Electoral violence unwarranted

Wednesday’s (20 September) bloody clash between two opposition parties here – the Liberty Party and the Coalition for Democratic Change in Sanniquellie City, Nimba County, which left two persons allegedly stabbed almost to death and properties vandalized should not have happened at all.

The melee clearly points to lack of commitment or lip-service by political parties and their leaders to uphold peace before, during, and after the October 10th presidential and representative elections as was agreed upon in a pact dubbed, the Farmington Declaration that they signed here few months ago at the Farmington Hotel near the Roberts International Airport in Margibi County. The signing ceremony, which coincided with the Summit of heads of state of ECOWAS, was witnessed by leaders of the sub-region.

This paper gathers that partisans and officials of the Liberty Party, who were already in Sanniquellie, Nimba County had converged at their local office along the main street of the provincial city for a parade to launch their campaign in the county when CDC standard bearer George Weah, at the head of a Coalition convoy entered Sanniquellie reportedly on his way to Yekepa, an industrial hub near the border with neighboring Guinea for a campaign trail, but was requested by the police to detour or use an adjacent route in order to avoid his huge convoy coming in direct confrontation with the LP partisans.

However, the CDC crowd refused to detour, rather insisting that they would pass through come what may, something resisted by the LP, which sparked the commotion that resulted to two partisans of the LP being allegedly stabbed and properties vandalized.

The violence speaks to the depth of disunity and fragmentation among opposition political parties, vying to provide the country’s next leadership. That partisans of rival parties, specifically the CDC and the LP could not tolerate one another, and had to result to bloody violence is really sad, not only for Liberia, but electorate who look up to the political institutions for guidance.

That parties and political leaders could not commit to peace, but engaged in violence that left people wounded is highly disappointing. No electorate or partisan no matter from which party should suffer bodily harm due to sheer lack of leadership at the top. And we think this is what led to the riot on Wednesday.

Had due diligence or responsible leadership been exercised by either side on that day, the bloodshed would have been avoided. But even with the presence of the CDC standard bearer George Weah on the ground, and LP vice standard bearer Harrison Karnwea in the county, both leaders failed to restrain their respective partisans from violence.
Although the Police are investigating the situation to establish what actually caused the riot or who is responsible, both sides are engaged in claims and counter-claims, busy constructing their own accounts of the happening, further confusing the public.

We like to draw the attention of authorities of both the Liberia National Police and the National Elections Commission to stay on top of electoral activities leading up to polling day on October 10, and even post-elections era to maintain peace in the country.

Specifically during these campaign period, the NEC should be in the know far ahead, movement of mainly presidential candidates and their zealous partisans and supporters as to when and where they go to avoid clashes with rival parties as was experienced in Nimba. Similarly, the police should increase vigilance as they accompany party standard bearers and their partisans on campaign rallies across the country in order to nip any potential violent situation in the bud, and ensure peaceful elections and political transition.


Welcoming the EU Observation Mission

The European Union (EU), one of Liberia’s strategic partners, deploys an election observation mission of 20 to the country several weeks ahead of the October 10 presidential and representative’s elections.

Deputy Chief Observer, Alessandro Parziale, says the EU considers the impending elections as an historical moment for Liberia, assuring that the EOM will monitor the entire electoral process without interfering or supervising, but will provide impartial and objective assessments, leading to a democratic transition in Liberia.

We welcome the EU observation mission to Liberia wholeheartedly and are very optimistic that their presence would not only boost current efforts to transfer political power from administration to another thru the ballot box, but also lend international credibility and trust to the process.

A press release issued here recently by the EU says the observers from 20 different EU member states, will be subsequently joined by an additional 34 short-term observers who will be deployed throughout the country along with locally recruited short-term observers to access the elections in accordance with Liberian law and international commitment that the EU has made regarding elections.

Already, an ECOWAS advance team had been deployed in Liberia since two months ago, holding consultations with various stakeholders to ensure peaceful transfer of power.
Liberians owe it to themselves to make sure the polls are peaceful by avoiding violence no matter which side it may come from. A free, fair, transparent and violent-freed poll would earn us international respect and credibility, particularly having suffered a fratricidal civil war as a country.

In other words, we need to tread the paths of Ghana and Nigeria where there democratic and peaceful polls which results have been internationally acclaimed as not only transparent, free and fair, but very peaceful and democratic.

