On the eve of the first round of the 2020/2021 presidential and legislative elections in the Central African Republic, a first-time voter takled about her hopes and dreams as she headed to the polls to cast her ballot.
Tell us about yourself.
I am Lorna Gracia Michelle Olongbo, a student at the University of Bangui’s Faculty of Science. My dream is to become a pharmacist – to help solve the issue of the acute lack of access to drugs that many people face in the Central African Republic.
How does it feel to be voting for the first time?
At 18 years of age, I belong to the majority of the population of the Central African Republic. I am very happy to be voting for the first time as I see it as an opportunity to do something for my country. I may not have enough money to construct hospitals yet, but the power to elect our leaders gives me great pleasure – to help shape the direction of the country.
I will vote to exercise my duty as a citizen and to make sure that the country is democratically governed by the choice of the electorate every five years.
What do elections mean for you as a young person?
Voting is a kind of rite of passage for a young person like me. It is my first opportunity to elect leaders who, I hope, will rectify the errors of their predecessors and take the country forward. Political decisions should not be taken lightly, but young people’s voices should count – as wisdom is not just age related.
What do elections mean for you as a woman?
There are not enough women representatives in government and other positions of power. The fact that the presidents of the National Elections Authority (ANE) and the Constitutional Court of the Central African Republic are women is a huge asset for women. Thanks to them, I feel inspired to reach higher.
What are your expectations for the post-election Central African Republic?
For our future leaders to seek meaningful solutions for the countless problems holding the country back – we need new and better schools and hospitals. How can it be that there is only one university in the whole country?
I hope that Central Africans will vote for leaders who will harness the country’s natural resources for development. We need leaders who will be supporters of the people, who will have courage because when the population feels discouraged, we will look to them to lift us up, leaders who can make great decisions in times of turmoil.
What message do you have for other young people and women regarding the electoral process?
I call on them to use their power to vote. I want them to know that our voices count. We should not underestimate ourselves.
How would you govern if you were president?
I would learn the lessons of great leaders such as Thomas Sankara – his passion for women empowerment is inspirational. I would study both their successes and failures to help me develop our country.