Sierra Leone-Social-Education

S/Leone: Why are protesters angry with the Bio gov't?

APA-Freetown-(Sierra Leone)

The deadly protests that swept across Sierra Leone on August 10, 2022, suggest the country has not made much progress in civic education and human capital development.

Sierra Leoneans have always been told about all kind of sweet things such as their rights to life and liberty, freedom of opinion and expression, and rights to work, education, access to information, and to participate in decisions affecting their lives…..etc.

However, many Sierra Leoneans find it difficult to understand where their rights stop or where the rights of their compatriots start. The rights and responsibility knowledge gap has many times led citizens to take the law into their hands, including yesterday’s violent protests that left two police officers and five civilians dead with widespread destruction of properties, according to local media reports. 

Moreover, the knowledge gap has been filled by private interests such as social media commentators who always preach about citizens’ rights without educating their audiences about their responsivities in society. Those who is in the business of hijacking national narratives for their personal interest have significantly increased the number of followers on social media, a following that gives them the power to call for violent demonstrations. 

When I say we have failed to provide civic education to our people, including on how to demonstrate peacefully, I include myself. History shows that demonstrations in Sierra Leone have usually been violent, irrespective the political party in power or the president in office. Therefore, the police is always nervous about giving permission to demonstrators. 

Moreover, Sierra Leone has been very slow to employ research methodologies that promote civic education and close the knowledge gap among citizens, especially young people who make up a majority of the population. Secondly, the deep division among Sierra Leoneans, especially across political party lines, has made it difficult to have a national narrative or a political consensus that prevent private interests from holding extensive power and territory. Zero-sum game politics has turned out to be destructive for majority of Sierra Leoneans. 

However, the country, whose economy struggling to recover since the dramatic fall in mineral prices in the early 2010s before the Ebola outbreak brought extraction activities to a halt in 2014, cannot afford insecurity at a time of weak currency, low productivity and high inflation, global energy crisis, the COVID-19 global pandemic and Russia-Ukraine war. The images of violence, across the country, that went viral on social media yesterday have the potential to scare away potential investors and tourists the country desperately need to boost the Leone, the local currency that has experienced a sharp depreciation in value against the US Dollar for far too long. 

Therefore, we will have to create a national narrative or reach a political consensus that security is the watchword ahead of next years’ general elections. In other words, civic education on citizens’ responsibility to promote peace and security will have to close the knowledge gap.


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