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Music Used to Lure Younger Voters in Sierra Leone


A grandmother gives her grandchildren school lessons on their porch in Sierra Leone's capital Freetown, April 24, 2012.

A grandmother gives her grandchildren school lessons on their porch in Sierra Leone's capital Freetown, April 24, 2012.

As Sierra Leone gets into election mode, an organization in Freetown is using the power of music to ensure that young people turn out to vote on November 17 in presidential and parliamentry elections.

A Sierra Leone organization called Artists United for Children and Youth Development has created a song and video called "Let Us Go and Vote" - a message aimed at young people.

It is the first election-based video to come out this year, said Ibrahim Mansaray, program coordinator for the organization. He hopes voters between the ages of 18 and 35 will realize the importance of their voices being heard.

"It is a very critical thing they need to do. They need to think and make sure they work on ideologies, look at political parties ideologies, that are in line with their dreams and aspirations," said Mansaray.

Promoting peace

The non-profit group War Child Canada also has been involved in the project, providing a recording studio for the song and editing of the video. The two organizations have worked together for several years to create projects promoting peace among youth.

War Child Canada international program director Richard Corbridge said he hopes the video gets people talking about the election.

"Music is so important to youth in the local culture here. For young people, music is a real medium for them to rally around. So music with a message is an extremely accessible way for other young people to talk about the issues," said Corbridge.

The video features a little girl walking around with a ballot box on her head. In bold black letters the box simply says "Vote."

Voting for future generations

Schwarbu Kamara is the video producer for the song and came up with the concept featuring a child.

"She went to all these places - Freetown, up country and some bushes. That implies we have to vote and forget about violence, you have to come out and do your vote peacefully," said Kamara.

He hopes the image will inspire people to think about how their vote also can affect the children in this country and the song’s message of non-violence.

Last month the U.N. representative to Sierra Leone warned of rising tensions before the elections.

Learning from the past

Kamara said going through the 10-year civil war in Sierra Leone during the 1990s was such a horrific time, he does not want anything that could create a similar experience.

"People were fighting, killing, there was bloodshed, that had an impact on me. Anytime election is about to approach, I do get that fear that maybe what has happened to me in the past, maybe it will come up again," said Kamara.

The video is receiving positive reaction. Alberta Massa Quoi, chief of external relations for the National Election Commission, described the video as a creative approach.

"Where more the commission has interest is in first-time voters. We have a good number of Sierra Leoneons who are now turned 18. The role of these persons will become important and vital," said Quoi.

The video will play until a new president is elected.
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