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Liberia’s democracy taking steps backward

-Prominent female observer warns

By: Naneka Hoffman 

A young Liberian female, Ms. Alphia Faith Kemokai, observes that instead of building on gains made in 2018, with the inauguration of a democratically-elected President, Liberia’s democracy seems to be taking a few steps backward, which could derail the peace fought so hard for with the help of international partners.

 Ms. Kemokai further notes that recently, Liberians witnessed actions that pose serious threats to the peace, characterized by hate speeches and threats of violence from actors in body politics, pointing “There have been cases of politically- inspired violence against female candidates and parties that have different political alignments.”

Speaking at the signing of the Farmington Declaration by leaders of 27 political parties in Margibi County this week, she lamented that such behaviors are counterproductive to enhancing the country’s democracy and sustaining its hard-fought peace, pondering whether Liberians are so quick to forget the past after 20 years of hostilities when lives were lost and property destroyed.

She calls on Government to ensure that the electoral laws of the country are respected and the electoral process takes place void of discrimination, disinformation, hate speech, and incitement that could lead to violence.

According to her, this will address dissatisfaction as Liberians approach general and presidential elections on October 10, stressing that the independence of the judiciary is something that cannot be overemphasized and the State should guarantee independence of the court system for aggrieved parties to get redress.

At the same time, she urges political leaders and political parties to caution their supporters against acts and utterances that could cause chaos and disrupt the peace.

Mrs. Kemokai continues that what hurts most is the rise of militancy in most political parties, lamenting that while politicians’ children are in other countries living better lives, they use other people’s children as militants to cause violence, using nice words like “Rescue, Hope, and Liberia First”, among others.

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She recalls that about 38 years ago, after the end of the first republic, Liberia attempted its first multi-party election system, but the result was one of the leading factors that led to the 1989 rebel incursion.

 She says this is mentioned to remind Liberians how violence-inspired the 1985 election was, and they should learn from the past to tread with more caution.

She notes that it hasn’t been an all-too-smooth path since Liberia held its first democratic elections in 2005 after the two civil wars, but Liberians continue to strive to ensure that their democracy evolves and the country can be an example to countries whose democratic system is still being questioned.

 Mrs. Kemokai also recalls that in 2018, Liberians witnessed the first peaceful transition of power from one democratically-elected president to another, which is worthy of commendation, and proved the nation was determined to protect its fragile peace.

She then emphasizes that the media being a very important stakeholder, it is highly important to keep the fragile peace by disseminating accurate, balanced, and credible information, adding “Your pen should not be in any politician’s pocket.”

Liberian politicians or political leaders representing some 27 political parties signed a commitment here Tuesday, 4 April to ensure free, fair, transparent and violent-freed elections as the country goes to presidential and general elections on October 10th. They did so under the watch of key stakeholders and foreign partners, including the regional bloc, ECOWAS. Editing by Jonathan Browne

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