UNFPA seeks empowerment for girls

The United Nations Population Fund or UNFPA says girls, particularly in the developed world today enjoy better life prospects than previous generations in many ways such as prosperity and nutrition improvement, child marriage and teenage pregnancy decline, coupled with educational attainment and rise in participation in the labour force, but these advances are far from universal and are increasingly tenuous in many parts of the world.

UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem in a statement issued on Wednesday, 11 October to mark International Day of the Girl Child, says the poorest—particularly girls—are often left behind, and their rights undermined.

Dr. Kanem says they get less education, have fewer opportunities and are more likely to take jobs that pay less and involve more risk than girls who are economically better off.

“ In addition to the social forces against them, girls continue to face high levels of gender-based violence, unwanted pregnancies, and unsafe deliveries. One in four girls will be married before she is 18, and one in five adolescent girls aged 15-19 will give birth”, she notes.

She further laments that entrenched gender inequalities, disasters and conflict can make a bad situation even worse for girls, so they and their families, struggling to survive, are left with few choices, leaving girls even more vulnerable to child marriage, sexual- and gender-based violence, including trafficking, rape and sexual slavery. “They are faced with the cruel reality of heightened risks to their sexual and reproductive health and diminished access to critical health care.”

However, Dr. Kanem says despite these challenges, many girls manage to play a critical role in their homes and communities, even in crises, and are often the first responders, who care for their families and establish networks that produce the social capital and resilience communities need to survive, emphasizing that “Protecting and promoting their rights, health, and well-being is therefore an essential element of crisis preparedness, effective response and recovery.”

UNFPA works towards ensuring that girls are healthy, empowered and, thus, more resilient in the face of crises and in the rebuilding of their societies. The organization supports the development of more inclusive health, education, and empowerment programmes that are age- and gender-responsive, often girl-led, and enhance the voices of girls at the community level.

Dr. Kanem says from creating safe spaces, to providing sexual and reproductive health information and services, to facilitating youth leadership and participation, UNFPA and partners are innovating to reach, engage and empower adolescent girls to respond not just to their needs, but to their aspirations.

“As part of UNFPA's transformational goals, we will continue working with our partners to end violence against girls, including child marriage and female genital mutilation. We will work to ensure that all girls, everywhere, enjoy their full spectrum of rights and have the opportunities they need to fulfill their potential”, the statement concludes. Story by Jonathan Browne

Weah leads in 13 counties

Former football star George Weah shows his voting card at a polling station in Monrovia on October 10, 2017

Provisional elections results being announced by the National Elections Commission (NEC) have so far put opposition Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) presidential candidate Sen. George Weah ahead of main contender, ruling Unity Party (UP’s) Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai in 13 of the 15 counties here.

But with more provisional results still expected from the NEC through this week, it seems far too early to assume who wins the presidential polls.

Though the polls are contested by 20 presidential candidates, at least two other opposition parties including candidate Charles Brumskine’s Liberty Party (LP) ex-Coca - Cola executive Alexander Cummings’s Alternative National Congress (ANC) are slightly considered in parts of the necessary figures emerging so far from the provisional results announced by the Commission.

The provisional results come as Liberty Party demands that NEC halts the announcement of provisional results due to irregularities on voting day.

All Liberian Party candidate Benoni Urey also told reuters that "Every possible electoral fraud has been committed by the Unity Party.

Urey and the Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction, represented by former rebel leader Prince Johnson, told Reuters that extra ballots were printed in advance and marked with votes for Boakai.

However, NEC chairman Cllr. Jerome George Korkoya read the Commission’s provisional statistics regarding the presidential polls on Thursday, 12 October at a press conference in Monrovia quoting only results that were in high figures referring other candidates to the website.

The provisional results show CDC topping the governing UP in 13 of the 15 counties here, while the ruling party shows its strength in Lofa County, the home of Vice President Boakai.

