On May 24, 2023, the Africa Faith and Justice Network, the Healey International Relief Foundation, and the National Democratic Institute cosponsored “A Diaspora Roundtable with Deputy Assistant Secretary Michael Heath Ahead of the Sierra Leone Elections.” This virtual event provided prominent Sierra Leoneans in the diaspora (professionals, civil society and religious leaders, etc.) the opportunity to express their viewpoints, concerns and hopes to Deputy Assistant Secretary Michael Heath ahead of his visit to the country. The event was co-moderated by Dr. Steven Nabieu Rogers, Executive Director of the Africa Faith and Justice Network and Ms. Josephine Garnem, Board Member of the Healey International Relief Foundation with a Welcome by Dr. Christopher Fumonyoh from the National Democratic Institute.
The two-hour-long discussion included:
- An overview of the upcoming elections with diaspora concerns and potential challenges
- Suggestions on the role of the diaspora and civil society as change-makers and the potential impact of diaspora engagement in promoting peaceful elections
- Engaging faith-based leaders in promoting peaceful dialogue with a reflection on the ways faith leaders in the diaspora could engage their members in promoting peaceful dialogue and elections
- Strategies for long-term collaboration between the diaspora, faith-based leaders, and local communities post elections with suggested recommendations from the diaspora and faith-based leaders in fostering development and effective non-violent advocacy strategies
The Deputy Assistant Secretary listened to the various views expressed by the diaspora before making his closing remarks. The group was very diverse representing various facets of the Sierra Leone community in the United States. There was great enthusiasm by the diasporan community for this event and several participants expressed interest in similar future events.