The agreement was reached at a stakeholders meeting in the Sierra Leone Labour Congress new hall on Tuesday, 5 December 2018.
The meeting was attended by two hundred and thirty-four stakeholders and partners drawn from the Council of Tribal Heads, Sierra Leone Labour Congress, Ataya Base Union, Local councils, Village Heads, women and youth organizations, Sierra Leone Motor Drivers Unions, Traders Council, Traditional Healers Association, Sierra Leone Union of Photographer, Sierra Leone Boat Owners Association, Sierra Leone Bread Bakers Association, Fishermen’s Union and the Sierra Leone Teacher Union among others.
The platforms will be established in Wards especially those prone to violence. The stakeholders will be responsible for establishing the platforms. This will involve providing the venue, putting together the members of the platform and taking responsibility for the day-to-day activities of the platform. The Board’s satellite offices – the Community Advisory Bureaus – will provide guidance and technical support.
They will consist of a Mediation Panel and Community Sensitization component which operate before, during and four months after the elections. The Panels will advise communities on the Public Elections Act 2012 and mediate minor civil matters or disputes relating to the elections. Also, they will help reduce tensions in the community through public education campaigns on the elections and human rights.
The Executive Director of the Legal Aid Board, Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles said the Platforms will work with members of the community, civil society organizations and the Police to ensure there is no hiding place for those perpetrating violence. ‘They will assist with encouraging witnesses to come forward,’ she said. ‘We will get the Police to give mobile numbers of three senior police officers assigned to a police station in your area,’ she said.
Ms. Carlton-Hanciles observed that a lot of criminal matters are not prosecuted because potential witnesses are not aware of the help they could render to law enforcement officers to bring alleged criminals to justice. She noted that the Panels will assist with exposing perpetrators of violence, ensuring they are brought to justice and by extension serve as a deterrent to organized crime.
She said it is crucial for partners to act now by working together for credible and peaceful elections rather than wait until there is outbreak of violence. She stressed that the March 2018 elections are crucial because they are the first to be held without the direct involvement of the International Community since the end of the war in January 2002.
Ms. Carlton-Hanciles drew attention to the emergence of criminal gangs who attend political rallies and provoke violence to steal from people. ‘These gangs and their members are part of the community, you should expose them even if they are your family members and help the police in their investigations,’ she said. ‘You should also talk to politicians in your community.’
She warned against the dangerous lies peddled on social media including WhatsApp and the potential to undermine the elections. She urged the stakeholders to call community meetings from time to time to counter the lies and divisive messages. Those matters they cannot resolve should be referred to the Legal Aid Board.
The representative of the Sierra Leone Police, Assistant Superintendent of Police Ishmail Keita who is head of Community Relations said the police have the Community Mobilization for Violence-Free Elections which has the similar objectives as the Platforms.
He said the Police is ready to work with the Platforms to ensure the elections are credible and peaceful. He added that they have been working with communities to stop crimes. Also, each Police Division has a Local Police partnership Board which works closely with the police in promoting peace and security in the community.
He said the police is ready and capable of providing security for the elections notwithstanding the challenge of policing a population of over seven million people with less than 15,000 personnel.
Other speakers include the President of the Sierra Leone Labour Congress, Jennings A.B. Wright; The Provincial Security Coordinator for the Western Area for the Office of National Security (ONS), John Kangbai; representative of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Andrew Kamara; the Loko Tribal Headman, Alhaji Alpha Sesay; President of the Sierra Leone Photographers Union, Steven Momoh; President of the Traders Council, Pa Bureh Kamara; President of the Local Police Partnership Board for the East, Algassimu Sesay among others.