From the Editor’s Keyboard

Diaspora Sierra Leoneans to vote in 2012?

By  | 9 March 2011 at 21:12 | 377 views

A news item that caught my attention recently is the one that says the Sierra Leone government is thinking of providing the modalities for Sierra Leoneans living in the diaspora to be able to vote in the next elections scheduled for 2012.

That is a big commitment from the government, as such a project would cost a tidy sum of money, most of it going to the latest information technology on the market. But it would be money well spent as diaspora Sierra Leoneans need to play a bigger role in the affairs of the country. I am referring to those Sierra Leoneans that refuse to turn their backs on the land of their birth, those who, as our people say, do not automatically become fish just because they find themselves in water.

Sierra Leoneans living and working or studying abroad should not only have a say in how their country is run; they should be directly involved in its development process and not leave it solely in the hands of governmental and non-governmental organizations from the West. Sierra Leone will soon be 50 years old. She should be able to put her house in order by now, all things being equal.

The Sierra Leone government says it’s ready to work with Sierra Leoneans in the diaspora for the advancement of the country. Yes, that’s a nice sentiment but I would like the government to consider the following to make that dream a reality:

1. Get the Office of Diaspora Affairs back on track. Currently most Sierra Leoneans in the diaspora do not know who heads this very important government agency and don’t care. Why? Because they say they were never consulted when that appointment was made. They want to be consulted on the selection or appointment processes of the agency that’s going to deal directly with them. This may sound puerile or naive, but it’s not. They want people they can relate to, people they know, understand and can work with. This is their agency, right?

2. Each embassy or diplomatic mission should have an official responsible for matters dealing with diaspora affairs, working with the ODA in Freetown. Employment and volunteer opportunities back home, especially those requiring highly skilled personnel, should be published and prominently displayed on each embassy’s website. It seems to me that some of our embassies are more concerned about foreign investors (treated like kings and queens) and visa fees than anything else. Sierra Leoneans abroad often complain about the bad treatment they receive at some of their embassies.

3. Of course the external voting exercise, if the government pulls it off, would be a massive public relations coup. A lot of Sierra Leoneans abroad want to vote, want to at least have an influence on who gets elected in our country. Their votes can indeed help to determine the ultimate winners and losers. Guineans and other Africans abroad have been voting in their countries’ elections for a number of years now. Sierra Leoneans are still dreaming about it. Something must be done. Fast.

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