Ellen congratulates Kingdom of Spain on National Day

President Ellen Johnson - Sirleaf has sent a message of congratulations to the King of Spain, His Majesty Felipe VI, on the occasion marking their National Day on Thursday, 12 October.

A Ministry of Foreign Affairs release issued Thursday, 12 October says National Day (Fiesta Nacional de España) or Hispanic Day (Día de la Hispanidad) is celebrated as an annual national public holiday in Spain on October 12.

It commemorates when Christopher Columbus first set foot in the Americas in 1492.

The anniversary of Columbus' landing in the New World on October 12, 1492, is widely celebrated throughout the Americas. It is known as Columbus Day in the United States and as Dia de la Raza in various Latin American countries.

Celebration of the anniversary in Spain dates to 1935, when the first festival was held in Madrid. The day was known asDia de la Hispanidad, emphasizing Spain's connection to the Hispandad, the international Hispanic community.

On November 27, 1981, a royal decree established Día de la Hispanidad as a national holiday.

According to a Foreign Ministry release, President Sirleaf, on behalf of the Government and people of Liberia and in her own name, extended cordial congratulations to King Felipe VI and the people of Spain.

“I note the significant progress that our two countries have made over the past decades within the context of our bilateral ties which continue to build momentum in our political, economic and cultural relations,” the Liberian leader said.

She anticipates that this collaboration will continue to positively impact the bond of friendship subsisting between both countries noting, “As we endeavor together to contribute to the attainment of global peace and security, may I assure you of Liberia’s fullest commitment and our intention to support international efforts in fighting global terrorism and climate change.”

The Liberian leader, then, extended best wishes to His Majesty’s personal wellbeing, and for the people of the Kingdom of Spain, happy celebration and continued peace and prosperity.

Carter Center cites poor queue management

Atlanta - based Carter Center observation mission says ineffective management of queues by workers of the National Elections Commission (NEC) affected the orderly flow of polling in the presidential and representatives elections on Tuesday, 10 October.

Releasing its preliminary report on the outcome of the elections Thursday, 12 October at Boulevard Palace in Sinkor, suburb of Monrovia, the Chairman of Carter Center’s Board of Trustees Jason Carter said observers reported that ineffective queue management mainly in large precincts, affected the orderly flow of the polling on elections day.

He says it created confusion among voters that were in long lines throughout the day. But the Center says the opening, polling, closing and counting processes on election day were generally conducted according to procedure in the approximately 145 polling places which its observers visited.

But given the challenges observed so far, the Center has recommends to the NEC that if there is a runoff, the Commission should offer precinct staff to enhance instructions on these issues before a second round.

The Carter Center says it deployed observers across all the 15 counties of Liberia on election day, from whom it received such report.

Carter Center official Mr. Jason Carter says in most of the locations, materials were delivered on time, and polls opened on time.

But he reports that observers across most counties reported difficulties in locating voters on the Final Registration Roll in some polling places.

However, the Center says Liberia’s election process is still ongoing and that it cannot issue an overall assessment until several important steps including any dispute resolution are concluded.

Mr. Carter says the Center’s statement is one of five that the Center has made about the process, and it only covers observations to date.

He says further reports addressing the tabulation process, the resolution of election disputes, and the post-election environment will follow as soon as possible.

The Carter Center Board Chair says the NEC has acknowledged difficulties with long queues management at polling precincts.

While acknowledging that NEC officials were proactive in visiting polling stations to resolve problems on Election Day, Carter Center however encourages the NEC to continue to react promptly as issues arise throughout the tabulation process.

“Transparency is crucial in an election, and the Center urges the NEC to continue its efforts to ensure that the tabulation process is transparent at all levels and that the public is provided the information it needs to fully understand the process,” the Center says.

The Center notes that prompt release of results is an effective means of building confidence among the electorate and preventing confusion and tension.

To this end, the Center urges the NEC to release provisional results, including at the polling place level, recommending that provisional results should be released as soon as they are ready.

It says clear indication of the counties and percentage of precincts should be included in the reporting. Concluding, the Center pleads with political parties to uphold their responsibility to ensure that their supporters maintain the peace throughout the electoral process and through the transition that will follow.