Chairman Korkoya says the statistics constitute 40 percent of the total votes cast and that the results are provisional. The Montserrado County Senator is in a comfortable lead in Montserrado, Grand Bassa, Grand Cape Mount, Gbarpolu, Bomi, and Bong Counties.

Other counties that the CDC is leading include Rivercess, River Gee, Sinoe, Grand Kru, Grand Gedeh, Maryland, and Margibi Counties.
Chairman Korkoya adds that the provisional results should not be considered as final results, saying no political party or individual is clothed with the authority to announce elections results.

The law gives the NEC the authority to declare winner for all elections for elective public offices.

“The National Elections Commission (NEC) says it has not announced any winners from the Tuesday October 10 elections. However, the commission will begin the announcement of provisional results today at its media center in Monrovia at 5 pm daily,” the NEC says.

The Commission reiterates that it has not announced any results nor has it declared any winners from the Tuesday elections.

It also warns against individuals declaring verdict on the elections, saying “only the commission has the legal right to announce the results.

But Korkoya declined reading the entire result of the 20 presidential candidates and the candidates of the House of Representatives.

By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor--Edited by Winston W. Parley

Voters must reflect elections’ results

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The European Union Elections Observation Mission here urges political parties and officials of the National Elections Commission to keep the positive role and ensure the will of the voters is reflected in the polls’ results.

An EU statement issued on Wednesday, 12 October in Monrovia indicates that Liberian voters have shown strong desire to be part of the democratic process by their participation in great numbers in the polls.

“Political parties and the election administration should keep their positive role and ensure the will of the voters is reflected in the elections results. Also, the notable efforts made by the Liberian observers organizations show commitment to ensuring the transparency of the elections,” said Maria Arena, Chief Observer of the European Union Election Observation Mission and member of the European Parliament.

The press statement quotes her as saying that the 81 EU election observers reported from over 297 polling places in rural and urban areas in all counties, noting, “Liberians turned out in large numbers already early in the morning. The Election Day can be described as clam and adequately conducted by the National Elections Commission. Before that, the election campaign was nearly peaceful.”

Ms. Arena emphasizes that overall Liberia’s legal framework is broadly in line with the country’s international and regional treaty obligations, and adds that it constitutes an adequate basis for the conduct of democratic elections, albeit room remains for legal procedural improvements.

“While political campaign was calm, the EU Election Observation Mission observed uses of state resources to the advantage of candidates from the incumbent party and a more general uneven playing field for candidates.

The EU further notes access to media and possibility chances for candidates, especially females.

“It is important to note that the results tabulation is still underway, and the European Union Election Observation Mission will remain in the field to observe the process, including the handling of complaint and appeals. We anticipate that all parties will remain committed to use existing judicial mechanisms to channel their eventual complaints on the conduct of the elections,” the statement concludes.

By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor-Editing by Jonathan Browne

ECC raises red flag

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The Elections Coordinating Commission (ECC) a local observation group, is raising red flag on Tuesday’s 10 October Presidential and Representatives Elections, citing serious administrative and technical lapses.

Chairman Oscar Bloh at a news conference on Thursday, October 12, in Monrovia explains that ECC observers observed inconsistence in how National Elections Commission staffs addressed the issue of voters’ names missing from the Final Registration Roll.

“In 75 percent of observed polling places with missing names, these voters were permitted to vote; however, voters in 25 percent of these polling places were denied the ability to vote,” he says.

Bloh continues that ECC observes that some polling places did not have adequate lights, which causes additional delays in the counting process and increases the potential for human error, and notes that the record of the counted forms were not systematically posted on the wall of the polling places after the completion of the counting process.

According to him, while voting process within the polling place generally ran smoothly, ECC observes that NEC staffs experienced challenges in managing queues and directing voters to the proper polling places.

“Particularity in areas with higher numbers of registered voters and in voting precincts located in facilities not adequate to accommodate these, this resulted in long waits and frustrations among voters and caused voting and counting to extend long past the official closing time.”

