In a bid to effectively educate the public about its civic duties to enhance peaceful elections come 2018, the National Commission for Democracy (NCD) has organized a two -day workshop designed to produce messages to promote national cohesion and political tolerance even as the country approaches the March 7, 2018 elections.
The workshop that was titled: 'Civic Engagement for Peaceful Elections' was hosted at the YWCA Hall on October 5 and 6, 2017 and was sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) under the project titled: 'Conflict Prevention and Mitigation during the 2018 Electoral Cycle'. The Commission engaged the services of experts in message designing drawn from across all the regions of the country with a view to ensuring that the right kind of messages are created to enhance a peaceful electioneering process .
Addressing the workshop, the Chairman of the National Commission for Democracy (NCD), Dr. Abubakar H. Kargbo, noted that his Commission has invited experts to contribute their own quota in developing messages to enhance the peaceful outcomes of the elections in 2018. He said the medium through which the messages are to be disseminated is crucial for an effective communication because people's reaction to messages is different owing to the different background they come from but assured his audience that he is going to ensure that the messages are conveyed to the people with a view to creating the required impact.
Dr. Kargbo further noted that some people can react to messages accordingly through viewing in terms of posters, videos or theater whilst others react to messages through listening to a jingle or music saying that all depend on the capacity of the individual but assured his audience that the Commission is poised to use the right medium that is going to appeal to all Sierra Leoneans.
Dr. Kargbo underscored the need for Civic Education especially at a time when the Country is approaching general elections even as he encouraged the expert participants to make use of their talents to design the messages that is going to create the impact the workshop is meant for.
In his statement, the UNDP Country Representative, Samuel Doe assured the Commission and the people of Sierra Leone of UNDP's commitment to support the Commission and the people of Sierra Leone to ensure peaceful elections in 2018.
He applauded the Country for gradually consolidating the tenets of democracy whilst noting that democracy is slowly and steadily entrenching in the African continent. He said as the Country heads for the 2018 elections, Sierra Leoneans should endeavor to scrutinize candidates that are vying to be elected and ensure that they vote into office candidates with the right kind of caliber to lead the Country.
Welcoming participants to the workshop, the Commissioner for the Northern Region who also doubles as the focal person for Performance Contract with State House, Bai John Conteh, said the country will soon go to the polls to elect its leaders whilst noting that in this part of the world elections are most times characterized by violence which he said is the more reason why the public needs to be educated on the need to ensure peaceful elections in 2018. He said the expert designers are invited to participate in the designing of peace messages with a view to enhancing peaceful elections come 2018. He said the Commission was assigned the responsibility of producing and disseminating messages of peace and national cohesion by the Country's development plan dubbed the Agenda for Prosperity.
He said the Commission was created to provide the needed civic education that would allow democracy to not only thrive, but also yield its dividends in good governance.
The Inter-Agencies Coordination Director, Office of National Security, Francis L. Keilly disclosed that based on security threat analysis with regards the 2018 elections, the risk in the threat assessment for the 2018 elections far exceed the previous elections. He said the reason for that is because the President that has served for ten years is leaving and his party believes that it has done enough to continue to be in governance whilst the opposition party has been waiting for ten years and is determined to come back into governance using all means possible to their advantage.
He said NCD needs to make itself more relevant during this period to ensure that it educates the public on the need to be peaceful before, during and after the elections. He assured the Commission of the ONS' determination to continue to work with the Commission for peaceful elections.
The PPRC representative, David Oloshogo, said his Commission has a major role to play in ensuring peaceful elections in 2018. He said political parties need to be supported to reach out to their people and educate them about their manifestos in order to seek the people's support as they contest for the political positions in the 2018 elections. He said because of the unique individual differences between and among people, they will not agree on everything but they would need to respect the views of the others and enhance peaceful elections. David Oloshogo assured NCD of PPRC's determined position to continue to collaborate with NCD in promoting peaceful elections come 2018.