Alexander Cummings (left), President George Weah (center) and Former Vice President Joseph Boakai signing the peace accord. (Photo credit: Daily Observer)

Liberians Remind Aspirants To Stick To The FRD 2023 If…

By: J. Peter S. Dennis

Alexander Cummings (left), President George Weah (center) and Former Vice President Joseph Boakai signing the peace accord. (Photo credit: Daily Observer)

Electorates have urged politicians to stick to the principles of the Farmington River Declaration 2023 in the quest of a credible election.

According to the electorates, sticking to the framework document will create a fair level for everyone.

They advised them to place the country’s interest at the peak over personal glory.

The Farmington River Declaration (FRD) 2023, signed at the Farmington River Hotel on April 4, 2023 is a legal commitment to peaceful election and judicial resolution of election disputes in Liberia.

On June 4, 2017, 20 out of 22 registered political parties signed the framework document emanating from the Ganta Declaration committing themselves to an orderly and peaceful election in October 2017 and pledging before the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Heads of States.

Six years later, 26 registered political parties have affixed their signatures on the document committing themselves to a violence-free election in which all Liberian voters and qualified candidates will participate.

Among several other things mentioned within the FRD 2023, campaign management and violence against women in elections coupled with electoral violence are top issues, if not fully handled may lead to a “failed and chaotic” electioneering process.

On Campaign management, the FRD 2023 calls for “respect towards coalitions/collaborations, parties or candidates and stakeholders to campaign or rally without fear or disruption, adhere to campaign schedules, respect the campaign materials of other coalitions/parties, promote peace on all campaign trails”.

It seems that this provision was already violated when aspirants got involved with pre-campaign activities for months- thus triggering the National Elections Commission through its chairperson, Madam Davidetta Browne Lassana to issue a May 15, 2023 mid-night deadline to remove all political paraphernalia including jingles, flyers, billboards, promos, amongst others.

The National Elections Commission, according to its electoral guidelines, campaign is scheduled from August 5 to October 8, 2023.

For violence against women in elections, provisions two and four say “refrain from and discourage all forms of violence against women in elections by any of our representatives or supporters, including the use of traditional practices such as deploying the ‘country devil’ to intimidate candidates and their supporters, prevent and promptly address gender-based-hate speech, disinformation, misinformation, any verbal or online threats, intimidation or violence against women candidates and voters and take or initiate disciplinary action against those who contravene this pledge.

“Provision four (4): Facilitate women’s equal participation and access to political activities and voting”.

The Farmington River Declaration 2023 did not state the exact punishment for violators, but instead charged the National elections commission or the judiciary to sanction violators in breach of the law in accordance with the laws of Liberia.

Speaking at the signing ceremony on Tuesday, April 4, 2023, at the Farmington Hotel in Lower Margibi County, President George Weah said: “The document is a testament of the elevation of Liberia’s democracy. The conduct of peaceful elections in October will demonstrate Liberians’ readiness for the sustenance of peace, security, stability and development.”

Also speaking, Unity Party (UP) Standard Bearer former Vice President, Joseph Nyumah Boakai, recommitted the various political parties to upholding the Farmington Declaration of non-violence while calling on political actors, ordinary Liberians and the National Elections Commission (NEC) to work together to address issues that can bring about electoral violence.

Recently, the United Nations in Liberia, through the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) commended political parties and the National Elections Commission (NEC) on the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Section 4.5 of the Elections Law, which governs the nomination of candidates for elective positions in the upcoming elections.

Despite women and girls constituting around 50 percent of the population, women in Liberia occupy less than 11 percent of the 103 seats in the Legislature. The percentage of women has fallen since 2006 – a trend which correlates to a decrease in the percentage of women on candidate listings over time.

Comfort Flomo, a first time voter says “women should  be given the opportunity in the body politics for better representation”.

Moses Plakar is a resident of Tarsah in electoral district#1. He feels “this other law will not even benefit the people because many of such have been on the book with little or no implementation effort. We only pray for God will”.

Mr. Aaron Juakollie, Executive Director of the Foundation for International Dignity (FIND) believes “From all indications, the spirit and intent of the Farmington River Declaration 2023 is superb and if blended with sincerity from all political stakeholders in the October 10, 2023 Presidential and Legislative elections, it’s expected to be violence and conflict-free.”

Patrick Togbah, a resident of Gbenequelleh says, the pact is just another document that will not have a trigger down impact on the upcoming elections.

“Let me tell you, every time people are affixing their signatues to different documents but they implement any. How will you call that? We can ask God for his direction for our election to be peaceful”.

But James Gbarsasa differs. “Let me tell you, since those people [political parties and coalitions] signed the agreement, I have not heard of any major violence. We believe that nothing will erupt the electoral process. This law has always been respected and will be”.

Jutomue Mulbah, Bong’s Youth and Sports Coordinator says, the FRD 2023 will help impact the elections. According to him, the principles aren’t just catchy, but intended to hold deputy bearers accountable for any violence.

Both Alice Weafar and Jutomue Mulbah want more women participation as enshrined in count four (4) of the FRD 2023 stressing that “women’s leadership are genuine and result driven.”

Arthur Rosa Cheeks, a local businessman in Gbarnga strongly feels “the law will not make any difference considering the political tensions already burring in the country.”

He agrees with the gender quota saying “getting more women to participate in politics is important. In the first place, most women aren’t supporting their colleagues, how will they even get leadership? For that to happen, it’s time they start to support each other because they so motivating and incredible in what they do”. 

Bill Sesaye Barbu, a resident of electoral district #3 in Bong County stressed “the outcome of the 2023 Presidential and Legislative elections completely rests on Liberians, especially young people. If they aren’t wrongfully used, it will be good for our democracy. Besides, the parties should focus on an issue based campaign message, and refrain from attacking others while campaigning”.

Count 2 [under campaign management] of the Farmington River Declaration 2023 states “Desist from campaigns that involve human rights abuses, hate speeches, and all forms of violence, class denigration, vilification of social origins and background, ethnic victimization, or religious incitement, both by parties or agents acting our names. Instead, run issue-based campaigns.”

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