Liberia deserves more than violent elections, and no one can give us credible polls than ourselves. If we relegate love for country to satisfy political greed we would have ourselves to blame and get ready for the unthinkable consequences.

We all should be reminded time and again, that winning elections anyhow does not mean anything. Rather, it is the collective contribution of the citizenry towards the governance process that brings about sustainable peace, political and economic stability.

Therefore, it behooves all Liberians to work with the EU EOM in conducting a credible election that we would not only be proud of, but the world at large.

We beg to differ with the Senate

Although lawmakers on Capitol Hill had announced an extension of their work by four months, forgoing their usual annual break, but what is currently obtaining in reality at the Legislature is lack of regular sessions in both Houses due to lack of quorum as a result of their conspicuous absences, relegating matters of state to go on campaign trails across the country.

The Senate Press and Public Affairs Department excepts to reports in the media that lawmakers are not attending sessions due to lack of quorum because they are busy campaigning for election and reelection.

The Press Department argues that the senate plenary reached a decision prior to August 31, 2017 that session would be held based on notification from the Leadership provided there are issues of national concern.

The department further explains that plenary is resolved to go this route as a method to be used for the special sitting 2017 and that whenever there is a session, it will be opened to the media and the public will be duly informed.

But here is an analysis on the senate position: for instance, if for the entire four months special sitting period, there were one or two issues of national concern, meaning, plenary would convene only for two days, but receive pay for the entire period, which would be not only a serious disservice, but a waste of taxpayers’ money.

Even prior to the start of official campaign on July 31, for the October 10th Presidential and Representatives elections, the leaderships of both the senate and the House of Representatives had complained about the repeated absences of some members without any excuse.

You could just image what the situation would be during this special sitting when almost all members of the Lower House are seeking reelection.

In the senate, Senators George Weah and Jewel Howard Taylor are vying for the presidency on the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) Ticket, while Prince Yormie Johnson, standard bearer for the Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction or MDR is similarly contesting for the presidency, same as Senator Oscar Cooper as Independent Presidential candidate.

In short, key leaders of the First Branch of Government, including Speaker Emmanuel James Nuquay, Senate Pro-Tempore Armah Jallah and the President of the Liberia Senate, Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai, among others have been conspicuously absent from the Capitol, attending political campaign rallies.

With barely few weeks to the October elections, the so-called special sitting 2017 would only exist on paper, not in practice as lawmakers’ attentions are focus on the impending elections either seeking reelection, higher post or supporting some candidates for the presidency, including Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai, who is standard bearer of the governing Unity Party and current President of the Liberian Senate.

From all indications, some incumbent lawmakers seeking re-election, specifically within the House of Representatives may not get reelected, but would demand pay for the special sitting 2017, which is unfair to the state, because they are busy campaigning for their personal political interest rather than serving the Liberian people.

Important issues such as land right bill, children and others, are still languishing before that august body despite demand from the public for their passage, while the lawmakers wait for issues in their mind, that “are of national concern” to convene session. For how long would our elected officials place their personal interests above the interest of the people they claim to represent? Only God knows.

Nipping the UP, ANC violence in the bulb

Last week’s reported violence between rival youth of the governing Unity Party and the opposition Alternative National Congress in Montserrado County Electoral District#17 over alleged tearing down of campaign banners and posters is not only scaring, but counter-productive to achieving violent-freed elections in Liberia.

Rival youths reportedly attacked one another after an overzealous supporter of ANC representative candidate Abraham Sesay allegedly tore campaign banners and posters of the governing UP candidate Hanson Kiazolu in district#17.

Though Police moved into the district and subsequently arrested and charged key actors from both sides, the violence brings into sharp focus what may lie ahead of the October 10th elections if concerted efforts were not taken now to ensure a peaceful electoral process.

Reports of the tearing down of banners and posters mainly by supporters of rival candidates have been flying across the country for some time. For instance, in Bong County, Central Liberia one candidate for legislative seat went to court after he accused a rival in a particular district of being behind the tearing down of his posters and banners.

Here in Montserrado County and parts adjacent, including Monrovia, similar cries have been heard with warning from both authorities at the National Elections Commission and the Liberia National Police for the public to desist from such habit.

But it appears that those involved in such sinister behavior are not heeding the warning as the practice persists unabated, sending a negative image of the entire electoral process, specifically the current campaign exercises across the country.

