Over the summer, second-year Case Western Reserve University
School of Law student George Kamanda returned to his native Sierra Leone for
the first time in nearly eight years. He came to the United States in March
2012 to join his mother and pursue higher education.
But his passion for his country led him back this summer to
found a new citizen-empowerment effort, dubbed The Necessity Firm.
Founded on four pillars—citizenship, mentorship, character education and advocacy, all of which Kamanda considers necessities—The Necessity Firm aims to help Sierra Leoneans become “whole citizens.” Kamanda described “whole citizens” as engaged, active and objective when it comes to participation in governance and nation building, regardless of citizens’ political and tribal affiliations.
Supported by a Frederick K. Cox International Law Center
summer fellowship, Kamanda officially launched the firm June 22. He is working
with 10 others on the firm.
What makes Sierra Leone ripe for such an initiative, Kamanda
explained, is that the country has experienced government corruption, resulting
in citizens who are apathetic about getting involved. While Kamanda said the
new government has made strides toward improving, he hopes he can be part of
“The time is crucial. The time is now. That is why I created
my citizenship firm now,” he said, “to be part of that change.”
Though the firm is in its beginning phases, ultimately,
Kamanda hopes it will help eradicate citizen apathy in his country and inspire
more people to be involved in their government.
To do so, Kamanda has identified three strategies:
community-, school- and media-based initiatives.
While in Sierra Leone over the summer, he appeared on
television and radio programming to help spread the message about The Necessity
To boost youth engagement there, he established a school
club—with two more planned to start next month—with activities, such as
debates, dialogues and quiz events on activism and current affairs, in support
of civic engagement. These clubs are for primary- and secondary-school
The Necessity Firm also has launched a fellowship program,
with seven students total (five of whom come from Saint
Philips Primary School, which Kamanda attended), who will attend civic
engagement talks and receive tutoring, mentorship and an education stipend.
And the firm will expand its reach to youth with a national
conference in the works for April. Kamanda hopes the event will result in a
workbook “identifying causes, symptoms and challenges as well as putting
forward recommendations/policy suggestions to eradicating and solving the problems
of citizen apathy and all its caveats in Sierra Leone.” The workbook would then
be shared with relevant government agencies and civil society groups.
Kamanda also hopes to create an online platform for
individuals to share articles, essays and research.
In the classroom
After completing a bachelor’s
degree in political science at Saint Joseph’s University and a Certificate in
International Human Rights at the University of Pennsylvania Law School,
Kamanda wanted to further develop his critical-thinking skills to better enable
himself to simplify complex information. Law, he decided, seemed like an ideal
way to do that.
“Law gives you a holistic
perspective of the world,” he said.
What drew him to Case Western
Reserve University was the school’s international law program. During his time
here, Kamanda has focused on diplomatic law.
“I want to be a force that
represents my continent proficiently, but at the same time, represent the
global society,” he said.
Read on to see how Kamanda
answered this week’s five questions.
1. What’s something
you don’t know how to do but would like to learn?
I would love to learn how to
code because I know it is a creative process, and I consider myself a creative
2. Who’s the best
teacher you’ve ever had?
I have been blessed to have
had many great teachers from primary to university level. My most memorable was
my primary school teacher, Mrs. Lamin. I loved all her classes, and I just
loved her as a human being. She is forever etched into my mind because I believe
God used her to prevent me from going into convulsion in primary school. She
noticed something was wrong, and she came to my aid and administered remedy at
the right time and prevented me from convulsing. She saved my life!
3. Where do you most like to travel?
I would love to visit Rwanda
and Finland. In the case of Rwanda, I would like to experience and study the
impressive policies behind the country’s rapid social and economic growth. I
hope to do so with a cautiously optimistic outlook while balancing my study of
their policies with the tenets of the rule of law and democracy. I will do the
same about Finland’s education system. I hope to visit and study the policies
that make its education system the best in the world. Whatever I learn, I hope
to replicate in the long run with my citizenship firm, and my beloved country,
4. If you could go
back in time and tell a younger version of yourself something, what would you
Obey God and leave all the
consequences to him. Build on and relish my difficult upbringings and see it as
a blessing, not a curse. I believe everyone has a calling uniquely suited for
their life’s story and aspirations. Believe it! Embrace it!
5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?
The invaluable opportunity to
interact with students from other schools is palpable. I enjoy that daily,
whether I am playing soccer with students from the medical and dental school or
being invited to speak on a panel—as I did in the February of last year,
discussing the role of the universal declarations of human rights in Africa.
These experiences have enriched my time here at Case [Western Reserve].