On September 2, 2017, Naymote Partners for Democratic Development in partnership with the Liberia National Police ended the fourth community dialogue forum at the Security Hub in Jorquelleh District, Bong County with support from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA). The initiative is promoting civic participation of the youth, community residents and diffusing potential electoral violence at community levels while building trust and linking communities with the Liberia National Police (LNP). Police officers are responsible to protect the lives and property of citizens but they rely on citizen’s support and cooperation to succeed. At the event in Bong County, the Inspector General of Police, Gregory Coleman assured Liberians of unbiased and professional police operations during the entire electoral process. IG Coleman said the Liberia National Police is for every Liberian, he spoke on the topic: Electoral Security and the Role of the Liberia National Police.
“I’ve come to talk to you as a son of this land, as a brother, as a father and most of all as a Liberian. Let’s love this Country, let’s put away violence, it does not solve any problem but instead worsen situation. Let’s believe in our potential and the only way we can do this is by believing in ourselves that we can maintain peace. If someone has issues with election, the best way to solve this situation is through the justice system. Don’t take the law into your hands”. Hon Gregory Coleman.
The Liberia’s national security sector is responsible for security operations and coordination during the October 10 presidential and legislative elections after the transfer of security operations from UNMIL to the Liberian government. The Liberia National Police is heading the security coordination efforts for the entire electoral process with support from the Immigration Services and the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), this is the first test for our security sector. Despite gains made in maintaining national peace and security, issues identified as root causes of Liberia’s 14-years civil conflict remain unaddressed. There are still issues with land disputes, access to justice, respect for law, weak democratic institutions, concession related tensions, corruption, youth unemployment as well as the exclusion of young people from decision-making, these issues could trigger violence during elections.
To address some of these issues, NAYMOTE and the LNP are implementing a project called “Yes to Peace, No to Violence” with the goal to contribute towards the conduct of a peaceful national election in Liberia and increase trust amongst political party leaders, youth leaders, community residents and the Liberia National Police as a means to prevent election violence.
As part of the project, seven community mobilization engagements have been completed in Montserrado, Margibi and Bong counties. These mobilization events were intended to give community dwellers an understanding, appreciation and ownership of the project, these engagements received overwhelming support from community residents who complained the police has been far away from the people and held the perception that police officers existed only to protect government officials and not the ordinary people.
NAYMOTE and the LNP have completed four community dialogue forums bringing together over 600 participants mostly youth and women leaders, traditional leaders, motorcyclists, representatives from political parties, community based institutions, etc. During these meetings, representatives from the Liberian National Police and NAYMOTE made presentations on triggers of electoral violence and the role of citizens and the communities to prevent electoral violence. These events took place in Clara Town and West Point in Montserrado County, Weala in Cinta Township, Margibi County and in Jorquelleh District (Security Hub), Bong County. At these engagements citizens called on all Liberians to desist from electoral violence and maintain the peace, they urged candidates that have problems with the electoral process to use the justice system for redress.
LNP as part of their prevention plan has assigned three Police Officers to each political party thereby helping with security coordination and protection of candidates. The LNP is providing protection for all voters and candidates, protecting ballot papers, and deploying officers at all polling centers as support to the National Elections Commission.
During these dialogues, a video documentary on the impact of electoral violence was screened and discussions were held to get feedback from participants on how Liberians could avoid the occurrence of such violence during election. Peace messages from the U.S. Ambassador, the European Ambassador and the U.N. Special Representatives to Liberia and head of UNMIL were screened. The screening of the Kenya 2008 elections violence documentary where over 2000 people got killed, women got raped and million of dollars worth of properties destroyed was designed to create awareness on the danger of elections violence and provide opportunity for Liberians to stay away from violence and promote peaceful elections.
“We can do better and we can do more for Liberia. Liberia is all we have, let us do everything to safeguard our peace, the Police is your friend and after the election we should say yes we are all winners” Dao T. Freeman, LNP.
“Tearing down of candidates posters and flyers, disagreement, criticism, misinformation, perception of election fraud, lack of respect for the rule of law, misused of media outlets are triggers of violence that Liberians need to know and understand” Mr. Samuel G. Ford, LNP.
“These are information that our children need to know and understand in order to prevent election violence. Drugs and unemployment for our children are major concerns that could lead them to violent activities, but I think the video documentary will really help our children to remain peaceful”. Mary Larteh, Paramount Chief, Jorquelleh district, Bong County.
The NAYMOTE’s Executive Director, Eddie Jarwolo, said these community dialogue forums are helping to reduce fear about election violence, deepening citizens understanding on the danger of electoral violence and the benefits of peaceful democratic transition, it’s increasing trust between youth and police as well as ensuring respect for the rule of law, etc. He said it is important for citizens to know and understand the workings of the Liberia National Police, the roles and responsibilities of the LNP as well as citizens understanding their roles and responsibilities which would promote peace and mitigate violence in communities.
The program will be extended to the southeastern region next week and other regions before the elections.