Vince Crawley's Africa Blog

Africa Center Supports Sierra Leone Pre-Election Symposium; Africa-wide Voting Issues Discussed

Posted in Uncategorized by Vince Crawley on July 13, 2012


Article and photos by Vince Crawley, Africa Center for Strategic Studies

SierraLeoneSymposiumFREETOWN, Sierra Leone – The Sierra Leone Chapter of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) hosted a daylong symposium in June 2012 aimed at advancing cross-government dialogue and cooperation for historic elections scheduled to take place in November.

Participants said many of the issues discussed are relevant to elections across Africa. The upcoming election in Sierra Leone is important enough that Africa Center chapter leaders were featured on nationwide radio and television and were invited to meet with President Ernest Bai Koroma, who said the ACSS chapter symposium was timely because the upcoming elections understandably represent the main focus of the nation’s security for the immediate future. In addition, Koroma emphasized that Sierra Leone cannot achieve security in isolation but also must be concerned with the stability and security of neighbors and regional partners.

“In many countries across Africa, the right to vote and to be elected is now widely accepted as a fundamental human and constitutional right,” said retired Ambassador Joe C. Blell, president of the Sierra Leone Chapter. “State authorities therefore have the responsibility to set the conditions for credible election processes,” Blell said in opening remarks at the June 11 symposium, which was titled “State of Preparedness with the Security Sector: Working Towards Free, Fair, and Credible Elections.”

The symposium included three Africa Center academic and outreach staff members from the United States and brought together approximately 50 representatives from across Sierra Leone’s government and civil society. They discussed the role the West African nation’s security sector will play in support of presidential parliamentary, district, and city elections. The U.S. Embassy in Freetown co-sponsored the meeting, which was attended by members of parliament, representatives of several national political parties, and by Minister of Defense and National Security Alfred Palo Conteh. Also attending were U.S. Ambassador Michael S. Owen, as well as representatives from the United Nations police, the European Union, and the Embassies of China and the United Kingdom. Opening remarks by several speakers were covered by the media. Follow-on presentations and discussions were conducted under the Africa Center’s strict policy of non-attribution.

“With elections only about six months away, the most pressing immediate security concern is for Sierra Leone … to maintain this environment that will allow you to conduct free, fair, transparent, and violence-free (more…)