According to national census report of 2004, Sierra
Leone has an estimated population of about six
million people, out of whom 52% are women. It covers
an estimated area of 72 square kilometres (28,000
Sierra Leone has a long history of large political
participation and representation, including her
inspiration as the "Land of Freedom" in 1787.
In 1895, election of the Freetown Municipal Council
took place, through a complex system of
representation. The election of three Colony
representatives to the Legislative Council started
in 1924. Sierra Leoneans participated more broadly
with the extension of franchise to the Protectorate
in 1957, after which a suffrage became universal for
Since gaining independence on 27 April 1961, Sierra
Leone has shown her political maturity in Africa,
especially in the area of electioneering. Sierra
Leone was the first African country in which an
opposition party came to power by electoral means.
The first election victory for the opposition took
place in 1967. Forty years later, history repeated
itself when the opposition party took the reigns of
power from the ruling party in 2007.
Politicians across the political spectrum have been
able to divide their governed along tribal,
political and social lines, and rule them in a
manner consistent with their whims and caprices.
This style of rule has caused untold suffering to
the people of Sierra Leone. The politicians are able
to appeal to the minds of the electorate by
propagating political divide amongst the various
The gullible electorate therefore, cast their votes
based on regional and tribal subjectivity. They do
not vote for candidates who have very good
programmes (manifestoes) that will improve their
lives. The electorate does not get thorough
knowledge of the programme put forward by the
parties and how those programmes will generally
improve their socio-economic lives.
This is because majority of the voters are illiterate,
and therefore do not have the ability to critically
assess at the programmes and policies of the
Thus, the electorate of Sierra Leone very often
votes for people who do not have their best
interests at heart. During electioneering, they
promise the people socio-economic developments: they
will provide clean water, adequate housing,
affordable medical care and abundant food supply.
Once the elected politicians are in power, they
totally forget to fulfil their promises. Little do
they realise that the people have sovereignty
According to section 5 - paragraph 2a of the country’s
Constitution, '.. Sovereignty belongs to the people
of Sierra Leone from whom Government through this
Constitution derives all its powers, authority and
legitimacy.' By sovereignty of the people is meant
'the belief that the legitimacy of the state is
created by the will or consent of its people', who
are the source of all political power.
It is only education of the people regarding their
civic, human and constitutional rights that will
enhance their power against the politicians who have
become so powerful that they do not work in the
interest of their electorate.
Politicians very well know that, at election they will
win votes by simply campaigning on sectional,
regional and tribal bases.
The end of the war in Sierra Leone saw the en-masse
emergence of human rights organizations in Sierra
Leone. Through the dedicated work of these
organizations, the human rights situation in the
country is a far cry better than it was before the
However, most of the human rights organizations lack
the legal background that will enable them to use
human rights instruments in achieving sustainable
development in the country. Moreover, no human
rights organization has conducted nationwide
training of citizens, so as to enable them to
effectively use their voting rights, in ways that
will enhance socio-economic development.
In one of my previous articles I recommended among
other things that:
• The people of Sierra Leone should know the
constitutional duties of the members of parliament,
and be able to hold them accountable for neglect of
their constituencies. The constitution of Sierra
Leone accords sovereignty right to the people of
Sierra Leone, which is why they should be empowered
• The people of Sierra Leone should be educated in
the fundamental principles of a good election and
the tools they can use in order to send
representatives to parliament that are answerable to
Moreover, there is growing recognition among nation
states that democratic elections are a central
element of peace-building in post-conflict
societies. This emphasis on election, acknowledges
that popularly supported - legitimate institutions,
can be a key to lasting solutions to conflicts.
One of the ways of achieving this is through civic
education in election processes. Civic education
should take the form of awareness building, with
respect to the programmes and policies offered by
the various political parties.
The electorate must be educated to understand that
votes must be cast, based on those programmes and
policies, rather than regional or tribal sentiments.
This will augur well for development, wherein the
'governors' work in the best interest of the
Given that the majority of Sierra Leoneans are
illiterate, it is therefore an indisputable fact
that civic education should entail strategies that
take into consideration the educational background
of the majority of Sierra Leoneans. Put another way,
the strategies should reach the illiterate
population in the country.
Sierra Leone can only be sustainably developed -
socially and economically, when the electorate is
aware of the fact that their lives will be changed
for better, when they cast their votes for a
political party that has a progressive manifesto.
Mohamed Kunowah Kiellow, Amsterdam - The
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