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NDI

The National Democratic Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization working to support and strengthen democratic institutions worldwide through citizen participation, openness and accountability in government.

Sierra Leone

Nemata

Sierra Leoneans went to the polls Nov. 17, 2012, to elect their president, members of parliament, and local government officials, in a process that international and domestic observers widely viewed as peaceful and credible. These polls were the third general elections since the country’s decade-long civil war formally ended in 2002.

Incumbent President Ernest Bai Koroma of the All People’s Congress (APC) won the presidential race with 59 percent of the vote following a hotly contested campaign against Julius Maada Bio of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP). The APC also gained eight seats in the country’s parliament and now controls 61 percent of the parliament’s popularly elected members, with SLPP holding the remainder. Despite initial concerns that there may be violence and the threat of an opposition boycott of parliament, SLPP’s supporters reacted peacefully and Bio and his party ultimately accepted the results.

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Increasing Women’s Political Participation

Women make up 52 percent of Sierra Leoneans, yet occupy less than 20 percent of elected positions.  Before the November polls, 13 percent of the members of parliament were women and women held 19 percent of local councilor seats. Following the election, women lost one seat in parliament and gained two seats at the local level. While the number of women elected overall remained static, there were important achievements in terms of women’s increased access to key political leadership positions. For the first time, a woman was elected mayor, council chairperson and minority leader in parliament.

Ahead of the elections, NDI supported women candidates for parliament and local council by working with major parties to assess their current policies and openness toward women as party leaders and candidates.  The Institute helped parties find ways to do more to encourage women’s participation. NDI has made recommendations to all 10 registered political parties to improve their practices for promoting women candidates, such as reducing or waiving nomination fees for women. These recommendations were adopted by several parties, including the main opposition SLPP.

In 2012, NDI trained 151 potential women candidates on how to best to advocate for their party’s nomination.  After the training, NDI provided ongoing advice and support to the women throughout their campaigns and produced simple campaign flyers for nearly 300 women candidates across the country from all political parties.  NDI also held trainings for approximately 300 women candidates running for local council and parliament. During the sessions, women learned about managing their campaigns, targeting voters and delivering strong messages.  Ten of the 15 newly elected members of parliament and 74 of the 87 women local councilors, as well as both the new mayor of Makeni and chairperson of Bonthe, participated in the program.

Before 2008 local government elections, the Institute worked to boost women’s skills and participation in the political process. NDI trained more than 95 percent of the women candidates contesting those elections, conducted town hall meetings focused on the value of women’s participation in politics, held forums with women candidates and worked with local groups to carry out an intensive media campaign on women’s rights. After the 2008 local elections, NDI trained elected women councilors on their new roles and responsibilities; working with community members; and skills including budget analysis, leadership, negotiation and public speaking so women councilors – including some who were illiterate – would be better prepared to serve their communities.

Supporting Election Processes

For the 2012 general elections, NDI trained 143 party
pollwatcher trainers on the principles of observing elections, reporting and holding training sessions for other party agents. Those 143 master trainers ultimately trained more than 40,000 party agents. With NDI’s assistance, both the APC and the SLPP deployed party agents in all polling stations in the country.

Initially, SLPP leadership described the 2012 election process as flawed and refused to accept the outcome, but it ultimately conceded. The reports from trained party agents across the country may have contributed to this acceptance, in addition to the intervention and mediation of party leaders and a coalition of Sierra Leonean religious groups.

Promoting Peaceful Youth Participation in Elections

To promote peaceful youth participation in elections, NDI assisted the All Political Party Youth Association (APPYA) – a group of youth wing leaders from the 10 registered parties in Sierra Leone – to organize community peace forums for young people in conflict-prone areas of the country. The forums brought together approximately 800 youth from all 10 political parties to denounce violence throughout the election cycle. NDI later helped APPYA organize three postelection roundtable discussions among party youth and leadership to assess the role of young people in the elections and explore the opportunities for continuing to engage them in the political process after the polls. The Institute also helped the group strengthen its understanding of areas related to institutional management, including communication, financial management, strategic planning and leadership.

