By T.R Dixon
MONROVIA: With few Months to the October 10 Legislative and Presidential elections in the country, incumbent President George M. Weah has underscored the need for political leaders and electorate to prevent violence against women in the elections.
Speaking at program marking the signing of the Farmington River Declaration 2023, the Liberian leader pleaded with citizens, political parties and their respective supporters to treat women and women candidates with civility and respect.
“Beyond physical violence, women in elections or politics in Liberia have often faced harassment, discrimination, and psychological abuse, both in person and online. This behavior must not be dismissed as simply the cost of doing politics,” President Weah asserted.
According to incumbent President Weah, him, it is a clear violation of human rights; It is demeaning, offensive, dis-empowering and cowardly for such violence is considered a threat to the integrity of the elections.
“This peace pledge will actually be put to the test before the elections, through our pre-election campaign activities. It will be put to test on elections day, and it will be put to the test during the post-election period, particularly after the results are declared,” The Liberian leader noted.
He further asserted that “this is when the sincerity of our intentions and the genuineness of our commitment in promoting and preserving peace will come under the highest scrutiny.”
The Liberian leader further told the gathering that the promotion of peace is the shared responsibility of all stakeholders in Liberia as such Liberians are therefore expected to play their respective roles appropriately and effectively.
“We must pursue this common interest with sincerity and goodwill, with a view to strengthening Liberia’s democratic credentials and value, not only for these forthcoming elections, but for future elections that will benefit and safeguard all the generations to come,” he said.
President Weah used the occasion to urge all stakeholders who have a vested interest in the October elections to avoid incendiary language and what he perceive to be a growing culture of militancy, which can have the propensity to quickly spill over into violence.
He pointed out that, these vices must be discouraged by all of adding that, the media and civil society have a crucial role to play, and express his am gladness that they are represented because they are very important partners in this process.
“Rhetoric that whips up old divisions and puts tribes and regions against one another, must be discouraged” he said.
President Weah added that, political leaders must have a duty and responsibility to prevail on all of the members within the ranks of our various institutions to desist from actions that could lead to violence.
“While we all support different causes and interests, there is one because that must bring every one of us together, in spite of our differences, and that is the cause of maintaining the peace of our nation. I am not only referring to the parties and stakeholders in this room” he noted.
President Weah disclosed that, Liberians everywhere have an obligation to ensure that they do not reverse the gains that have been made.
“And so today, as we sign the 2023 Farmington River Declaration, I call upon all political leaders in this room to ensure that our supporters, and the wider electorate who follow us, will also adhere to the spirit of this agreement that we have signed before God and the whole World, as we jointly work to fulfil the promises that we have made therein” he said.
He congratulated all political leaders and other officials of political parties here present; the Chair and Members of the Board of Commissioners of the National Elections Commission; the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS); the United Nations; and all other stakeholders, for their steadfast commitment to the promotion of democracy, peace, security, stability and development in Liberia, and also for their hard work in making the event a reality.
“I am proud to say, as the leader of a political party which participated in that election, and who eventually won it, that every party that signed the Farmington River Declaration in 2017 kept true to their word, and the elections were conducted in a free, fair, and transparent manner, without violence; and, moreover, all differences were processed and resolved through the justice system in Liberia, under the rule of law he stated.
According to him, the Presidential and Legislative Elections of October 2023 will be the first to be primarily organized and administered by Liberia, since the drawdown of UNMIL, although since the incumbency of my administration in 2018, the National Elections Commission has successfully conducted by-elections and a referendum that were recognized by all stakeholders as peaceful, free, fair, and transparent.
“It is therefore incumbent on all political stakeholders, including the ruling party, as well as the opposition parties, civil society, the media, and in fact all Liberians, to recognize the centrality of peace during these elections, and work collectively to deliver a credible, inclusive, and peaceful process” he said.
We have all, for the most part, worked positively to consolidate the peace in Liberia. But while we have now turned the corner on our recent dark history, it is imperative that we reject and condemn those who would seek to take us back to those dark days.
President Weah also told the gathering that the upcoming elections, when peacefully and credibly held, will be a manifestation of the strengthening and showcasing of their democratic credentials, as well as their resilience and relentless commitment to upholding the tenets of democracy. It is about the building of trust and confidence in our political culture.
He however commend all of political leaders and their respective political parties for resolving to sign the second Farmington River Declaration, which signifies their commitment and readiness to pursue the path of a peaceful, free, fair, transparent, inclusive and credible democratic elections, come October 10 this year that will elevate our standard as a democratic nation.
The call of President Weah for women in politics to be protected from acts of violence came few days after the Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia (ALELL), expressed disappointment in the Liberian leader for vetoing the New Elections Law, section 4.5 30% Affirmative Gender Representation.
Speaking recently at the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA), Annual Assembly, AFELL President, Atty. Philomena T. Williams, said, the vetoing of the 30% Women Representation Law does not reflect the terminology of Feminist in Chief or He for she, which contradicts his title-Feminist in Chief of Liberia.
Atty. Williams indicated that if the Liberian President had signed the New Elections Law, which calls for 30% Affirmative Gender Representation for women, then, it would not have delayed his veto statements, asserting the present cause of the delays in the elections processes are due to multiplicity of reasons. “our Chief Feminist’s reason for the veto is that the country is just seven months away to the 2023 Presidential and legislative Elections, as such, certain changes in the election law at a time so close would tend to send mixed signals to the electorate and present the potential to cause delays in elections process, Atty. Williams said, according to a local daily.
However, she emphasized that ALELL operations have been set back and wants President Weah to rationalize the gigantic inequality gap of women in politics and leadership in Liberia and the need for complimentary laws that mirror and are in consonance with the constitution of Liberia.
Accordingly, the AFELL President recommended to the Office of the President for a female legal advisor on women and children matters to enhance and positively address women and children empowerment.