By Lewis S. Teh
As a means of combatting hate speeches and curtailing electoral violence ahead of the upcoming October 10th Presidential and Legislative Elections, Integrity Watch Liberia and its partners with support from the peacebuilding fund have held a day-long dialogue in Monrovia.
Remarking at the start of the dialogue on August 23, 2023, at Icampus on Carey Street in central Monrovia, executive director, Harold Aidoo described the organization of the forum as a major milestone.
He says Liberia is observing twentieth anniversary of sustainable peace following many years of conflict, noting that peace isn’t only the absence of guns, but the presence of respect for fundamental human rights and the rule of law.
“Peace is not just a fundamental right irrespective of ethnicity, gender, condition, geographic location, but it is the presence of rights.”
Mr. Aidoo says the dialogue which is captured as countering hate speech amid a trigger of electoral violence, was been held when Liberians are few days away from the crucial October 10th polls, saying that October 10th represents an important milestone on the history of Liberia for many reasons.
According to him, the pending elections present an opportunity for every citizen to consolidate the peace which has been harvested for the past twenty years and also represent an opportunity for citizens not to destroy the gains made throughout the years.
He says the project is anchored on the backdrop that during the elections there may be provocations that tend to undermine the peace of the country.
He reveals that the dialogue is also aimed at helping everyone to contribute to development, so it presents tools that will enable everyone including CSOs to monitor and track different kinds of utterances and provocations that constitute hate speech, something, he says has the proclivity to undermine peace and incite violence.
“Today’s event is to validate and finalize different kinds of indicators that will be developed by various CSOs that will track hate speech.”
United Nations Peacebuilding Fund coordinator in Liberia, John R. Dennis, extolled Integrity Watch Liberia for taking a bold step in tackling issues of electoral violence, ahead of the October elections.
Mr. Dennis also extolled the UN Peacebuilding Fund for its continuous support of Liberia, adding that the PBF has specific interest in ensuring that it has a peaceful electoral environment.
He said it was on this basis they have invested a little over US$5 million for the elections and other projects with focus on women’s political participation.
“We want to thank Integrity Watch Liberia for a job well done and we look forward to seeing hate speech not define its way in our politics”, he added.
Mr. Dennis underscored that hate speech should be avoided at all costs because it misrepresents the facts, something, he says prompted the UN to invest in the Human Rights Commission.
“Up to now, the PBF has spent up to US$82 million in Liberia on peace, so we don’t want anyone jeopardizing the gains we have made as a country.”
In response, the communication director at the National Elections Commission, Henry Flomo, thanked Integrity Watch Liberia for what he described as brilliant initiative that will sustain the peace of Liberia.
Mr. Flomo noted that hate speech especially, during elections period, undermines the growth of any country and as such, there’s a need for supporters of various political parties to abide by the Farmington River Declaration for the common good of the country.
He said the NEC has been working tirelessly in making sure that political actors abide by all of the electoral guidelines to maintaining peace.
The day-long dialogue brought together various CSOs, local and international partners, media practitioners and youth groups, among others. Editing by Jonathan Browne