MONROVIA: Ahead of the upcoming Presidential and Legislative elections, it appears that attention is not just placed on the result of the polls but on how peaceful the process will unfold the wave of drug abuse and violence that has marred campaigns in the past.
According to some women and youth has the growing influence of threat to the 2023 elections.
Therefore, under the project Title: Sustainable and Inclusive Peace in Liberia through Promoting Women Leadership and Participation in Civic and Political Life and their Strengthened Role in Conflict Resolution, a flagship program of the ‘’Women Situation Room (WSR)” initiated by Angie Brooks International Centre for women’s Empowerment, Leadership Development, International Peace and Security in partnership with ZOA-Liberia with support from the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund organized a two-day mediation dialogue in Gbarnga, Bong County, from July 29th to 30th 2022.
The initiative brought together chiefs, women, and youth leaders from 20 communities, 10 from urban and rural Montserrado County while 10 from Bong County converged at the program to explore issues, including drug abuse, political violence as a national emergency, and understanding election and civic responsibility, aimed at strategizing to consider important issues in the interest of the country.
Among communities that attended the program were PHP, West Point, Clara Town, King Gray, New Kru Town, Todee, Bentol, District #8, Crozierville, Gardnesville, Gbarnga, Belefanai, Palala, Suakoko, Totota, Folobia, Gbartala, Salala, Cuttington and Wainsue.
In her opening remarks, the Establishment Coordinator of the Angie Brooks International Centre, Cllr Yvette Chesson- Wureh told the gathering that the platform was organized to listen to the plight of the women and youth, who are local and community leaders and are made of representation of 4,000 Liberians. She warned if nothing is done to solve the problem the country is in trouble.
A discussion from the two-day event through several presentations pointed out that illicit drug sales across the country are supported by the high-ups in government, indicating that whenever a drug seller is arrested the next day the person is freed. They also said market women are involved in transporting drugs for drug dealers and decried that the menace has entered into schools, according to Youth Chair and Chairlady Boakai Kawah and Comfort Peters of District #8.
The issues, according to the participants, are not unique to one community. They further explained that political violence is always occurring because one party thinks that a particular community is its stronghold as such, no other party should campaign there. Naming voter trucking and buying of votes by politicians among other things as issues that provoke electoral violence.
Making their case, they recommended to the Angie Brooks Centre (ABIC) to work with the government of Liberia to ensure the passage of the drug law non-billable; that ABIC initiates a drug and civic education awareness campaign in all participating communities and train and deploy observers during the elections. Furthermore, they underscored the need for the construction of a vocational and rehabilitation center for illicit drug victims.
Responding to the women and youth recommendations at the program, Cllr Chesson-Wureh encouraged the participants to share the knowledge they have acquired from the program. She mentioned that ABIC is interested in initiating entrepreneurial training for the women and youths to enable them to do business that will impact their livelihood and community and create jobs.
“The training you are getting is not for yourself but for you to spread to others. It is not what you get but what you scatter”, she said and added that the Women Situation Room will train observers, saying they know you are the better you can secure your country’s democracy.
While thanking the participants for attending what she termed as a comprehensive look at electoral violence, drug abuse, and understanding of election and civic responsibility, Dr. Chesson-Wureh noted that ABIC will look at all of the input and ensure a mechanism to get the country moving forward.
Also providing her expertise was Certified Social Worker and Psychologist Counselor Rev Evangelist Judy Stryker who pointed out that drug addiction can shake peace and security and urged the participants to keep having a discussion that is befitting to the progress of Liberia, because they who are participating in the program are the ones that will bring transformation to the nation. We will enhance a series of discussions on the matter, she added.
Rev. Stryker was followed by former Chief Justice of Liberia’s Supreme Court, Frances Johnson Allison, who encouraged the participating communities to register and vote when the time comes. She told the chiefs and other community leaders at the event to treat their residents equally. “People have the right to use public facilities do not deprive them. We have to make this nation live in a forward position.”
NEC can have some constraints to performing properly because of the lack of sufficient funds. Voter education is important and if you don’t vote you are not a good citizen. Don’t say you will not vote because of the bad behavior of others. Do not put a political ahead of your country, if you do that you jeopardized the future of the country, NEC for boss said in a further comment.