Sierra Leone is in process of holdings its second popular elections since the end of the civil war more than 15 years ago. The last election was in 2012 which was won by the opposition All Peoples Congress (APC) Party. This election will include ballots for Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Council representatives.
In 2018, the stakes are even higher for both parties as issues of violence have marred the electoral year from February 2016; also the biometric registration process has seen both main political parties – the ruling APC and the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) charged with bussing people to register or to register minors. One sitting Member of Parliament was charged among others on “conspiracy to defraud”, acquisition of fake birth certificates, etc.
The foregoing makes it critical to involve citizen protection of the ballot during and before the election. Sierra Leone has one of the highest youth population – nearly 50% and more than 40% of its people are either unemployed or under-employed. This puts young people especially in a vulnerable position to be used by political parties and politicians. To counter this is to create awareness that there is more than institutionalized election observers – that the community itself will be monitoring the elections and the processes leading to the election. The goal of citizen engagement in elections communication is to create space where parties and independents are able to report (on election day) and discuss and also report on the processes leading to the election. This approach will enable the project to make citizens to be part of the process leading to election during the last leg of that process, make citizens police the ballot and integrity of the ballot from a distance (using pictures, text and other soft social media tools), engage the vulnerable groups of people that are easily abused or manipulated by political parties (usually the youth) to learn tolerance and fairness.
The immediate expected impact of the project is to ensure that Sierra Leone conducts a free, transparent and fair election. By making sure that there are mechanisms in place to widely distribute information on legality and fairness of pre-election, campaigns, voting during elections, and post elections agenda’s. Citizens will be informed on the monitoring progress and most interesting observations via web platforms, social media, SMS and data shared with broader public via weekly Internet updates in web portal.