AFRICA/SIERRA LEONE - Father Konteh (Caritas): the electoral process must be more inclusive and accessible to all

Monday, 27 March 2023

Freetown (Agenzia Fides) - The electoral period promises to be particularly hot for the 8.6 million Sierra Leoneans who will be called to vote on June 24th. "As our country prepares itself, it is important to recognize that people with disabilities (PWD) have the same rights as others to participate in elections - said Fr. Peter Konteh, Executive Director of Caritas Freetown. Disability does not limit a person's ability to make decisions or express their political opinions".
Konteh added, calling on the country's authorities to guarantee the free participation of these brothers and sisters in the elections.
"Polling stations can be made more accessible by installing access ramps, wider doors and appropriate technologies such as Braille ballots or audio guides", suggests the director of Caritas Freetown. "It is equally important to provide information about the electoral process in accessible formats, such as plain language or sign language interpretation. In addition, training election officials on how to interact with and assist people with disabilities and making the electoral process more inclusive is crucial".
"We have a fundamental role to play in promoting unity, peace and truth within our communities," he added, addressing the country's religious leaders. I urge you to continue to lead by example, promoting messages of peace, harmony and respect for all individuals and groups, regardless of political affiliation."
After Nigeria, which went to the polls on February 25 (see Fides, 24/2/2023), it is Sierra Leone's turn to go to the polls.
The challenge involves the clash between Julius Maada Bio, the favorite, president of the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) and the progressive Samura Kamara, of the All People's Congress (APC), who was defeated in the 2018 presidential elections. Part of the opposition and progressive voices could converge on Femi Claudius Cole, who founded the Unity Party in 2016, making her the first woman in Sierra Leone to start a political party. In 2018, she was the first woman to run for President.
Following the chronological order of 2023, Zimbabwe will vote in July, Gabon in August, Liberia in October, Madagascar in November and the Democratic Republic of Congo on December 20. (AP) (Agenzia Fides, 27/3/2023)