By Ragan M. Conteh
The recently released Afro Barometer Report has stated that the fear (“somewhat” or “a lot”) of political intimidation or violence was highest in the Southern region (62%) and lowest in the Northern region (50%). It was slightly more pronounced among urban residents (59%) and women (57%) than rural residents (53%) and men (54%). Citizens with post-secondary education were least perturbed (49% vs. 54% – 59%, among those with less education).
Violence, at political events, is particularly feared in Sierra Leone, adding that more than half (53%) of citizens said they feared such violence during the previous two years, including 11% who said they experienced it themselves.
Almost as many (47%) reported having feared violence in their neighborhood (including 14% who said they experienced it), followed by 33% during a public protest (6% experienced). The report furthered that fewer Sierra Leoneans, concerned about armed attacks by religious or political extremists 17%, said they feared such violence, including 2% who experienced it themselves.
Afro Barometer pointed out that, among 33 countries in which these questions were asked, Sierra Leone recorded the third-highest level of fear of violence at political events, 21% points more than the continental average (32%).
In addition to fear of political intimidation or violence, according to the Report, a substantial proportion of Sierra Leoneans expressed concerns about their personal safety. About one-third (36%) of respondents said they or someone in their families were a victim of theft from their home during the previous year, while almost three in 10 feared crime in their home (29%) or felt unsafe walking in their neighborhood (28%).
The report stated that almost one in 10 (8%) said they were physically attacked during the previous 12 months.
Afrobarometer is a pan-African, nonpartisan survey research network that provides reliable data on African experiences and evaluations of democracy, governance, and quality of life. Seven rounds of surveys were completed in up to 38 countries between 1999 and 2018. Round 8 surveys in 2019/2021 are planned in at least 35 countries.
The survey research network conducts face-to-face interviews in the language of the respondent’s choice with nationally representative samples. The Afrobarometer team in Sierra Leone, led by the Institute for Governance Reform, interviewed 1,200 adult Sierra Leoneans in March 2020. A sample of this size yields country level results with a margin of error of +/-3 percentage points at a 95% confidence level. Previous surveys were conducted in Sierra Leone in 2012, 2015, and 2018.
Perhaps, due in part to fear of violence, the Report says, seven out of 10 Sierra Leoneans (69%) said they “would never” participate in a demonstration or protest march.
It says, one in 20 (5%) said they took part in a protest during the previous year, while two out of 10 (21%) said they did not but would do so if they had the chance.
Considerably more respondents said they expressed their dissatisfaction with government performance during the previous year by joining others to request government action (32%) and contacting officials for help (21%).
As of mid-2018, majority of Sierra Leoneans were satisfied with the government’s performance in preventing violence and fighting crime.
“Since the survey questions asked about “the current government,” but were posed just two months after the new Bio government had taken office, we do not know to what extent respondents’ assessments credited or blamed a particular administration or governments in general.”
It says six out of 10 citizens said the government was doing “fairly well” or “very well” in preventing or resolving violent community conflict (s) (63%) and reducing crime (61%).
A smaller majority (54%) approved of government’s efforts in preventing election-related violence, while about half (49%) praised its performance in countering violence by armed extremists.