Background to the programme
In Sierra Leone, the Civil War left many scars on the political culture. Authoritarianism and the dictatorship led to the exclusion of a wide range of citizens, including women (lacking political power), youth (high level of unemployment) and the poor. Moreover, this over-centralisation of power aggravates the exclusion suffered which particularly affects those with weak economic, educational and social standing. A few years ago a democratic renewal has been observed in the country and some local and international organisations have been encouraging this change.
Objectives of the programme
Enabling the grass root citizens to have a significant voice, and make this voice the agent of transformation of institutions towards better government, accountability, and responsiveness to the interests of citizens. In order to do that, the citizen-state relations (including the role of media, civil society, elected representatives, and traditional leaders) need to be improved.
• Stocktaking of existing governance initiatives in Sierra Leone, cataloguing the key features of governance from the documents of CSOs and other stakeholders.
• Project « Parliament, Paramount Chiefs and the People ». Inclusion of traditional leaders into the democratic process. Dialogue between elder leaders and youth leaders (previously in conflict).
• Movement for Resettlement and Rural Development. Activities aim to promote the participation of women in political life (through the development of all women networks). Community enlightenment campaigns, advocacy drives, training, and media engagements.
• Centre for the Coordination of Youth Activities: Participatory Action Research to solve the conflict between young bikers and the authorities. Dialogue and then the recognition of bikers as an economic activity.
Quantitative and qualitative results from the implemented actions
• Elder leaders agreed to use part of the money gained from natural resources (diamonds) to support education and other skill development opportunities.
• 56 women were selected in Kenema district to participate in political life. 14 of them were elected as councillors in the 2012 Local Council elections.
• Tensions between riders and authorities have vanished
The innovation lies in the fact that primitive governance structures can help support democracy and ensure that governance spaces are open and participatory because traditional authorities wield enormous power and influence in their locality.
Partnership(s) developed in the context of the programme
Let Wi tok is the Sierra-Leonean version of the Mwananchi program set up by Overseas Development Institute of the United Kingdom.
Partnership with local CSOs Diamond Area Community Development Fund, Democracy Sierra Leone, Movement for Resettlement and Rural Development, Center for the Coordination of Youth Activities, Sierra Leone Commercial Biker Riders Union.
Difficulties and/or obstacles encountered during the programme’s implementation :
Solutions used to overcome the difficulties and/or obstacles :
Suggestions for future improvement :
Summary of factors responsible for the programme’s success :
- Any meaningful governance engagement must take into account reconciliation and confidence building between and among key interlocutors
- Traditional political institutions must be included in the democratic process and not rejected.
Irvin, L. 2006: Challenges and Strategies for Democratic Participation
Zack Williams A.B edited: Nordic African Institute 2008:The Quest for sustainable Development and Peace The 2007 Elections in Sierra Leone pp5
Campaign for Good Governance, Oct 2009, Reform is not against tradition: Making Chieftaincy Relevant in 21st Century Sierra Leone pp1
Ismail, W., F. Olonisakin, B. Picciotto & Wybrow, D. 2009. Youth Vulnerability and Exclusion (YOVEX) in West
Africa: Synthesis Report. (Number 21). Conflict, Security and Development Group (CSDG), King’s College London.
Peters, K. (2007). From Weapons to Wheels: Young Sierra Leonean ex-combatants become motorbike taxi-riders. Journal of Peace Conflict & Development 1 July 2010 www.peacestudiesjournal.org.uk
To know more
see Mwananchi Working Paper http://www.mwananchi-africa.org/storage/Mwananchi-WP1-lowres.pdfIbid