Youth in Action for Development, YAD, is currently implementing a project titled Youth Sensitization Against Ethnic Voting, Religious and Cultural Discriminations in Sierra Leone, with funds from the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC). The project is targeting more than 200 youths from the three political zones of the eastern headquarter town of Kenema. As one of the major components of the project, YAD recently organized a symposium on the “Causes of and Solutions to Ethnic Based Politics in Sierra Leone, at the Holy Trinity Parish Hall, Blama Road in Kenema. We hereby publish bellow for the interest of our honorable readers, speeches made by representatives of the various youth groups:
Speech on Ethnic Voting
Betty Betical Jalloh of the Gbo-kakajama Youth in Action for Progress
"Mr. Chairman, His lordship the Mayor of Kenema Municipality, representatives of various political parties, religious and traditional leaders, Coordinator, staff and volunteers of Youth in Action for Development (YAD, fellow youth, people from all works of life, ladies and gentlemen, I greet you all in the name of God.
The effect of ethnic and regional based politics is rapidly destroying the socio-democratic and economic fundament of our beloved nation and we all know that every second politician is either a signatory or beneficiary to it. But before going further, I would like to first and foremost define what I actually refer to as ethnic and regional based politics.
What is ethnic voting?
Ethnic and regional based politics is a situation where people only vote for candidates with whom they share the same tribe, ethnic or regional background regardless of their competence, track records and adversity to national interest. Since political independence, this system of politics has systematically taken precedence over patriotism, justice, human-right, democracy and good governance in Sierra Leone. A glaring prove to that is the infamous south-east and north-west block system of voting in all our elections. It has even become part and parcel of our cultures and traditions. One may then wish to ask what are the causes of and solutions to ethnic based politics in post-colonial Sierra Leone?
What are the impacts of ethnic voting?
Ladies and gentlemen, everyone of you will agree with me that he/she is either infected or affected by ethnic voting and the negative impacts could be seen all over the place. Some of the negative effects of ethnic voting include, but not limited to: arbitrarily disregard of vital democratic principles, corruption and mismanagement of public funds, appointment of wrong servants to the right jobs, miscarriage of judgments against innocent litigants in real courts of law, blind loyalty of electorates to the wrong candidates, fracas and political violence during electioneering process which usually leads to destruction of innocent lives and property, enmity, tensions and abhorrence among the ordinary voters. All the above named impacts are grossly affecting our post-war reconstruction efforts hence the socio-economic retrogression of our beloved nation, which is reflecting disadvantageous on (we) the innocent youths.
What are the causes of ethnic voting?
Ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, though I first voted in this country during the last elections due to my low age, but my careful observations shows that some of the major causes of ethnic voting include:
- Selfishness of both the candidates and the voters, hence they only think of their individual pockets
- Illiteracy: many voters lack the knowledge of vital policy issues of national interest
- Lack of sincerity and true patriotism on the side of the candidates, hence the deliberate basement of their campaigns on ethnicity and regionalism
- Gullibility of the average voters, hence they believe whatever they are told by the politicians no matter how ridiculous it is
What are possible solutions to ethnic voting?
Ladies and gentlemen, if we the young generation are to inherit a healthy democracy and viable economy, its high time we stop voting for people based on familiarity, ethnicity and regionalism. Let us start using the five “W” and one “H” question words against our contestants, namely:
- Who am I voting for?
- Why am I voting for him/her?
- What has he/she got to do for this nation?
- Where will he/she get the resources?
- When will he/she do it? And
- How will he/she do it?
The above questions can help every youth to digest every political manifesto, no matter how sophisticated the lies are.
Finally but not the least, I would like to take this opportunity to implore our decision makers who are present here today, to impose and enforce stringent laws against ethnic based politics in this country and to out-rightly disqualify any politician who bases his/her political campaigns on regional and tribal lines.
Distinguished listeners, on behalf of my fellow youths, I wish to thank you all for your audience.
I’m Betty Betical Jalloh of the Gbo-kakajama Youth in Action for Progress