WEST AFRICA: Sierra Leonean Women Root for Peaceful Campaigns

Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Africa Review
Western Africa
Sierra Leone
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Peace Processes
Reconstruction and Peacebuilding

Sierra Leone's President Bai Koroma (centre) arrives for the inaugural address of Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on January 16, 2012 in Monrovia. In Freetown, a coalition of women are up against political mischief ahead of the country's elections later in the year.

A coalition of Sierra Leone women groups plan to stage a march to push for better security in the country.

The women singled out the government for failing in its responsibilities to maintain peace during political rallies.

“Our political leaders are a disgrace,” Yasmin Jusu-Sheriff, one of Sierra Leone's leading women activists, said.

The announcement by the All Political Parties Women's Association was a response to the latest political violence that saw rival political parties clash during a recent by-election in Freetown. The incident left four people injured after police were forced to use teargas and live bullets to disperse unruly youth who were armed with knives, machetes and other weapons.

So far, the violence has been blamed on the two main political parties – the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC) and the opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP), which won the local council by-election.

Tenth anniversary

The Wednesday announcement of the protest coincided with the 10th anniversary of the end of the bloody 11-year Sierra Leonean civil war. In the last decade, the country's fragile peace process has been threatened by recurrence of violence especially instigated by politicians.

In addition to condemnation, the women issued a number of recommendations among them an overhaul of the powers of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) and the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) to enable them deal with election issues without the interference of politicians.

On Monday, the NEC chairperson, Dr Christiana Thorpe, issued a strongly-worded statement condemning politicians for the Freetown violence.

“If political violence happens I will blame it on APC and I will blame it on SLPP. If they want peaceful elections they should talk to their supporters,” Dr Thorpe said.

Sierra Leonean women are particularly concerned that violence could deter them from participating in next November's elections.