Some 350 out of 400 secondary schools students attended their network launching ceremony Wednesday, July 2, 2008 at the YWCA hall at Brookfields Freetown. The network dubbed PeMNet or Peer Mediator’s Network comprising ten secondary schools in Freetown was launched by the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany, His Excellency Rolf Saligmann after the young boys and girls have been trained in conflict resolution and peace building skills.
The Ambassador told the gathering that Germany is strongly supporting peace education activities in Sierra Leone and that since the end of the rebel war, Germany has helped Sierra Leone with its reconstruction. He stressed that a peaceful environment is an important condition for economic and social development.
He further stated that peace building starts at the private level: “in the family, in the school, in the village or town,” admonishing that peaceful competition has to be learnt in the field of sports as well as in the field of politics and it was very appropriate that the young minds have started learning about peaceful conflict resolution already in school.
In addressing the theme of the launching: “Enhancing Democracy through Peace building,” His Excellency Rolf Saligmann said that democracy and peace building go hand in hand and that “peaceful elections strengthen political stability, without which there cannot be any sustainable economic development; and without economic development there is no lasting peace.” The Ambassador observed that young candidates and young voters have a vital interest in maintaining a peaceful environment for the elections but their voice will only be heard, if Sierra Leoneans ensure that every vote carries equal weight, regardless of age and economic or social status in the ward, village or town.
He concluded by saying that two lessons that he can take from Sierra Leone is the religious tolerance demonstrated by Sierra Leoneans and the honest and responsible way, in which the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Special Court for Sierra Leone have been dealing with the causes and consequences of the rebel war. He said he was proud that Germany could support Sierra Leone’s efforts, at least through modest contributions.
Mr. Desmond George-Williams, lecturer in the Peace and Conflict Studies Department at Fourah Bay College acclaimed the work of Green Scenery, the designers of the intervention. He said the launching event is epoch making, and that a network of peer mediators is a certain way of enhancing democracy through peace building. He maintained that issues of conflict resolution and democratic governance go hand in hand. But the challenge of being a peace builder is just beginning. “There is more to being effective peer mediator than putting on nicely designed Tee shirts,” he said. He challenged the young minds to display the qualities of a mediator at all times. He concluded that the knowledge and skills they Peer Mediators have acquired are life skills that could be utilized long after their days in school.
The program was chaired by Madam Helen Bash-Taqi who admonished the students to serve as peace crusaders in their schools, communities and the country at large at all times. She emphasized that a peaceful school environment promotes good education and enhances development. She reminded the gathering that they are a powerful tool to engender peace in the home, the school and communities, concluding that she was impressed when the Peer Mediators were calling on all to conduct themselves peacefully in the local council election.
The program was organized by Green Scenery and it was consecutively taking place in Bo. It will be recalled that on diverse dates in June, Green Scenery organized a Training of Trainers workshop in Peace building for 100 teachers in Freetown and Bo, the organization designed a peace campaign for the local council election called 14 days, 14 ways. The Executive Director says that the launching was strategically located in the campaign as one means of sustaining public interest in peace.