Meanwhile, the ECC is recommending to the National Elections Commission to urgently inform the public and political parties on the procedures for voters whose names are missing from the final registration roll in order to ratify any challenge.

“Polling staff should also receive timely, clear, and consistent instruction in these procedures. Update logistics plans to ensure a timely delivery of all elections materials. Ensure voters are informed about the runoff elections. Consider relocating congested polling precincts to other locations that will facilitate the free flow of voters,” Mr. Bloh stresses.

By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor-Editing by Jonathan Browne

EISA observer mission advances recommendations

The Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa or EISA, an international elections observer team here is recommending to the Government of Liberia, including the National Legislature to enact laws and implement measures that would increase political participation of disadvantaged groups.

EISA wants seats reserved in the House of Representatives for women, youth and people living with disabilities in line with the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa.

Giving its preliminary statement at the Boulevard Hotel in a Monrovia suburb of Sinkor, on the 2017 Presidential and Representatives Elections conducted Tuesday, 10 October across Liberia, head of the observation team, Dr. Aminata Toure, who is former Prime Minister of the Republic of Senegal, also recommends a need to consider amending the law to provide for the conduct of elections during dry season as opposed to the rainy season here, and to engage the youth by instilling in them values of democratic political culture in the form of long-term citizenship education.

The Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa deploys 14 experienced observers to Liberia, representing civil society and election management bodies from 12 African countries. The EISA mission observes polls conducted in five counties here, including Bong, Nimba, Grand Bassa, Montserrado and Grand Cape Mount, respectively.

“Covering only the electoral process up to the voting and counting procedures of the polling places, this preliminary assessment of the 10 October 2017 Presidential and House of Representatives elections by the EISA observer mission concludes that process thus far has been peaceful and largely conducted in a transparent manner, allowing Liberian voters to freely express their will”, the statement says.

The mission is of the opinion that this phase of the electoral process has been largely in conformity with the laws of Liberia and with international, continental and sub-regional standards for credible elections, but notes a number of shortcomings and therefore recommends for improvement of future elections.

According to Dr. Amanita Tourna notes that the provision in section 4.4(1b) and (1c) of the new elections law as amended, that 30% of a party’s candidates should be female is not mandatory, and that despite exhortations from the NEC, only two political parties succeeded in having a minimum of 30% women as candidates, adding that only one out of 20 presidential candidates is a woman and only six out of 20 vice-presidential aspirants were females.

She thanks political parties for using females as observers and also notes that majority of the NEC staffs during the process were males, while party agents and candidate agents were able to monitor all phases on Election Day and were present at an average of 10 agents per polling place.

She continues that despite the delays in delivering key element of the electoral calendar such as promulgation of regulations, voter registration and nomination of candidates, the NEC endeavored to fulfill its legal mandate. “Whilst noting the concerns raised by stakeholders regarding the numbers of excess ballot printed by the NEC, the EISA EOM observed that on Election Day there were appropriate procedures for reconciliation to account for the handling and safe storage of the unused ballots in the post-election period.”

The mission notes that although Article 83 of the Constitution of Liberia requires parties to submit assets and liability statement on an annual basis, for the sake of transparency, most political parties failed to comply accordingly.

By Sally Gaye-Editing by Jonathan Browne

Man, 28, dies after casting vote

A 28 –year-old man identified as Lawrenzo Toe is reported dead after casting his vote in Tuesday’s Presidential and Representative elections in Electoral District #3, Maryland County, southeastern Liberia.

The New Dawn correspondent in the county says the late Lawrenzo, a farmer and resident of Boniken met his demise while on his way home when he fell in a creek and drowned subsequently.

Family members speaking to this paper however regret the situation and say they leave everything with God, if it is his will.

Meanwhile, information gathered from the town indicates while the deceased was on his way to the voting center, he consumed alcoholic beverages to an extent that he could not maintain balance, while walking.