--Edited by Winston W. Parley

African Development Fund Board approves US$ 141 million credit risk participations

The Board of Directors of the African Development Fund (ADF), said it on Wednesday October 11, 2017, approved credit risk participations in eight loans cumulatively valued at US$ 141 by the Private Sector Credit Enhancement Facility (PSF) in Abidjan.

Launched in 2015, the PSF is an off-balance sheet and arms-length vehicle, funded by the ADF, the concessional arm of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) which participates in the credit risk of the private sector operations of the AfDB. Its mandate is to release capital held against loans in low income countries, to increase private sector financing in those countries. Over the next three years, the Facility is building a portfolio of US$1.5 billion of private sector credit exposures in emerging and frontier African markets.
The eight operations approved include lines of credit to SME lenders in Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso and Nigeria. The proceeds of the loans will support investment projects in the manufacturing, agriculture, construction, services and transport sectors. They also include trade finance lines with a Mauritanian SME lender and a Nigerian universal bank. Finally, two operations with regional development finance institutions complete the portfolio of approved risk participations, which brings the total portfolio of the facility to 1/3 of its US$ 1.5 billion target size and increase the PSF’s footprint to 25 countries..
“In the last 12 months, operations entering the PSF portfolio have been exposures in large infrastructure as well as agro-industry investment projects and programs. The eight operations will rebalance the portfolio across sectors, regions, maturities and risk profile – and deliver on the mandate to provide headroom relief for new financing of investment projects in low income countries. This positions the Facility to share risks with the AfDB in the financing of new investment projects in the real economy and infrastructure sectors – while remaining compliant with its risk framework”, says PSF Administrator, Cecile Ambert.
The eight operations were also chosen in light of their expected superior development results and additionally, in terms of job creation and financial inclusion, notably for women and local businesses. The operations with development finance institutions are targeting new power generation and transmission capacity, improved logistics, market access, and support to local value addition. All trade finance lines are targeting the lengthening of tenors for African exporters and importers, in a context of global trade finance contraction away from riskier markets.-Press release

African civil society groups to hold gov’ts accountable

Civil society groups from over ten Aafrican countries have launched the 33 days to Power Up Immunization campaign to hold governments accountable for for promises made to support immunization.

The move comes as the world celebrates the International Day of the Girl Child. The civil society groups said governments have made multiple promises to support immunization, including this year’s Addis Declaration.

In 2016, the continent made significant achievements of interrupting the wild poliovirus transmission for over one year; the near elimination of Meningococcal Meningitis A epidemic, and the significant reduction in disease burden and child mortality due to Measles.

"We recognize that progress has been made," says Mr TOMEKPA Vincent, Secretary-General of FENOS-CI in Ivory Coast, “yet one in five African children still lacks access to all the necessary and basic vaccinations”.

In January 2017, African Heads of States endorsed the Addis Declaration on Immunization (ADI), through which they acknowledged that despite their endorsement of the Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP), they are largely off track. The ADI reinforces their commitment at the highest level of political engagement.

Immunization ranks among the most cost-effective health interventions, for girls and boys, delivering a high ratio of health benefits—lives saved and illness prevented—to cost, especially where disease burden is high. This means immunization is one of the best uses of limited public funds for health. In Africa, for every $1 spent on childhood immunizations, you get $41 in economic and social benefits.

“Civil Society must keep track of government progress towards implementation of these commitments and ensure that they deliver if we want to reach the 2020 targets as set in the GVAP,” said Joyce Kilikpo Jarwolo of Public Health Initiative Liberia.

Over these 33 days, we will track the vaccines, track the finances, track the legislation, and ask that our governments show us how the ADI is more than a declaration, but a true instrument for achieving success. The lives of our children depend on it,” explains Jackson Ndegwa, Vaccines and Policy & Advocacy Manager with Kenya AIDS NGOs Consortium (KANCO)

“We must keep the momentum throughout the year, but we are also making sure that we apply heightened pressure over these 33 days that are so important for Immunization.” Says Clarisse Loe Loumou, Board Member of the Gavi CSO Constituency. “These key international days show not only what can be achieved through sustained and focused commitment as with Polio, but also that so much needs to be done to ensure that children do not die of Pneumonia. It is also an opportunity as from today to ensure that equity as much as coverage is crucial to achieving universal access to immunization. Vaccines such as HPV that are of critical importance to girls must continue to be made available to girls everywhere.”
The 33 days to Power Up Immunization campaign is a continuation of what was started with the Africa Vaccination Week and World Health Assembly.

