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Sierra Leoneans Call for Upcoming Election Peace

FILE - A woman casts her vote during during the runoff presidential elections, outside a polling station in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Saturday, March 31, 2018.

FREETOWN — As Sierra Leone prepares for general polls next week, citizens are calling for a peaceful vote in the West African nation amid concerns of election-related violence.

Many Sierra Leone voters have expressed worries about peace heading into the June 24 election.

Patrick James Tucker, representative of the Residual Special Court Interactive Forum, a consortium of over 100 civil society organizations, says it is particularly important to educate young people about the country's 11-year civil war.

"We tell them the history of the war, the peace process, the effects of war — of course the causes of the war — so that they know that if they do such things or they cooperate with people to do similar things, then they will be calling for war situations which we don't want," he said.

By conservative estimates, around 70,000 people were killed in the war that ended in 2002 with over 2.6 million displaced, according to the United Nations.

Voter Mohamed G. Koroma told VOA election violence is caused by narrow-minded people.

"Through my observation, the country needs sensitization, which they have already done, so what all the authorities and the government or the president need to do is to implement discipline...because discipline is the key issue to maintain peace and stability in any nation, and among any family," he said.

Hannah Turay, a sociology student at Fourah Bay College, said security should be a top priority in the upcoming election.

"We're Sierra Leoneans," Toray said. "It’s just an election. This is just part of exercising our franchise as citizens."

Toray also stressed the importance of security personnel being in place, saying "They should be out there. They should give us guarantees that the day for elections we are secured, we're safe, no drama, not anything like shooting or being out there throwing gas or so. They should be on guard, they should be alert."

John Conteh, a young man helping his mother at a Freetown market, encouraged citizens to avoid violence and accept the election results.

"Go and vote peacefully and return peacefully to your houses because some people when they are going to vote [take] some weapons, take violence because they want to [defend] their party," he said.

There are over a dozen candidates contesting in the presidential election.

Candidates and political parties have signed a pledge, publicly committing to uphold peace before, during and after the elections.

However, in April, the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC) party alleged there had been an attempt to assassinate its presidential candidate, Samura Kamara. On Sunday, an APC spokesperson told VOA its supporters have recently been attacked and blamed the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP).

The SLPP, led by President Julius Maada Bio, has denied the allegations. Information Minister Mohamed Raman Swaray told VOA that Bio and the ruling party are committed to a peaceful campaign.

VOA's James Butty contributed to this report.