Sources explain that a coroner jury was set up to view the body, which subsequently reported no foul play, but notes that the deceased died as a result of drowning in the river.

By George K. Momo/ Maryland-Editing by Jonathan Browne

Police, armed robbers exchange fire

Police say they have exchanged fire with three armed robbers in Brewerville, Montserrado County, following a tip off from a family of being attacked by armed robbers.

Police Zone Six Chief Superintendent Blama Yancy told this paper on Thursday, 12 October that he received a call from one of the residents of Brewerville, reporting to have been attacked by some armed robbers.

Before police responded to scene of the attack, Mr. Yancy says the suspect had already fled. But he says his men managed to trace the suspects by following their mark of their car tires and finally encountered the suspects at Iron Gate.

Mr. yancy says in the process of tracing the suspects, he had made a call instructing officers to close all check points along the route to Brewerville, denying the suspects of further escaping.

He says when the robbers could not make their way through Iron Gate, they started shooting at police officers. Mr. Yancy says the police had no option but to return fire at the armed robbers, wounding two of them.

Sup. Yancy says the wounded robbers were about to be taken to Redemption Hospital for treatment, following which they will be sent to court.

He claims that the robbers have admitted to their involvement in attacking the residents of Brewerville, and also took blame for other recent incidents in District #17.

Police say they retrieved all arms and ammunitions used by the suspects. Speaking to this paper, one of the robbery victims Mrs. Rholda G. Kemoh said when she came from the bathroom she saw three men in her room, asking her for money.

Upon telling them that she did not have money, the victim said the robbers tied her husband and threatened to kill him if she did not give them money.

To avoid her husband being harmed by the suspects, Mrs. Kemoh says she took the money that her husband gave her for her son’s school fees and the one also intended to be used upon giving birth.

Upon giving them the money, she says they took her to her bathroom, cover her and and absconded the scene before police arrived there.

The robbers claimed that they are engaged in the act due to hardship here.

By Bridgett Milton--Edited by Winston W. Parley

ALPO urges Liberians to wait for official poll results

Supporters of political parties in the country are being urged not to take to the streets but to patiently wait on the official poll results from the National Elections Commission (NEC). The Association of Liberian Professionals (ALPO) made the appeal in a statement dated 12 October and signed by its National Secretary-General Mr. Mark Collins Gibson.

ALPO, which is the umbrella organization of Liberian Professionals, wants parties’ supporters to remain calm and patiently wait for the official election results by the Chairman of NEC, Cllr. Jerome Korkoya to avoid confusion in the country.

ALPO says the call comes in the wake of similar situation that occurred during the 1985 general and presidential elections when the opposition Liberia Action Party (LAP) pronounced that it won the election but was cheated by former President Samuel K. Doe.

The document maintained that as a result of the LAP pronouncement, its supporters took to the streets claiming victory over the National Democratic Party of Liberia (NDPL). But ALPO says on the contrary, the NDPL of the late President Doe was officially declared as the winner of the election.

According to the organization, several persons sustained injuries when aggrieved supporters of LAP battled government security officers who attempted dispersing them from the streets.

The statement says the situation led to the arrest, intimidation and detention of some opposition candidates and their supporters reportedly charged with treason and inciting election violence.

The statement also urges supporters of political parties to desist from attacking their colleagues in the absence of the election results by the NEC which has the authority to pronounce results of the 2017 poll.

The organization calls on all stakeholders to put pressure on political parties leaders to stick to the Farmington Declaration which bind all political actors to ensure a peaceful and violence free election in Liberia.

By Emmanuel Mondaye

By Emmanuel Mondaye--Edited by Winston W. Parley

New AfDB Country Director presents credence

The new country director of the African Development Bank (AfDB) has assured that during his tour of duty here, he will exert all efforts in strengthening the relationship between the bank and the Liberian Government, “making it deeper and stronger”.