“I’ll not accept anything, but victory”

Opposition Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) presidential candidate Sen. George Oppong Weah says he’ll not accept anything but to be declared winner of the presidential elections, making claims that he is destined for victory in these elections.

The former soccer icon - turned politician, Mr. Weah is among 20 presidential candidates contesting these elections. After casting his ballot on Tuesday morning, 10 October at the Kendja Public School, Mr. Weah told a local radio station Prime FM that he’s of the strong conviction that victory is certain for the CDC in the 2017 presidential election and there’s nothing that will stop him.

When quizzed if he’ll accept the result if he is defeated, Weah insists that there’s no way he’ll lost the elections with huge and aggressive campaign carried out by the CDC. He says it is impossible for him to lost, citing deployment of poll workers that he says were trained for two months.

When furthered quizzed as to whether he’ll quit politics after the elections, Weah pointed out that he will continue his quest for change for the Liberian people.

At the Rehab Community voter center, ruling Unity Party (UP) presidential candidate Vice President Joseph Nyuma Boakai expressed high anticipation that he will win the election in the first round of the polls.

Mr. Boakai says nothing can stop him from achieving victory. When quizzed if he would accept the outcome of the elections, Mr. Boakai said he would accept any result for the country, though he expresses confidence of winning the election.

Boakai re-emphasizes that if given the opportunity to lead the country, he will place serious attention on road connectivity throughout the country, saying “Road, road and road, I think road connectivity will allow our farmers to troop their products to urban area.”
Liberians from all across the country on Tuesday morning 10 October, stormed respective voting precincts to vote the candidates of their choice.

Though some of the polling places did not open at 8:00am as indicated by that the National Elections Commission (NEC), some Liberians especially within Monrovia and its environs woke up in the early hours of Tuesday to cast their ballots.

Voters were relatively patient to wait in long queue, while some returned home with thought of coming later during the day to vote.

Of the problems faced by voters were the issues of code number not being assigned to where they were registered, but supervisors in charge of precinct centers created journals to allow them to vote.

Security presence was felt in many of the polling centers and a lot of young people were seen in queue to vote. Few people with disabilities joined the process also at places visited by this writer.

The 1986 Liberian Constitution Article 83 (a) states that voting for the President, Vice–President, members of the Senate and members of the House of Representatives shall be conducted throughout the Republic on the second Tuesday in October of each election year.

Data released by the NEC for these elections for voters stands at 2,183,629. According to NEC’s data, there are 2080 voting precincts and 5,390 polling places throughout the country with 26 political parties contesting in these elections.

It says 20 presidential candidates, and 1,008 representative candidates are contesting the elections. There are 73 seats being contested by the 1,08 representative candidates.

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

Excited voters face 2017 elections

Image result for liberian voters

High-spirited Liberian electorates left their homes as early as 5:00 A.M. to queue at 2080 voting precincts and 5,390 polling places across the country in Tuesday, 10 October Presidential and Representatives Elections to elect a President among 20 presidential candidates, who will succeed outgoing first female President and nobel laureate, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The electorate also voted for 73 members of the House of Representatives.

The exuberant voters in some parts of Montserrado County and the leeward counties took some electoral workers unprepared as they were in queue at various polling places by 8:00 a.m., the official time when polling materials and staffers had not arrived. In some counties, specifically Sinoe County, southeast Liberia, as confirmed by the Chairman of the National Elections Commission Cllr. Jerome Korkoya in a press briefing Tuesday, polling materials arrived as late as 12 p.m. to the frustration of voters.

Reports from Electoral District#5 in Grand Bassa County, say electorate who had turned out to cast their ballots were informed by NEC staffs that their names were not on the voter roll, while in Gbatala, Bong County, an impatiently angry male voter reportedly erected roadblock with burning tires and allegedly smashed a vehicle after his name could not be identified on the voter roll.

