By Kruah Thompson
Youth leagues of various political parties in Liberia are gearing up to make a historic peace declaration on fostering harmony in the lead-up to the October 10 Presidential and Legislative Elections.
They made the disclosure here during a press conference held on Wednesday, September 6, in Monrovia along with the group, ‘Most Beautiful Girls in Liberia 2023′ in collaboration with Center for African Policy, leading the charge.
At the event, Ms. Monetta Yhap of ‘The Most Beautiful Girl in Liberia 2023’ said the plan is a symbol of hope, signifying a dedication to reducing tension and promoting unity among the youth, thereby establishing a positive atmosphere for the upcoming election.
Electoral violence has been a recurring issue in Liberia, stemming from a complex history of political turmoil and ethnic tensions.
Liberia’s history of electoral violence dates back to the early years of the Republic. The True Whig Party (TWP) which dominated politics for much of Liberia’s early history, faced accusations of electoral fraud and manipulation, leading to social unrest.
Also in 1980, Master Sergeant Samuel Kanyon Doe seized power in a military coup, ending the True Whig Party’s century-long rule.
Despite his initial promise of stability, Doe’s regime faced opposition right after the 1985 Elections, leading to violent electoral disputes that culminated in a bloody civil war.
Additionally, the 1997 elections that brought rebel leader-turned-politician Charles Taylor to the Presidency did very little if any, to unite the country with members of the Mandingo and Krahn tribes, who were strong supporters of Doe going into bush only to return with fresh attacks against Taylor that eventually faced him to resign in August 2003 and seek refuge in Calibar, Nigeria from where he was returned to face trial before the UN-backed Special Court of Sierra Leone and subsequently convicted and sentenced for 50 years for aiding and abetting RUF rebels in Sa Leone.
Following end of the civil war in 2003 and subsequent installation of a transitional government, Liberia held elections in 2005 that led to the election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, as the first woman President in Africa. While these elections were relatively peaceful, tensions still simmered beneath the surface.
Subsequent elections in the country have seen allegations of irregularities and tensions, though Liberia has largely moved away from widespread violence. The 2017 elections, which saw the election of George Weah, were peaceful, but there were disputes over the results.
Liberia’s history of electoral violence is deeply intertwined with its broader history of political instability, civil conflict, and ethnic divisions. Efforts have been made to address these issues, but challenges remain in ensuring peaceful and transparent elections in the country.
Unfortunately, recent campaigns have witnessed instances of violence, with political pundits making threatening remarks that have the potential to undermine the much-anticipated October poll.
In recognition of the history of violence and the scars left by the Liberian Civil War, Ms. Monetta Yhap emphasized that this initiative aims to prevent the ongoing manipulation, exploitation, and coercion of young people during elections.
She views this as a vital responsibility to prevent recurrence of past errors and direct voices of young people toward peace, progress, and prosperity.
On this note, she urged all youth from various political affiliations to participate in the National Inter-Political Party Peace March slated for September 16, 2023.
“During this march from Boulevard to the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex, leaders of different political parties’ youth leagues will make a solemn Peace Declaration”, she said.
She added that the event will culminate in a sports march to symbolize a level of unity and strength that could be harnessed when political parties’ youth work together to achieve a common goal.
“Our message is clear: young people of Liberia demand transparency and peaceful election, and we categorically reject any attempt to use us as agents of violence ever again.”
She believes that Liberian youth hold the power to shape the country’s future responsibly and constructively, sending a resounding message to the world that they are agents of peace, unity, and positive change.
Ms. Yhap calls on Liberian youth to secure a brighter future, letting their presence and voices proclaim that they are the architects of peace and democracy in Liberia.
Meanwhile, the founder of Royalty organization – pioneering force behind the ‘Most Beautiful Girls of Liberia’, emphasizes that there is currently no financial support for the program.
According to the group, they are not accepting financial contributions from individual political parties, but if parties are interested in joining forces to contribute to the march, their participation would be greatly appreciated.
Sir Alex F. Devine, Jr., Executive Director of Youth for Change, underscores the paramount importance of recognizing that peace plays a vital role in elections.
He firmly believes that as tension mounts in the coming election, it behooves young people to serve as catalysts for reducing tension.
“We constitute more than 65% of the population, so young people can take a symbolic stand and participate in a peaceful walk”, Devine adds.
He finds encouragement in the march’s title, noting that it acknowledges the underlying purpose behind their involvement, noting that it is a cause that is greater than any individual’s ambition. Editing by Jonathan Browne