Those so-called candidate supporters involved in this act should be told in no uncertain term that this is not the way to express or demonstration love for a political party or candidate in these elections. These current steps are solely intended to take us back to the dark days of bloody violence and war.

Certainly, no well-meaning Liberian would want this nation to retrogress after the nearly 15 years of civil war that devastated this entire country and left hundreds of thousands of our fellow compatriots dead, while hundreds of thousands others were displaced and became refugees across the subregion.

We challenge leaders of political parties to take the lead in consciencetizing their partisans, supporters and sympathizers to desist from tearing posters and banners of rival parties and candidates’ as this does not win elections, but instigate violence.

We as Liberians owe it to ourselves and to posterity to make sure the current peace we enjoy that has created a democratic space for political transition does not slip from our hands. We would not only disappoint ourselves by doing so, but also disappoint our friends from the international community, who sacrificed with their blood and money and continue to sacrifice so that Liberia can survive.

Political parties must play by the rules

Disclosure by the Chairman of the National Elections Commission Cllr. Jerome G. Korkoya that out of Liberia’s 26 registered political parties only nine has filed their audited accounts and declared their respective assets to the Commission as of 1 September 2017 is not only disappointing, but reveal the lapses of political institutions clamoring for state power in the country.

Submission of audited accounts and declaration of assets by registered political parties on the stipulated date is in accordance with Article 83(d) of the Constitution of Liberia, but as the NEC boss reported here on Wednesday, 6 September only nine parties have so far complied with the remaining 17 still dragging their feet.

So sad and disheartening that, political institutions and their leaders, currently campaigning across the country for votes in a bid to ascend to power would not want to play by the rule. Yet still, they want to take over the state and provide leadership not in accordance with the law, but on their own terms and dictates at the detriment of the vast majority.

We wonder what kind of leadership they intend to provide tomorrow if elected, for the people they claim to love if not tyranny and authoritarism. A popular Liberian proverb says: If a Christmas would be good; you’ll get to know on its eve.

Those political parties concerned should not tell the Liberian people that they would practice transparency and accountability if given state power when they are already flagrantly violating the electoral rules. This is quite difficult to believe.

As Chairman Korkoya emphasizes, transparency is not only expected from the National Elections Commission. It is also required and expected from political parties and that submission of audited accounts and asset declaration is one major legal provision to guarantee same.

Political parties and their leaderships demand free, fair and transparent elections, but they seem, in this case, majority of them, not to be living by these same standards in a competition that requires such benchmarks.

Absolutely there is no justification for one group of players playing by the rule, while other players in the same competition would do otherwise. Those deviant political parties must be brought to book without fear or favor.

We are not emphasizing this to get at any specific political party or candidate, but to ensure that these elections are conducted with the highest standards necessary that would leave no room for contention or protest. And this is only achievable if all sides played by rules set by the Constitution of Liberia and the electoral body.

Food safety is human safety

The Ministry of Health in collaboration with the National Public Health Institute of Liberia or NPHIL, line ministries and agencies as well as local and international partners launches the National Codex Committee (NCC) in Monrovia.

The NCC, working along with various partners seeks to have Liberia’s draft food law and national standards act legislated. Liberia reportedly joined the International Codex Alimentarius in 1971. But the country had never participated in Codex activities. The Codex Alimentarius or "Food Code" is a collection of standards, guidelines and codes of practice adopted by the Codex Alimentarius Com-mission or CAC, which is the central part of the Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Program established by both institutions to protect consumer health and promote fair practices in food trade.

We need an active food safety and national commodity standards policy in place immediate-ly, not only to protect public safety, but public health. Food and other consumables in our country should meet health and safety standards.

Over the years, Liberia seems to have become dumpsite for substandard and expired products coming from abroad, including food items and fake drugs, among others. Some of these products have contributed to the death of many persons, particularly underprivileged Liberi-ans, who rush for such items because of their cheap prices in the market.

The public should beware! Compromising health and safety for cheap price is counterproduc-tive to healthy living and human lives. What we consume as a people would go a very long way in determining the health of our society.

It is in this vine that we welcome the formal launch of the NCC in Liberia to help put in place safety and regulatory measures that would guide what is being imported here for public con-sumption.

We challenge the Ministry of Health to work along with partners to improve food safety and health across the country, particularly in the capital, Monrovia where almost everything goes. In the streets, food items – biscuits, juices, apples, energy drinks and poultry products, among others are being sold and consumed by the public regardless of their safety quality.

