By Ishmael Dumbuya
As the stage for the June 24th election is set, the Human Right Commission of Sierra Leone, HRC-SL, has yesterday, 17th May, held a non- violence engagement with youths at the St. Michael Hall, Holy Cross Parish, Lowcost Kissy in Freetown.
The engagement was geared towards ensuring that youths are properly educated on the horrors of violence and the consequential outcomes of election violence.
Delivering her remarks, the Commissioner, HRC-SL, Commissioner Patricia Narsu Ndanema, stated that the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone believes in the youths of Sierra Leone, and their mandate as a Commission is to protect and promote the aspirations and commitments of the youthful population in Sierra Leone.
She went on to state that electoral violence undermines civil and political rights and human suffering, ranging from the disenfranchisement through deprivation of citizens or groups rights to vote and compete especially by incarceration, noting that the law doesn’t make provision for detainees to vote as their rights have been suspended.
She cautioned that rights are tied with responsibilities, admonishing the youths present to be law-abiding before and during election period.
She added that the Commission will embark on similar engagements across the country in order to preach peace among the youthful population in the country, citing Section 13 (J) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone, which states that citizens have the responsibility to assist members of the security sector in stamping out violent activities in communities and the country as a whole. She furthered that youths have the right to enjoy their democratic space, noting that however, there are responsibilities tied to those rights.
“Violence brings every progress in a country to a standstill. So refute the offers made by politicians to create chaos,” she concluded.
The Local Unit Commander, Kissy, ACP William J Saffa, called on the youth to reject violence and embrace peace in the upcoming elections.
He admonished them to be law-abiding, noting that it was as a result that HRC-SL was holding such engagement. He added that they should not let their actions degenerate them and that they should serve as ambassador of change in their communities.
The LUC cautioned each and every youth present in the engagement to use the platform the HRC-SL has created.
“Violence stifles the growth and advancement of youths. You should not allow politicians to use you as their instruments while their children are abroad learning,” he indicated.
He explained that the SLP always conduct a threat assessment whenever elections draw close, and based on this year’s assessment, violence is unlikely.
The National Youth Ambassador W/Area, Bilkisu Jalloh, commended the HRC-SL for organizing such an engagement that will serve as eye-opener for youths across the country.
He added that it’s the youthful population that is prone to violence, and she on that grounds admonished the youths of Sierra Leone to serve as agents of change.
She added that based on her findings, Sierra Leonean youths have changed their mindsets and are willing to embrace change.
She climaxed that Sierra Leonean youths should capacitate themselves like other countries, instead of destroying their lives, with drugs and issues of violence.
She noted that youths should deviate themselves from negativities, and not to misuse their youthful ages and plan for a better and brighter future. She cited regret for the involvement of youths in the August 10th protest.
The engagement attracted a significant number of youths in the hall.