to respect God’s principles of sincerity, honesty, integrity, and justice in the execution of their responsibilities,” they say.

The faith leaders call on politicians and the various political parties in Sierra Leone to do their part in taming violence before, during, and after the country’s general elections that will see the electorate vote for the President and Members of Parliament for a five-year term.

“Political parties and their candidates should demonstrate the right attitude of respect for the rules of the game, demonstrate political tolerance, denounce hate messages or indecent language, and uphold the important values of faithfulness, humility, accountability, and authentic role models,” the IRCSL members say.

They add, “It is also prudent that we, Religious Leaders, CSOs, and NGOs maintain political self-discipline throughout the electioneering period. Political self-discipline in this context is to maintain neutrality, impartiality, and being non-partisan.”


The IRCSL members further laud the creation of the peace commission, saying, “We pray that the Government would continue to provide the resources and the opportunity for the Commission to operate in an independent capacity.”

IRCSL was created at the height of the 11-year Sierra Leonean civil war that ended in 2002.

The inter-religious council has been acclaimed for its important role in ending the war when it brokered peace talks between the peace mediation between the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and the government of Sierra Leone.

The unique and significant role played by the IRCSL in the Lomé Peace Process earned the council the respect it enjoys locally and in international circles.

Sierra Leone, which has a high percentage of Muslims, also enjoys significant religious freedom, thanks to the unifying efforts of the IRCSL that is currently headed by the Local Ordinary of the country’s Catholic Archdiocese of Freetown, Archbishop Edward Tamba Charles.

(Story continues below)

Concerning the interreligious co-existence in Sierra Leone, Archbishop Tamba Charles said, in a past interview with ACI Africa, “We live very peacefully; Christians and Muslims and other religions. All we do is work together to find ways of developing Sierra Leone and making it a better place for everyone.”

The Sierra Leonean government estimates that 77 percent of the population is Muslim, and 21.9 percent is Christian.

Other religious groups that together constitute less than 5 percent of the population include Baha’is, Hindus, Jews, atheists, and practitioners of voodoo and sorcery.

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.