It appears as though relevant authorities responsible to monitor food quality for public con-sumption are non-existent in Liberia. This has to change. Lest we should forget, food safety promotes a healthy society. The soonest we can legislate the draft food law and national standards act the better it would be not only for the current generation, but the future of Liberia.

De-politicizing the office of the police IG

A bill to amend Chapter 22 subsection 22.76 (a) of the Liberia National Police Act of 2015 is currently before the House of Representatives. Submitted by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, it specifically seeks to close a gap in the current Police act that gives no tenure for the Inspector General of Police, but to serve at the will and pleasure of the President.

For too long the director of police, now Inspector General has operated at the will and pleasure of the President, rather than serving the state. Not only in the Sirleaf administration, but in all previous administrations this has been the practice.

We strongly believe that as a public institution, the police should serve for the general good of the public by protecting lives and property as well as maintaining law and order.
But when the head of this important institution is mandated by law, like the case of Liberia, to function at the caprices of whomever that sites at the Executive Mansion, society will always feel threatened because the IG, for obvious reasons, becomes the President’s rod that he or she would use at will to strike opposing voices, particularly in a tyrannical regime.

Additionally, if the IG does not have tenure of office, he cannot draw up a comprehensive long-term plan for the LNP. Therefore, he runs the organization haphazardly, leaving his time in office squarely at the pleasure of the President. If we want to build an efficient and effective police force as a nation, this has to change! Those appointed to lead our national security apparatus should serve with clear tenure that could enable the public to gauge performance.

The head of police may have resources at his or her disposal, but when there is no timeframe within which to plan and execute detail national security agenda, resources could be expended on vehicles, office furniture and other areas that may not impact the entire country. We believe an amendment in the law to establish a tenured office for the police chief would not only give the IG the leverage he needs and deserves, but go a long way in capacitating the LNP leadership to run a professionally efficient police organization.

Liberia, currently enjoying more than 10 years of democratic governance and tranquility, cannot afford to have those leading its police and other national security institutions function without a defined tenure and agenda on where to take the security of the state in the next 10, 15 or 20 years that would bring pride not only to this present generation, but posterity.

Jobs a matter of national security

Addressing the first Harvard Africa Action Forum in Accra, Ghana recently, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf reiterates that creating jobs is not just an economic priority, but matter of national security on the African continent.

President Sirleaf stresses that the continent is young and hungry for opportunity with over 65 percent of its population under 35, an age group that should be at work to propel a brighter future not only for itself but generations unborn.

“Without economic opportunity underscoring the clear dividends of peace and democracy, a desperate youth population can become a destabilizing force rather than an asset. Without opportunity at home, a desperate population will move elsewhere in search of hope, exacerbating migration flows, which have led to a devastating humanitarian crisis around the world”, she further stresses.

We can never agree with the Liberian leader any better than this, because she says it all. For example, Liberia, with a similar youth population percentage is grappling with the embarrassing reality of unemployed youth who roam our streets daily, walloping in idleness.

This is one of the many socio-economic challenges that the Sirleaf administration has been unable to address fully despite several expressed commitments by her government in its two terms of office. Be as it may, she truly understands that the situation poses serious security threat.

With lack of functional skills, the plight of young people both here and elsewhere in Africa, portray a bleak future for the continent. When the next generation that is to be entrusted with leadership is academically and technically bankrupt, Africa would never attain its full potential.

And we think these are some of the issues that politicians vying for leadership in Liberia and generally on the continent should bring to the table. Candidates here should tell Liberian electorate how they intend to create jobs for our young people, who are being exploited thru campaign T-shirts and party posters.

The youths are in search of leaders who can give them hope for a better tomorrow as we go to these elections in October. We are not talking about false hope and promises, but genuinely substantive programs that they can hold on to as they go to the ballot box on 10 October to cast their votes.

A recent television documentary on Japan aired on Multitv, a Ghanaian satellite television, showed kids below 12 years assembling toy robots and other electronic gadgets for the market. Ten or twenty from now, those kids would no doubt grow up and become some of the best in the technology industry of Japan and dare say, the rest of the world, if not an understatement.

We strongly believe that this is one of the ways to creating jobs for young people by engaging them at an early age. Creating a conducive environment and providing those necessary learning tools for the youth would go a long way in not just preparing them for future leadership, but also build a firm foundation for security and economic stability both in Liberia and the entire Africa.

