Sierra Leone Telegraph:16 May 2023:
Since changing the country’s system of voting few months ago, from first past the post to District Block Proportional Representation (PR), there have been serious concerns expressed as to whether the majority of electorate in Sierra Leone will understand how PR works, what it means for democracy and their chances of electing the person they want representing them. These concerns have been shared also by the international community.
Last week, the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL) launched a nationwide sensitization campaign to educate the electorate about Proportional Representation. With just few weeks to presidential, general and local elections, critics are accusing the electoral commission of leaving their voter sensitisation campaign too late.
The ECSL is now holding a series of local town hall meetings across the 16 districts of Sierra Leone, to engage with political parties, independent candidates, Members of Parliament, representatives of Paramount Chiefs, the media, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), the Inter Religious Council, Domestic Observers Coalitions, Student Unions, Bike Riders’ Associations, and representatives of Persons Living with Disability (PWDs).
Speaking at the engagement workshop held in the Western Area Urban area of Freetown, Zainab Moseray – ECSL Commissioner for the Western Region said: “The ECSL remains committed in ensuring that electoral stakeholders are sensitized not only on the PR System but in all related electoral processes for the forthcoming general elections.’’
The national PR sensitisation campaign is funded by the European Union (EU) and the German government.
The European Union Governance Adviser – Ms. Serena Bertaina, said: “The EU remains committed to supporting Sierra Leone’s efforts to conduct credible, inclusive and peaceful multi-party elections and achieve sustainable development.’’
Mr. Behrens, Head of Cooperation at the German Embassy in Freetown said: “It is vital to ensure a better understanding of the new electoral process, which if properly applied, could promote women’s political inclusion in Sierra Leone and advance gender equality in the political space.”
The national PR sensitisation campaign is also supported by the ECOWAS Peace and Security Architecture and Operations (EPSAO) Project which is co-funded by the European Union (EU) and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaftfür Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.
The EPSAO Project supports the ECOWAS Commission in its mandate to address regional peace and security threats through strengthening of capacities in four crucial policy areas including: Peace Support Operations, Conflict Prevention, Security Sector Reform and Governance (SSRG) as well as in Electoral Affairs.
The EPSAO Projects seeks to address the root causes of regional conflict and to promote collective action and joint regional strategies by ECOWAS Member States to curb conflict and insecurity, including rebellions, violent extremism, communal violence, the spread of illicit small arms and light weapons, piracy, land-use conflicts, and election-related violence.