Skip to main content


Aiding Sierra Leone's Rebirth

8/30/2007 - 5:55 AM PST

Advertisment

Interview With Chief Electoral Commissioner


FREETOWN, Sierra Leone, AUG. 30, 2007 (Zenit) - Sierra Leone's Aug. 11 elections were the first held there since U.N. peacekeepers left -- and they did not reignite an 11-year-old war that plagued the country since 1991.

Sierra Leoneans are now awaiting a Sept. 8 runoff between the leading two presidential candidates after none of the seven contenders won the needed majority in the Aug. 11 elections. There have been scattered reports of violence and a curfew is in effect.

And the outgoing president announced today that he could invoke emergency powers to avoid further clashes between rivals' supporters. Yet, there is hope that the successful elections earlier this month are a sign of the West African nation's progress in returning to the civilized world.

At the center of it all is Christiana Thorpe, the chief electoral commissioner.

She first came to public attention as the minister of education. Thorpe introduced a new educational system and later distinguished herself as an advocate for the promotion of women and the education of girls.

Moreover, Thorpe is a fervent Catholic who attends daily Mass.

In this interview, she tells us that God is the indispensable factor behind her success.

Q: What do you make of your appointment as the chief electoral commissioner, being the first woman to have ever held that position?

Thorpe: I take it as a challenge, and every day I try to live up to its requirements.

Q: What challenges have you met and what successes have you achieved?

Thorpe: Elections, for many people, are just a matter of going to cast their votes.

But that is not all. Casting of votes is just the end of a series of activities and engagements.

To have the elections, boundaries have to be set, a census conducted, voter registration carried out with the lists thoroughly verified and voter education carried out.

There is also need to train people to professionally conduct the elections and equip the polling.

The candidates who are going to be voted upon also need to be nominated, accredited and they need the campaign time to convince voters. All of that preparation takes a lot of time. This demands a lot of work.

We've done everything to meet up to international standards.

We are coming from the war and we need international assistance to move forward in a lot of things.

So if the elections were not of international standards, we would not get the aid and assistance that we are looking for.

Q: What can you say about the political maturity of Sierra Leone?

Thorpe. We are coming into it. There needs to be a lot of voter education in all that concerns the electoral process.

Even after elections and before elections, measures should be put in place. And the commission is ready to do that, to continue to educate people on what the democratic process is about.

The democratic process is not about violence, it is not about abusive language, it is not competition in the unhealthy sense of the word. [It is] choosing people who will lead us and who will lead us within the international circle so that we, too, could be counted as a civilized nation.

Q: You will be remembered for promoting women's rights. Why has this been such a great priority in your life?

Thorpe: Because I was always interested in women's and girls' education since I was a child. I think God has been directing the path I would follow.

Wherever I have gone, [I've worked on] issues of development, issues of handicapped people, especially that of women and girls.

And since I have a natural flare for teaching -- education in general -- I have enjoyed passing on information. I like to have people becoming enlightened on whatever the issue. I think I am at my best in that field.

Q: The Forum for African Women's Education has been a success story in Sierra Leone. How did it all start?

Thorpe: I started with FAWE in 1995 when I was minister of education, and I attended the conference in Geneva where I met the FAWE executive members from Nairobi.

They introduced the idea. Basically it was to get women throughout Africa to become educated. The rate of illiteracy at that time in Africa was 70%.

I saw that the ideals they espoused coincided in with my interests and so I jumped at the opportunity.

When I came back in March, 1995, I was able to get like-minded women -- 21 of them, and we started the work of establishing the organization.

It has been very successful, especially useful during the war when we were able to come to the assistance of thousands of girls who has suffered brutally in the carnage.

With women who were violated, there was need to help them keep their heads above water and to assure them that they can start life all over again, despite all these difficulties.

Contact

Catholic Online
http://www.catholic.org  CA, US
Catholic Online - Publisher, 661 869-1000

Email

info@yourcatholicvoice.org

Keywords

Sierra Leone , Thorpe, Solidarity, Africa, Elections, War

Rate This Article

Very Helpful Somewhat Helpful Not Helpful at All

Yes, I am Interested No, I am not Interested

Rate Article

0 Comments

Leave a Comment

Comments submitted must be civil, remain on-topic and not violate any laws including copyright. We reserve the right to delete any comments which are abusive, inappropriate or not constructive to the discussion.

Though we invite robust discussion, we reserve the right to not publish any comment which denigrates the human person, undermines marriage and the family, or advocates for positions which openly oppose the teaching of the Catholic Church.

This is a supervised forum and the Editors of Catholic Online retain the right to direct it.

We also reserve the right to block any commenter for repeated violations. Your email address is required to post, but it will not be published on the site.

We ask that you NOT post your comment more than once. Catholic Online is growing and our ability to review all comments sometimes results in a delay in their publication.

Send me important information from Catholic Online and it's partners. See Sample

Post Comment


Newsletter Sign Up

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Judges 13:2-7, 24-25
There was a man of Zorah of the tribe of Dan, called Manoah. ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 71:3-4, 5-6, 16-17
Be a sheltering rock for me, always accessible; you have ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 1:5-25
In the days of King Herod of Judaea there lived a priest called ... Read More

Saint of the Day

December 19 Saint of the Day

St. Nemesius
December 19: Martyr of Egypt. He was burned alive in Alexandria, Egypt, ... Read More