We mourn with Sierra Leone

The people of neighboring Sierra Leone are still counting the toll both in human lives and infrastructure as a result of last Monday’s 14 August flood and mudslide, which left about 400 dead and thousands others homeless.

Our hearts go out to the Government and loving people of that sisterly country for the natural disaster that has left an indelible pain in the history of that nation.  We can only console families still grieving from this loss and pray that God Almighty would receive the departed souls, most of whom were women and children, in Heaven.

Almost all of the victims were still at asleep when the disaster struck, burying sometimes an entire family in red tick clad that had been soaked by torrential downpour a day or so earlier. They never had a chance to see daylight. How could God allow such calamity to happen to an already impoverished population! We can only wonder, but He knows it all.

However, we challenge the great people of that country to take courage and begin to mend the broken pieces in order to move ahead with life for the Holy Bible says, “In everything, give thanks, for this is the will of God...”

We believe the courageous people of Sierra Leone will rise up like they did from their civil war and the Ebola epidemic to continue building a strong and better nation that West Africa and the rest of the Continent would be proud. We believe God Almighty has greater opportunities still ahead for that nation than this disaster, so we challenge them not to succumb.

Similarly, we join our own President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in consoling the Sierra Leonean leader, Ernest Bai Koroma, for the loss sustained as a result of the calamity. It is our prayers, as Liberians that God would provide him the courage and leadership guidance he needs to steer the affairs of state during these difficult moments.

We remind President Koroma that these are times that test leaderships that are deeply rooted in Godly wisdom and trust for His omnipotent wisdom to lead the people that He has placed in his care as President.

Liberia and Sierra Leone share many historical memories. Both countries played host to free slaves that came from the United States in the 1800s. They suffered years of brutal civil war which was compounded by the devastating Ebola Virus Disease between 2014 and 2015. They share tribal and cultural linkages.

As members of Mano River Union and ECOWAS, we will remain united in facing the challenges that would want to stop our forward march to peace, unity, prosperity and greatness.

Lord, is this the sign of a looser?

Dear Father:

Umm, you know, when I was a kid growing up, I used to like playing games. Ludo, Checker, Blade-the game in which a player will hide his ring in the sand and other players use straws to locate it, monopoly and etc.

Most times when ever our games ended in confusion, it all began from the losing party. For instance, during a checker game, the player in danger of losing the game would scatter the seeds by citing too many intrusions from spectators or cry cheat. Confusion would immediately break up; the game is abandoned for a replay or new players takeover.

We are all grown up now of course. But I strongly believe some of us did not grow out of these childhood behaviors-I guess.

Like seriously my son?

Yes, Father, you know this is why you would hear some of the big people in our village saying things like-if they try it we will all spoil it! Spoil what, if I may ask?

To tell you the truth Father, if these individuals had matured in their thinking, especially knowing fully well from whence this village has come they would be careful with the kind of utterances coming from their mouths.

So you see Father, this is exactly why I am not the least surprise by the actions certain chiefs from the Upper and Lower ends of the Traditional Council. It is a pity you know; especially when power enters your brain it’s like a virus.

Now for a certain number of chiefs to think that they have power to fire some Elders from the Palaver Hut simply for during the job for which they have been place their to do is like going back to my childhood days.

It would appear to me that these guys who ever their benefactors are, they have already started smelling defeat.

So by going after these Elders at the Palaver Hut for during the job for which the people of this village pay them is just like saying-we will all spoil it, ehn they want to spoil it. That’s childish!

Sometimes, I wonder if these chiefs actually read and understand the power in this village or they at times just take the text from our village Oracle like that literally.

But the disappointing news is that Father; they have no power to spoil anything here. If they have come to realize that their chances of whomever it is winning our village election has been slimmed and there are other people with better chances of winning, they should concede rather than creating unnecessary attention around here.

Gone are those childhood days, where we would scatter the seeds and turn the board over because we are on the verge of defeat.

Wait oh, my son, are these chiefs saying you people should remove Elders from their posts for doing their work?

Yes, ooh Father. But to tell you the truth, this is action is just a smoke screen. Whatever they are planning will not work. The truth is some of them know very well that their days at the Traditional Council are over and they want to revert to anything that will delay their exit but thy lied through their teeth.

So are they telling us all the bad items they passed in the Traditional Council we should go after them and remove them?

These people are complete jokers!

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