BFF Calls For Mass Citizens Turnout At Tuesday Polls …Urges GOL To Uphold Its Security And Safety Obligations
Amid the increasing waves of electoral violence in the country, the Better Future Foundation, BFF, proponent of Liberia Democracy Sustainability Platform, DSP, in collaboration with Partners for Democracy and Good Governance, PDG, has conducted a daylong Interfaith Prayers and Exchange for Peaceful and Nonviolent elections in Liberia.
An array of distinguished Interfaith Personalities including Rev. Christopher W. Toe, Secretary General of Liberian Council of Churches; Alhaji Salleh Abbas Kanneh, who served as a proxy for the President of the National Muslim Council of Liberia and Elder Eddie Wright of Bahai Faith of Liberia offered their individual insights and perspectives, reflecting on the importance of their respective Congregations and Citizens’ Participation in the October 10, 2023, Presidential and Legislative elections void of violence.
The occasion which was moderated by Ambassador Gerald B. Coleman, former Commissioner of Liberia’s erstwhile Truth and Reconciliation Commission, TRC, was characterized by various thematic Presentations by experts with focus on: Human Rights and Elections; Elections and The Rule of Law; Gender Sensitive Election Observation and Reporting, Election Day Voting and the Media.
In his opening statement at the forum, the Founder and Chief Executive Officer, CEO, of BFF, Rev. Augustine Arkoi, called on Liberians nationwide for mass turnout at polling places on. Tuesday, October 10, 2023, without fear and intimidation to vote for their preferred candidates.
The BFF Boss who is also a noted civil society advocate reminded the Government of Liberia, GOL, of its constitutional and other statutory obligations to ensure that all polling centers across the country are embracing, friendly and freed of any form of intimidation and violence against voters, poll workers, representatives of political parties, Coalitions and Alliances as well as independent candidates, especially women and physically challenged contenders in Tuesday polls.
According to BFF and members of its collaborating CSO Network, under the umbrella of PdG, sustaining Liberia’s democracy through the ballot box is a compelling civic duty required of Liberian citizens, civil society and prodemocracy institutions that must never be tempered with or infringed upon.
BFF and Partners also condemned the increasing waves of tragic electoral violence in Lofa and Nimba Counties; provocation and hate speeches including the dissemination of misinformation and disinformation sorely intended to stair fear in the country and particularly intimidate voters from turning out to peacefully cast their ballots.
BFF emphasized through its CEO, Augustine Arkoi, that fear and intimidation do not only undermine democracy, but also fall short of the minimum benchmarks of free, fair and transparent election.
The CSO Election Observers Capacity-building workshop was held on the Theme: “Taking Ownership for Peace and Democracy in Liberia,” ahead of Tuesday polls.
In his presentation, Imam Alhaji Salleh Abbas Kanneh, on behalf of the National Muslim Council of Liberia, encouraged all Liberians to take full ownership of the prevailing peace in the country by rising above all acts of violence and embracing peaceful elections in the best interest of all.
He added that to take ownership of the peace, Liberians must also be in peace with God/Allah.
Elder Eddie Wright, who represented the Baha’i Faith in Liberia underscored the need for Liberians to subscribe to sustainable peace.
He stressed that Liberians also need to jealously safeguard their hard-won peace and democracy for the development and progress of the country.
He told the gathering that the Baha’i Faith doesn’t support anything that has the propensity or resemblance of conflict and disunity.
He added that although the people of Bahai Faith are prohibited from contesting for political or elected public offices, they can individually vote for their preferred candidates in any peaceful elections.
“We subscribe to this philosophy because contesting for political seats will bring disunity amongst brothers and sisters of our faith”, Elder Wright told the forum.
He added that “one cannot be a player and at the same time serve as a referee.”
In his intervention, Rev. Christopher W. Toe, Secretary General of the Liberian Council of Churches challenged the citizens to support the prevailing peace in the country.
He also called on Liberians to adhere to the rule of law at all times by snubbing acts of electoral violence.
He urged everyone to cultivate a brighter future by peacefully voting for their preferred candidates in the Tuesday, October 10 polls.
For his part, Mr. Prince Dunbar, Deputy Director of Communications, National Elections Commission, NEC, while reiterating the Commission’s commitment to free, fair and transparent elections encouraged the citizens to support violent free polls.
Mr. Dunbar’s presentation was centered on Election Day Reporting and the Role of the Media.
He also highlighted the importance of peaceful and fair elections, urging all participants to respect the electoral process and refrain from any form of violence or intimidation.
He emphasized that every vote counts and that citizens’ participation in the elections is crucial in the consolidation of Liberia’s peace and democracy.
Atty Alvin W. Yelloway, an accomplished member of the Liberia National Bar Association, LNBA, made a presentation with focus on “Elections and the Rule of Law.”
He highlighted the constitutional basis for elections in Liberia, the significance of elections, election laws, and disputes settlement mechanisms.
He recalled that while Liberia has organized several peaceful elections over the years, there were violations of election laws by many incumbent leaders and other participants, and that frauds and irregularities were detected in some past elections in the country.
He disclosed that in previous elections, voters have had limited civic education and awareness on the significance of their vote, as a result, some of them sold their votes to public office seekers for rice, and other pecuniary gains, which led to far- reaching negative impacts on Liberia’s peace and development.
He also showcased how the country’s Legislature has been dominated over the years by men, based on multiple factors that need to be adequately addressed for increased women representation in the National Legislature.
He elaborated on the importance of Article 83 (c) of the 1986 constitution of Liberia which gives candidates or parties the right to file electoral complaints with the National Elections Commission (NEC) within 7 days after announcement of election results.
He narrated that the Law requires the NEC to conduct an impartial investigation and make a decision within 30 days.
“If a party or candidate is aggrieved by the NEC’s decision, they can file an appeal within 7 days after the decision is taken. The complaint must be filed in writing along with the relevant pieces of evidence at NEC’s headquarters or local election magistrate office,” he stressed.
He, however, encouraged any aggrieved party or candidate in the 2023 polls to uphold the due process of law aimed at addressing their grievances as opposed to engaging in any act of violence and the desecration of the rule of law.
He explained that for the 2023 elections, there are 1,030 candidates with only 15% (159) being females which fell short of the 30% gender quota MOU signed by political parties and NEC.
He also highlighted the risks of constitutional crisis in Liberia if there are widespread challenges relative to the 2023 Presidential and Legislative election results.
The respected member of the Liberian Bar Association concluded, among others that free, fair, and peaceful elections will strengthen and consolidate Liberia’s peace and democracy.
In conclusion, Rev. Gerald Coleman, Founder/CEO of True Love Foundation for Peace & Development in Africa who also served as a Moderator thanked all the Presenters as well as participants of the forum for their immense contributions toward promoting peace, unity, and democracy in Liberia.
He urged everyone to continue working together towards a brighter future for the country, where the citizens would live in peace and harmony.
Speaking on behalf of the participants, Mr. Edward Boateng, an emerging Diplomat and International Relations Practitioner, thanked the facilitators, with special acknowledgement extended to the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Development in Africa (EISA) for the regular and timely sharing of elections related updates with PdG elections observers.