Statement by Joseph N. Boakai on behalf of Political Parties, at the signing ceremony of the Farmington Declaration 2023
LIBERIA – Let me extend my thanks and appreciation to the United Nations, ECOWAS and all those International and Local Partners, and all Political Parties that have come again to affix our signatures to the Farmington Declaration that will reaffirm commitment to a non-violent, free, fair and transparent elections in October of this year. It was at this same venue, the Farmington Hotel, where we signed a commitment to a non-violent election in 2017.
I am glad to report here that the 2017 Legislative and Presidential elections under the auspices of the Unity Party-led government were largely free of any major violent incident and one of the most acclaimed transfer of power occurred.
The United Nations Charter, ECOWAS Protocols and our National constitution guarantees and protects the right to vote and for every citizen to determine their choice in the democratic process. These tenets underpin the fundamentals of good governance and uphold the will of the majority of our country.
Emphasis has always been placed on peaceful elections but the elements inherent in every democratic environment and its assurances must be deeply anchored in a free, fair and credible process. Too often we tend to ignore, neglect and in some cases become complicit with the outcome of the process rather than the actual process itself. Elections is not an event. It is a process which must not be merely observed but monitored over a period of time to offer what will eventually advance peace, consolidate democratic entitlements and good governance.
Again, we are here at this same venue today for another signing ceremony.
Since the assumption of leadership by President Weah and the CDC, we have witnessed several bi-elections that have been marred by violence. While on her campaign launch on November 17, 2018, the UP candidate in the by-election to replace Rep. Saah Joseph of District 13, Cornelia Kruah-Togba, was violently attacked by people believed to have been partisans of the CDC.
Many were wounded in that violent incident. Similarly, on August 17, 2019, the Telia Urey campaign in the District 15 bi-election to replace the Late Hon. Adolf Lawrence was attacked by opposing sides. This time, the attackers targeted Telia’s personal vehicle in an attempt to hurt her and burned the vehicle she was riding. Those who carried out the planned attack wounded some of Telia’s supporters. All this was an attempt to instill fear in the supporters of Telia.
The 2020 Special Senatorial Election in Gbarpolu was also marred by violence. It has become a common practice in Liberia not to investigate electoral violence. Hence, no investigation was commissioned into any of these violent incidents, and were all left to slide under the umbrella of impunity. We still have the perpetrators roaming in the streets freely waiting for future orders to commit electoral violence repeatedly.
The Unity Party, even more than our international partners and the NEC, wants an election that will be free of any form of physical or emotional violence. While we are all ensuring that the October 10, 2023 polls will be violent-free, fair, and transparent, we like to remind our partners and the NEC that the mere absence of violence is not the only requirement for a satisfactory election. There are other cardinal ingredients that when not considered and not implemented, there will be a high probability of not having a so much violent free election as we are all yearning to have.
Together with our international partners and mainly the government, we must ensure that these elections are CREDIBLE and in addition monitor the indicators that would lead to the election not being credible, free, fair, transparent, and non-violent. It is, therefore, of key importance that we emphasize and prevent the triggers of violence rather than just stating that “we want violence-free elections”.
After the 2017 legislative and presidential elections, a comprehensive report was made outlining several recommendations that would reform and standardize our electoral process. Sadly, all of the very brilliant recommendations that were proffered by our Supreme Court, ECOWAS, and International and Local Partners were left to rot in the dustbin. It would appear that our government does not care about reforming the electoral process.
The National Elections Commission is not the only institution involved with our elections. It is also critical to mention the role of the judiciary in expeditiously and lawfully concluding election disputes, to ensure peaceful elections and discourage violence.
We also like to emphasize a transparent voter registration process as one of the key elements to having a violence-free election. Several issues have been reported since the start of the ongoing Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) process:
- There are reports of technical problems that are causing the slowness in the registration process. Some problems include:
❖ Printers assigned to registration centers go off frequently.
❖ Registration officers coming late and leaving early.
❖ Frequent shortage of cards that are used to produce voter ID cards. This is happening across several registration centers across the Bomi, Gbarpolu, Grand Bassa, Grand Cape Mount, Margibi, and Montserrado Counties.
❖ The length of time it takes the solar panel to generate power from the sun usually causes a delayed start to the registration process.
❖ The above factors are leading to a long stay in queues without registration of people who want to register and participate in the determination of the next leader of the country. Some have even hinted that they are tired and may not go to registration centers again. This in our opinion is discriminating against the voters.
❖ Voter trucking – we have seen financially induced voter trucking from other districts or counties to another in the interest of particular aspirants.
These incidents are particularly prominent in District 10 Montserrado and Grand Cape Mount. In Cape Mount, the UP has observed the trucking of Sierra Leoneans from across the borders by businessman, Idrissa Massaley, who is believed to be a supporter of the CDC. We are told by executives of our party from Cape Mount that this has led to violence in Jeijuah, Mano River, Bambala, and Tieni between those that are trucking people from Sierra Leone and those attempting to put stop to such violation of our laws.
As we pen our signatures to this Farmington River Declaration that will commit us to NON-VIOLENT, FREE, FAIR, and TRANSPARENT Legislative and Presidential elections, we call on the National Elections Commission to consider extending the registration process in the first six counties. This is intended to make up for the delays and technical problems that have led to many not being able to register. Not doing so will be an act of deliberately disenfranchising Liberian citizens from participating in the elections.
Lastly, let us understand that while ensuring that elections are violent free simply because the people want to be in peace and harmony, some of those elections have produced inefficient leaders that are undermining the stability and development of the country. It is important, henceforth, for us to stress the need to monitor those indicators that would undermine the CREDIBILITY of the elections as well as those that will trigger violence.
Liberia is now on the threshold of a new democratic order having had a positive transition and we are determined to accelerate another peaceful transition free of violence. We are committed to a credible, free, and fair process and I repeat the Credible, Free, fair, and transparent process.