Skip to content

Aiding Sierra Leone's Rebirth

Free World Class Education
FREE Catholic Classes

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.


Catholic Online CA, US
Catholic Online - Publisher, 661 869-1000



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

More Catholic PRWire

Showing 1 - 50 of 4,717

A Recession Antidote
Randy Hain

Monaco & The Vatican: Monaco's Grace Kelly Exhibit to Rome--A Review of Monegasque-Holy See Diplomatic History
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

The Why of Jesus' Death: A Pauline Perspective
Jerom Paul

A Royal Betrayal: Catholic Monaco Liberalizes Abortion
Dna. Maria St.Catherine De Grace Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

Embrace every moment as sacred time
Mary Regina Morrell

My Dad
JoMarie Grinkiewicz

Letting go is simple wisdom with divine potential
Mary Regina Morrell

Father Lombardi's Address on Catholic Media
Catholic Online

Pope's Words to Pontifical Latin American College
Catholic Online

Prelate: Genetics Needs a Conscience
Catholic Online

State Aid for Catholic Schools: Help or Hindrance?
Catholic Online

Scorsese Planning Movie on Japanese Martyrs
Catholic Online

2 Nuns Kidnapped in Kenya Set Free
Catholic Online

Holy See-Israel Negotiation Moves Forward
Catholic Online

Franchising to Evangelize
Catholic Online

Catholics Decry Anti-Christianity in Israel
Catholic Online

Pope and Gordon Brown Meet About Development Aid
Catholic Online

Pontiff Backs Latin America's Continental Mission
Catholic Online

Cardinal Warns Against Anti-Catholic Education
Catholic Online

Full Circle
Robert Gieb

Three words to a deeper faith
Paul Sposite

Relections for Lent 2009
chris anthony

Wisdom lies beyond the surface of life
Mary Regina Morrell

World Food Program Director on Lent
Catholic Online

Moral Clarity

Pope's Lenten Message for 2009
Catholic Online

A Prayer for Monaco: Remembering the Faith Legacy of Prince Rainier III & Princess Grace and Contemplating the Moral Challenges of Prince Albert II
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe

Keeping a Lid on Permissiveness
Sally Connolly

Glimpse of Me
Sarah Reinhard

The 3 stages of life
Michele Szekely

Sex and the Married Woman
Cheryl Dickow

A Catholic Woman Returns to the Church
Cheryl Dickow

Modernity & Morality
Dan Shea

Just a Minute
Sarah Reinhard

Catholic identity ... triumphant reemergence!
Hugh McNichol

Edging God Out
Paul Sposite

Burying a St. Joseph Statue
Cheryl Dickow

George Bush Speaks on Papal Visit
Catholic Online

Sometimes moving forward means moving the canoe
Mary Regina Morrell

Action Changes Things: Teaching our Kids about Community Service
Lisa Hendey

Easter... A Way of Life
Paul Spoisite

Papal initiative...peace and harmony!
Hugh McNichol

Proclaim the mysteries of the Resurrection!
Hugh McNichol

Jerusalem Patriarch's Easter Message
Catholic Online

Good Friday Sermon of Father Cantalamessa
Catholic Online

Papal Address at the End of the Way of the Cross
Catholic Online

Cardinal Zen's Meditations for Via Crucis
Catholic Online

Interview With Vatican Aide on Jewish-Catholic Relations
Catholic Online

Pope Benedict XVI On the Easter Triduum
Catholic Online

Holy Saturday...anticipation!
Hugh McNichol

Deacon Keith Fournier Hi readers, it seems you use Catholic Online a lot; that's great! It's a little awkward to ask, but we need your help. If you have already donated, we sincerely thank you. We're not salespeople, but we depend on donations averaging $14.76 and fewer than 1% of readers give. If you donate just $5.00, the price of your coffee, Catholic Online School could keep thriving. Thank you. Help Now >

Never Miss any Updates!

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers.

Catholic Online Logo

Copyright 2020 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2020 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.

Catholic Online is a Project of Your Catholic Voice Foundation, a Not-for-Profit Corporation. Your Catholic Voice Foundation has been granted a recognition of tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Federal Tax Identification Number: 81-0596847. Your gift is tax-deductible as allowed by law.