The Independent Commission for Peace and National Cohesion, a key infrastructure established by the government of Sierra Leone has garnered attention and support from several election observer missions ahead of the June 24th elections. Notably, the West African Elders Forum (WAEF), led by former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, visited the Peace situation room at the Bintumani Conference Center in Freetown to assess the ongoing peace efforts in the country.
The WAEF delegation, including H.E. Kadre Ouadrego, the former Prime Minister of Burkina Faso and former President of ECOWAS, engaged in extensive discussions with the National Mediation team. This team consisted of the chairman and board members of the Peace Commission, as well as representatives from civil society, the Human Rights Commission, the Police, and the Legal Aid Board. Rev Shodankeh Johnson, the board chairman, warmly welcomed the delegation and highlighted the numerous activities and interventions of the Peace Commission aimed at promoting peace and national cohesion.
One significant accomplishment mentioned by Chairman Johnson was the successful dialogue facilitated by the commission between the All People’s Congress (APC) and the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL), in partnership with the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC).
This dialogue addressed concerns raised by the opposition APC regarding the general electoral process, resulting in the resolution of over 70 percent of the contentious issues. However, Chairman Johnson acknowledged that a few outstanding matters required continued engagement.
President Goodluck Jonathan, Chairperson of the West African Elders Forum, commended the people of Sierra Leone for their commitment to democracy despite a troubled past. He applauded President Bio’s establishment of the Peace Commission as an important infrastructure for fostering peace and called for similar initiatives to be implemented across Africa.
President Jonathan specifically lauded the Peace Commission team’s recent engagement with the opposition in resolving contentious election-related issues, expressing confidence in the positive outcomes that would contribute to peaceful elections.
President Jonathan provided background information on the WAEF, explaining its purpose of assisting ECOWAS leadership in mediating conflicts within the sub-region. He clarified that the WAEF delegation was not core observers but aimed to add immense value to the election process. Their visit focused on identifying their role in consolidating peace before, during, and after the June 24th general elections.
H.E. Kadre Ouadrego, the Former Prime Minister of Burkina Faso and former ECOWAS President, echoed the importance of peace and stability in the West African subregion, emphasizing that free, fair, and credible elections were indispensable for achieving and maintaining peace.
Hawa Samai, Executive Secretary of the Peace Commission, emphasized the collaborative nature of their work. She highlighted partnerships with stakeholders such as the Inter-religious Council, paramount chiefs, and traditional leaders.
These leaders, respected in their communities, were appointed to form part of the district mediation teams, which were permanent structures established to address emerging issues even after the elections. Samai also revealed the Commission’s plans to conduct fragility studies in all 190 chiefdoms, aimed at understanding the root causes of issues within these communities and addressing them proactively before the next elections in five years.
In addition to the visit by the West African Elders Forum, the Peace situation room received support from FemWise, a network of African Women in Conflict Prevention and Mediation.
The FemWise mediators joined the national team in addressing election-related issues. Their role focused on strengthening the involvement of women in conflict prevention and mediation efforts, aligning with African settings and peace and security architectures.
Furthermore, the Peace Situation room welcomed a delegation from the African Union Elections Observation mission. Led by former Ethiopian