“The bank is in the middle of developing a new strategy for Liberia – a business plan. I’ve heard your kind guidance and direction. I will be listening to you and your colleagues during my tenure to tailor out interventions, specifically to address issues that are very important to this country,” Dr. Orison Mawumenyo Amu said.

According to a Foreign Ministry release, Dr. Amu was speaking at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs where he presented his Letters of Accreditation to Foreign Minister, Madam Marjon Kamara on Thursday, October 12, 2017. He replaces Ms. Margaret Kilo who ended her tour of duty here recently.

He stressed that Liberia played a pivotal role in the establishment of the ADB; as such, the country is dear to the bank and it will continue to enjoy very strong relations. The new AfDB country manager said he was looking forward to working with the Government to move the country’s development agenda forward.

Dr. Amu extended best wishes to the Government and people of Liberia on behalf of the president of the AfDB, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, especially during these historic elections. He said he was delighted to be in the country to observe; particularly glad that the first round passed off peacefully. “As we go towards the run-off, it is my wish that everything will go on successfully,” he urged.

Earlier, Foreign Minister Kamara welcomed Dr. Amu to Liberia, and said Government was pleased at his selection based on the confidence reposed in him by the AfDB president, Dr. Adesina.

She stressed the excellent relations Liberia has with the bank and hoped that during his tenure, he will strengthen the already good relationship. “You have come at a time that Liberia has forged a very close relationship with the bank and especially with your predecessor, Ms. Margaret Kilo.”

Minister Kamara stressed that Ms. Kilo worked in a consultative manner and brought the bank’s support in many of government’s development priority areas. She hoped that with his wealth of experience, he will continue to support those ongoing projects sponsored by the bank.

She wished him a pleasant and fulfilling assignment in Liberia and assured him that if anything that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs can do to make his work easier, he should feel free to contact the Ministry.

Dr. Amu, a Ghanaian, obtained a PhD, in Economics from the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom (2006 - 2013). Before then, he earned a MA, in Economics from the University of Ghana (1998 – 2000); and a BSc. (Hons.), in Chemical Engineering from the University of Science and Technology, Ghana (1985 – 1989).

At the AfDB, he did additional professional courses including: Leadership and Management Development Programme – AfDB/Cranfield School of Management (2010); and Macroeconomic Modelling for Climate Planning – Institute of International Education, Boston, U.S.A. (2000).

Before his appointment, he served as AfDB Chief Investment Officer – Private Sector Department from 2015; before then, he served as Chief Regional Program Officer – Eastern Africa Resource Center (2012 – 2015), among other positions.

CDC driver, two candidates under investigation

Police say they are investigating a driver operating opposition Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) vehicle that allegedly killed a victim accidentally in Bomi County and two opposition representative candidates including Mr. Emmanuel Barnes of Montserrado District #14 and Coalition for Liberia Progress (CLP) in Nimba for acts amounting to electoral violence.

Police Spokesman Sam Collins told journalists on Thursday, 12 October that on the day of election, police recorded an accident in Bomi involving a CDC vehicle that resulted into the death of an unnamed victim.

Mr. Collins could not name the vehicle operator, though he says police have been speaking with the operator.

He said on the day of the election, LP candidate Emmanuel Barnes was apprehended for disorderly conduct over claims of actions that amounted to electoral violence.

Mr. Collins says the suspect was taken to the police headquarters where statement were extracted from him. He was held on allegation of disorderly conduct, according to Mr. Collins, adding that police are continuing their investigation.

He adds that the accused was signed for by LP youth chairman and was due to be brought forth on Wednesday for the continuation of an ongoing investigation.

Additionally, Mr. Collins says another representative candidate fromthe opposition Coalition for Liberia Progress (CLP) in Nimba is being investigated in connection to an alleged electoral violation. He says on the overall, the electoral process went very well.

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