Youth Promote Peaceful Elections in Sierra Leone
Young people in Africa have long represented an important demographic for electoral mobilization and the promotion of democracy and peaceful transition of governments. This is especially true in countries like Sierra Leone, where 80% of the population is 35 or younger.
Yatta Amara Luseni says she had always been passionate about her country's governance but had never actively participated in the elections. She learned about the Youth in Politics and Peacebuilding project that Catholic Relief Services is implementing and, intrigued by the idea of making a difference in her community, decided to get involved. Yatta was one of the 74 young people recruited, trained and deployed across five project districts to document and report incidents of violence during the 2023 elections.
CRS Facilitates a football match between Sierra Leone communities to enhance peace and social cohesion.
Photo by Abdul Karim Mans-Kanu
Youth in Peacebuilding
During the training, Yatta learned about transparency, fairness and non-violence in the electoral process. She also learned about different aspects of elections, from the voter registration process and the casting of ballots to the declaration of results.
In June 2023, due to the training and skills they had acquired from CRS, Yatta and other young people participated in the presidential elections in her local constituency, Locust Quarry, which is in the eastern part of Freetown. On election day, Yatta arrived at the polling station, equipped with her training, a notebook and a smartphone to document proceedings. The atmosphere was tense. Throughout the day, she observed the voting process and watched for signs of violence or voter intimidation.
CRS Engages First-Time Voters to promote peace and social cohesion in Sierra Leone.
Photo by Abdul Karim Mans-Kanu
As the day progressed, Yatta noticed verbal altercations among voters at her polling station. With her newfound skills, she documented these incidents and reported them to the project team liaising with the authorities. Yatta’s actions and those of other election observers and the Sierra Leonean police helped prevent such minor disputes from disrupting the elections, thereby contributing to peaceful elections.
After the close of the poll and vote counting, Yatta says she felt tremendous pride and a sense of accomplishment. She knew she had played a crucial role in ensuring a peaceful and transparent electoral process in her community. The training had not only empowered her to make informed choices as a voter but also to actively contribute to having a peaceful, free and fair election.
“I used to think that only adults should be involved in election processes, but the training I received from CRS changed this notion,” she says. “I now know that I have an important role to play as a young person during elections.”
Since the elections, Yatta continues to be involved in her community, encouraging her peers to take an interest in the political process and to participate in upcoming elections. Improved participation of young poeple in governance and political activism holds the potential for peaceful elections and democracy in Africa.
The Youth in Politics and Peacebuilding project is a two-year United Nations Peacebuilding Fund grant that covers Port Loko, Bo, Kenema, Western Rural and Western Urban districts of Sierra Leone. The project is implemented by CRS and Caritas Sierra Leone. It promotes an inclusive political process, social cohesion and socio-economic improvement for young people in Sierra Leone.