In Ganta and other areas in votes-rich Nimba County, heavy downpour and slow-pace service by polling staffers overwhelmed voters with some threatening to leave the queue and return home without casting their ballots. Generally, the elections were conducted across the country without any violence reported in a process that is expected to see a transition of power from one elected President to another in more than seven decades.
In an address to the nation on Monday, 9 October outgoing President Johnson Sirleaf described Tuesday, 10 October as an historic day for the nation, and for the consolidation of Liberia’s young democracy, saying “For the first time in three generations, we will be transferring presidential authority, democratically, and peacefully, from one elected leader to another.”

President Sirleaf, whose Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai, is in the race to succeed her, calls on electorate to vote for the person and persons they believe will make Liberia a better place.

“Finally, my dear Liberians, we all must respect the outcome of the election as declared by the National Electoral Commission. The NEC has established a system that is accountable, transparent and based upon the highest standards available.”

Local and international observers monitor the polls, including observers from the European Union, Carter Center, ECOWAS, the African Union, and National Democratic Institute, among others.

By Jonathan Browne

No discrepancy

The National Elections Commission (NEC) board of commissioners has announced that since the commencement of the voting exercise, there has been no discrepancy reported to the commission so far.

“There is no sign of discrepancy so far. We appreciate the attend out throughout the country. We are told Liberians in their numbers gathered at various polling places and urged Liberians to be patient in order for them to exercise their constitutional responsibility as enshrined in the Liberian constitution,” NEC Chair Cllr. Jerome George Korkoya said Tuesday afternoon, 10 October.

While voting was ongoing across the country, Chairman Korkoya told a news conference in the afternoon of Tuesday at NEC headquarters that voting process was on course with high attendance.

According to him, some of the polling centers did not start on time as anticipated due to some challenges that the commission could not control.

When quizzed about protest in Gbartala, Bong County, Chairman Korkoya said in apparent shock that his commission had not received any information as it relates to the unfolding.

There were claims of protest in Gbartala on the basis that some voters’ names did not appear on the final voter roll. Some people believed to be voters reportedly blocked the main highway connecting Monrovia, Kakata, Gbarnga and Ganta cities, over claims that their names were not found on final voter roll.

The protesters stormed the polling centers but they were prevented by state securities assigned at the center. Chairman Korkoya maintains that the commission is closely working with officers of the Liberia National Police and other security agencies here to ensure that law and order are respected during these electioneering periods.

Commenting on the issue of the slow process that could deny many people from voting, Korkoya stated that polling places would remain to ensure that those that were in queues before 6 o’clock pm are allowed to vote.

Cllr. Korkoya further stated that those polling centers where voting did not begin on time, voters will be compensated by extension of time.

The Liberian Constitution requires that in each voting year, voting for the President, Vice–President, members of the Senate and members of the House of Representatives shall be conducted throughout the Republic on the second Tuesday in October.

There are 2,183,629 voters in this year’s elections contested by 20 presidential candidates and 1,008 representative candidates for 73 seats at the House of representatives.

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

Frustration greets massive turnout

Liberia’s presidential and representatives elections on Tuesday, 10 October witnessed massive turnout of hundreds of young and old electorate at many centers visited by this paper, though some voters expressed frustrations over being pulled about in search of their rightful polling room.

In communities visited so far on the Bushrod Island, suburb of Monrovia, voting was observed to be peaceful, except that there were complaints by voters that National Elections Commission (NEC) workers did not open some polling places on time.

Some polling centers were said to have opened by 9am and 10am in parts of Doe Community and Clara Town, thus resulting to difficulties in cutting down long queue up to the evening hours for a voting process that was due to have closed by 6pm.

There were also concerns that the work was going on slowly, but a lot of voters were seen exercising patience to vote.

NEC workers had an issue of asking some potential electorate to check from one polling place to another, a condition some voters would almost not want to bear after standing in long queues and visiting few places without being identified immediately at places they say they had registered.

