By: H. Richard Fallah
MONROVIA: In the midst of reported shortcomings from various registration centers across Montserrado and other counties making up the first phase of the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) process, Unity Party Standard-bearer Joseph Nyuma Boakai has called on the National Elections Commission (NEC) to reconsider its decision and extend the registration process in the first six counties.
Following huge speculations that the nation’s electoral body would extend BVR process for additional two weeks, NEC hurriedly clarified that it will not extend the BVR.
But former President Boakai said extension of the Biometric Voters’ Registration is intended to make up for the delays and technical problems that have led to many not been able to register.
Speaking Tuesday April 4, 2023, at the Farmington Declaration in to reaffirm commitment to a non-violent, free, fair and transparent elections in October of this year, the UP Political Leader said, by not extending the process of the BVR, will be an act of deliberately disenfranchising Liberian citizens from participating in the elections.
Ambassador Boakai: “We also like to emphasize a transparent voter registration process as one of the key elements to having a violence free election. Several issues have been reported since the start of the ongoing Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) process.”
The former Vice President said there are reports of technical problems that are causing slowness of the registration process.
He named NEC Printers who are assigned to registration centers going off frequently, Registration officers coming late and leaving early from duty, frequent shortage of cards that are used to produce voter ID cards, the length of time it takes the solar panel to generate power from the sun usually caused delay to start the registration process, as the many issues confronting the current BVR process across several registration centers in Bomi, Gbarpolu, Grand Bassa, Grand Cape Mount, Margibi and Montserrado Counties.
Ambassador Boakai stated that the above factors are leading to long stay in queues without registration of people who want to register and participate in the determination of the next leadership of the country.
“Some have even hinted that they are tired and may not go to registration centers again. This situation, in our opinion, is discriminating against the voters,” Boakai maintained.
Meanwhile, JNB has opined that they have seen “financially induced voters” being trucked from districts or counties to another in the interest of particular aspirants.
According to him, these incidents are particularly prominent in District 10, Montserrado County and in Grand Cape Mount County.
He alleged, that in Cape Mount, the UP has observed the trucking of Sierra Leoneans from across the borders by businessman, Idrissa Massaley, who is believed to be a supporter of the CDC.
“We are told by executives of our party from Cape Mount that this has led to violence in Jeijuah, Mano River, Bambala, and Tieni between those that are trucking people from Sierra Leone and those attempting to put stop to such violation of our laws,” he noted.
However, affixing his signature to the Farmington Declaration in Harbel, Margibi County, on April 4, 2023, that will reaffirm commitment to a non-violent, free, fair and transparent elections, Boakai recalled that the Farmington Hotel, was where they (UP) signed a commitment to a non-violent election in 2017.
He expressed gladness to report to the same venue that the 2017 Presidential and Legislative elections under the auspices of the Unity Party-led government were largely free of any major violent incident and one the most acclaimed transfer of power occurred.
According to him, the United Nations Charter, ECOWAS Protocols and the 1986 Constitution of Liberia guarantee, and protect the right to vote and for every citizen to determine their choices in a democratic process.
“These tenets underpin the fundamentals of good governance and uphold the will of the majority of our country,” JNB asserted.
JNB: “Emphasis has always been placed on peaceful elections but the elements inherent in every democratic environment and its assurances must be deeply anchored in a free, fair and credible process.”
He said, too often many persons tend to ignore, neglect, and in some cases, become complicit with the outcome of such process rather than the actual process.
Ambassador Boakai defined elections as “not an event, but a process” which must not be merely observed but monitored over a period of time to offer what will eventually advance peace, consolidate democratic entitlements and good governance.
“Again, we are here at this same venue today for another signing ceremony:
Since the assumption of leadership by President George Weah and the CDC, we have witnessed several bi-elections that have been marred by violence,” he mentioned.
The Presidential hopeful recalled that many persons were wounded in violent incidents while the Unity Party was on its campaign launch on November 17, 2018, when UP candidate in the bi-election to replace Representative Saah Joseph of District#-13, Cornelia Kruah-Togba, was violently attacked by people believed to have been partisans of the CDC.
He maintained that similar incident occurred, on August 17, 2019, when the Telia Urey`s campaign team in the District#-15 bi-election to replace the late Adolf Lawrence was attacked by opposing sides.
“This time, the attackers targeted Telia’s personal vehicle in an attempt to hurt her and burned the vehicle she was riding. Those who carried out the planned attack wounded some of Telia’s supporters,” he disclosed.
Boakai also referenced the 2020 Special Senatorial Election in Gbarpolu which he noted was also marred by violence.
According to him, it has become a common practice in Liberia not to investigate acts of electoral violence.
JNB: “No investigation was commissioned into any of these violent incidents and they were all left to slide under the umbrella of impunity.”
“We still have the perpetrators roaming in the streets freely waiting for future orders to commit electoral violence repeatedly,” he noted.
Ambassador Boakai noted that the Unity Party, even more than the international partners and the NEC, wants an election that will be free of any form of physical or emotional violence.
He said, while they are all ensuring that the October 10, 2023 polls will be violent freed, fair and transparent, the UP will like to remind Liberia`s partners and the NEC that the mere absence of violence is not the only requirement for a satisfactory election.
JNB: “There are other cardinal ingredients that when not considered and not implemented, will be a high probability of not having a so much violent free election as we are all yearning to have.”
Boakai maintained that together with the international partners and mainly the government, they, as leaders, must ensure that these elections are CREDIBLE in addition to monitoring the indicators that would lead to the election not being credible, freed, fair, transparent and non-violent.
He noted that it is, therefore, of key importance that leaders in and out of Liberia, emphasize and prevent the triggers of violence rather than just stating that “they want violence free elections.”
JNB alleged that after the 2017 legislative and presidential elections, a comprehensive report was made, outlining several recommendations that would reform and standardize the electoral process, but said, sadly, all of the very brilliant recommendations that were proffered by the Supreme Court of Liberia, ECOWAS, International and Local Partners were left to rot in the dustbin of history.
“It would appear like our government does not care about reforming the electoral process,” he noted.
JNB said that the National Elections Commission is not the only institution involved with election that it is also critical to mention the role of the judiciary in expeditiously and lawfully concluding elections disputes, to ensure peaceful elections and discourage violence.
The former ruling Unity Party standard bearer concluded by saying “while ensuring that elections are violent free simply because the people want to be in peace and harmony, some of those elections have produced inefficient leaderships that are undermining the stability and development of the country.”
According to JNB, it is important, for the UP to stress the need to monitor those indicators that would undermine the CREDIBILITY and INTEGRITY of the elections as well as those that will trigger violence.
He said, Liberia is now on the threshold of a new democratic order having had a positive transition and Liberia is determined to accelerate another peaceful transition free of violence.