Ahead of the elections, NDI facilitated a peer-to-peer exchange between APPYA and the Inter-Party Youth Forum (IPYF), a Kenyan youth organization. The visit was an opportunity for the two groups to share their experiences engaging young people in elections and conflict mitigation. APPYA and IPYF met with representatives from a range of organizations to prepare for the elections, promote better understanding of the electoral process in Sierra Leone and to share youth priorities for elections.

Strengthening the Legislature

The Institute coordinated a new member orientation for members of parliament elected to their first term in the 2007 elections — 80 percent of the legislature. After the orientation, NDI held follow-up trainings on collecting information, legislating, managing the budget process and conducting oversight. NDI also organized public meetings in seven districts for citizens to discuss a range of issues related to land tenure reform – a pressing issue in the country – with their elected representatives.

Funding

NDI's program in Sierra Leone concluded in March 2013. Past funding has come from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

Contact Information

For more information about these programs, use our contact form or contact:

Washington, D.C.
Gemima Barlow, senior program manager
gbarlow@ndi.org

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Published Publication Title Author
03/06/2014 Equal Access: How to Include Persons with Disabilities in Elections and Political Processes
Manual|Handbook
National Democratic Institute, International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES)
01/01/2014 Civic Updates
Civic Update
National Democratic Institute
10/23/2013 Increasing Women’s Political Participation Through Effective Training Programs: A Guide to Best Practices and Lessons Learned
Training Manual
National Democratic Institute
06/28/2013 Press Release: Meeting of the West Africa Election Observers Network (WAEON) on the Status of Implementation of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance in West Africa
Press Release
West Africa Election Observers Network
06/12/2013 West Africa Election Observers Network (WAEON) Field Guide Series
Manual|Handbook
National Democratic Institute
11/01/2012 Press Statement: Kenya-Sierra Leone Party Youth Peer-to-Peer Exchange Visit
Press Statement
Kenya Inter-Party Youth Forum (IPYF) and Sierra Leone All Political Party Youth Association (APPYA)
10/17/2012 Unleashing Potential For Progress: Campaign Schools for Women Candidates in Sierra Leone
Candidate Toolkit
National Democratic Institute
04/12/2012 Sierra Leone Open and Safe Elections Pledge
Code of conduct
50/50 Group et. al.
04/03/2012 Declaration of Global Principles for Nonpartisan Election Observation and Monitoring by Citizen Organizations and Code of Conduct for Nonpartisan Citizen Election Observers and Monitors
Declaration
10/31/2011 Empowering Women for Stronger Political Parties: A Good Practices Guide to Promote Women's Political Participation (Now available in Burmese)
Manual|Handbook
Julie Ballington
10/27/2010 The Youth Bulge in Africa - Opportunities for Constructive Engagement in the Political Process
Speech
Shari Bryan
02/12/2009 Sierra Leone: Final Report on the 2007 Elections
Report
National Democratic Institute
11/23/2008 Sierra Leone: A Campaign Manual for Women Candidates in the 2008 Local Government Elections
Manual|Handbook
National Democratic Institute
09/03/2008 Sierra Leone: Ep Bil Salome Wit Uman Dem: A Manual for Elected Women Councilors
Manual|Handbook
National Democratic Institute
08/18/2008 Sierra Leone: Constituency Outreach: A Guide for Members of Parliament
Manual
National Democratic Institute
08/18/2008 Sierra Leone: How Our Laws Are Made: The Legislative Process
Manual
National Democratic Institute
08/18/2008 Sierra Leone: Local Government Belongs to the People
Manual|Handbook
National Democratic Institute
06/24/2008 National Democratic Institute: SMS as a Tool in Election Observation
Article
Ian Schuler
06/01/2008 Political Party and Independent Candidate Agent's Manual
Manual|Handbook
National Democratic Institute
04/01/2008 The Roles and Responsibilities of Members of Parliament (MPs): The role of Parliament in Sierra Leone’s democracy
Manual|Handbook
National Democratic Institute