31 July 2007 If music be the food of love, then it can also serve to promote peaceful elections in a country recovering from a disastrous decade-long civil war. Such is the updating of the famous line from Shakespeare adapted by the United Nations and its partners to fit the upcoming polls in Sierra Leone.
More than a dozen well-known area musicians are touring the Sierra Leone countryside in a series of peace-promoting concerts as the small West African country prepares for presidential and parliamentary elections on 11 August, the second since it emerged in 2002 from a brutal conflict that saw thousands killed and many others with their limbs cut off in a terror-campaign of mutilation.
“Music is one of the most important resources of Sierra Leone,” UN Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative Victor Angelo says. “These young people represent what is best about the country, and the UN is proud to support them so that their message of peace reaches all the citizens of their country.”
The initiative, “Artists for Peace,” is being jointly organized by UNDP, the Government’s National Communications Strategy Project, the Centre for the Coordination of Youth Activities (CCYA) and the participating artists, who will perform in several cities, with each concert encouraging political tolerance and non-violence.
Popular musicians such as Wahid, Daddy Ish, Cee Jay, Velma and Camouflage are among the line-up for the peace rallies scheduled for several locations in Freetown, the capital, and in the provinces in Makeni, Bo, Kenema and Kono.
“Elections are meant to uplift the lives of all citizens,” Velma, one of the lead female musicians in her self-titled group, says. “We want to use our voices to encourage people to exercise their civic rights in a peaceful manner and to remain tolerant of each other.”