Due to the slow pace of the voting process on Tuesday, a middle age voter at the Samuel K. Doe Community School on Bushrod Island Mr. Patrick Toee who claimed to have joined the queue by 5:55am complained that he had not voted yet during an interview conducted 1pm.

“The people [that are] heading this voting process, they came late because the people said that the area supposed to be opened 8 o’clock,” he said, though he assured that he would exercise patience to vote before leaving.

Another voter Mr. Robert T. Swen complained that pregnant women, baby mothers and physically challenged people were not being allegedly treated fairly, claiming that they were not being given priority.

Following some intervention, NEC workers at the center however took in some pregnant women that were identified in queue. A polling officer at the school, Mr. Benyan S. Quieh said they opened the center soon, but materials arrived late. He however said there were plans to consider those that would be in the queue when closing time reaches at 6pm.

There were others that expressed happiness over the smooth conduct of the process. At the Royal Foundation Day - Care and Primary School in Clara Town, two elderly women interviewed Mariamu Kamara and Issata Kiazulu and Samuel Mohammed and Mr. Sheriff said the process was fine and there was fighting.

Mr. Sheriff particularly expressed hope that the election process would continue peacefully, urging young people to act orderly so that Liberians can move on with their lives after the polls.

Though not in huge numbers, police, immigration and officers from the Drugs Enforcement Agency were seen at polling centers in communities visited.

By Winston W. Parley-Edited by Othello B. Garblah

Heavy downpour disperses voters

A heavy downpour of rain drove voters away on Tuesday night, 10 October in Montserrado District #11, as centers remained opened as late as 6:30 pm to compensate hundreds of voters who were still in line patiently waiting to cast their votes.

But while some voters fled the rain, there were others that remain in queue in the rain to ensure that they cast their ballots, saying they must vote even if the rain fell heavier.

Meanwhile, the Grace Baptist Polling center in District #11 was seen as one of the peaceful polling stations in the district, with voters seen orderly casting their votes and going about their businesses.

At the E.J Goodridge polling center in District #11 baby mothers, pregnant women and old people were given preference to cast their ballots.

At District #12 polling center Euphemia K. Abdullai where more baby mothers were seen, it appeared that the baby mothers were tired of standing in the sun with their young babies.

Voters were complaining that the National Elections Commission (NEC) workers at that polling center were slow and the line is static.

Voters at District #12 Emmanuel Community polling center were complaining in queue over the slowness of NEC polling staffs.

By Ethel A. Tweh--Edited by Winston W. Parley

Ellen cautions Supreme Court

President Ellen Johnson - Sirleaf has sounded a final caution to political leaders and Justices of the Supreme Court of Liberia to make the country proud stay united in the dispensation of justice and be an institution that is beyond reproach.

“Our democracy can only be sustained through you, each and every one of you in the room … and our development can only be sustained through democracy,” President Sirleaf said Monday, 9 October at the opening of the Supreme Court on the eve of elections.

President Sirleaf’s caution to the justices came Monday, the eve of Liberia’s historic elections that could usher in an elected president that will take over from another elected president this January for the first time after more than 70 years.

She urges Justices at the Supreme Court to be independent in doing the people’s business only, while bidding them farewell as President at ceremonies marking the nation’s highest court’s opening.

Earlier, Chief Justice Francis S. korkpor, Sr., promised that the Judiciary will remain focused and fair in taking judicial actions and decisions, while also abstaining from all political alignments during these elections in order to remain above reproach, uphold independence and neutrality

He said they have heard the many criticisms particularly arising from the Court’s recent pre - election cases, arguing that it is understandable that during elections time, the country is divided.

Chief Justice Korkpor recalls that in the face of competing priorities encountered by President Sirleaf when she took over in 2006, she saw the need to empower the Judiciary to enable it to perform its role.

He acknowledges that President Sirleaf kept the promise by empowering and building the capacity of the Judiciary, resulting to improved conditions including the building of more court houses across the country, relatively better salaries and remuneration and training of workers by government and development partners, among others.

Chief Justice Korkpor says with great credit to President Sirleaf, tremendous progress has made in many areas. He notes that it has been great working with President Sirleaf, and thanked her for her leadership and support to the Judiciary.

By Winston W. Parley-Editing by Othello B. Garblah

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