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Liberia: West African elders sue for peaceful poll as George Weah seeks re-election

LIBERIA- The West African Elders Forum (WAEF) Election Mission to Liberia has urged politicians and other stakeholders to eschew violence and commit to a peaceful general election scheduled for Tuesday.

The forum made the call in a statement issued after the close of the campaign on Sunday in Monrovia, the Capital of Liberia.

The statement was jointly signed by the head of the mission, former President Goodluck Jonathan, and the deputy head of the mission, Kadrie Ouedrago, the former prime minister of Burkina Faso.

The forum urged all candidates to abide by the peace accord.

The forum also urged the country’s National Electoral Commission (NEC) and the security agencies to exercise their mandate per the nation’s laws to build trust and guarantee the integrity of the elections.

The elders commended Liberians for their abiding faith in the nation’s democracy, as exemplified in the mass participation in the 2023 electioneering activities, which culminated in the spirited closing campaigns of various parties, which ended on Sunday.

The forum stated that Liberia had established a striking culture of peaceful elections and seamless transitions in the last two decades. It urged all stakeholders to strive to maintain this tradition by working to make the 2023 elections transparent, free and fair.

“We urge the candidates and voters to be law-abiding and avoid actions that could have a negative impact on the elections and threaten the peace and stability the country has witnessed since the end of the civil war. We note the commitment to a non-violent, free, fair and transparent electoral process, as demonstrated by the signing of the Farmington River Declaration,” it stated. “We urge all candidates to abide by the dictates of the peace accord.”

The forum, however, expressed concern over the recent reports of violent clashes in some parts of the country that led to the alleged death of two-party supporters in Lofa County.

“WAEF condemns the unfortunate incident and urges the concerned authorities to conduct diligent investigations with a view to preventing such acts of violence from happening during and after the elections.

“In this regard, we encourage them, as they close their campaigns, to appeal to their supporters to conduct themselves peacefully and maintain law and order during and after the elections,” the forum added.

WEAF said this was important to promote progressive politics devoid of hate speech, personal attacks, incendiary rhetoric and violence. It stated that the candidates and their supporters needed to commit to repeating the exemplary milestone achieved in 2017.

It recalled that similar peace pledges were made in 2017 and strictly adhered to in the interest of peace, progress and sustainable democracy. According to the statement, the forum had engaged with Liberian stakeholders since July, when it first deployed a pre-election mission to Monrovia.

On election day, members of the WAEF mission who arrived in Liberia on Saturday will visit Monrovia polling stations to observe voting procedures and the results collation process.

The mission will remain engaged until the results are declared and the electoral processes successfully concluded.

Liberia’s presidential election on Tuesday sees 19 candidates vying to replace President George Weah, who is seeking a second term. If it goes to a second round of voting, three stand out as possible rivals to Mr Weah, a former international football star who in 2017 won more than 61 per cent in the second round.

His election victory then sparked high hopes of change in one of the countries still reeling from civil war and disease. Mr Weah had spent the previous decade building political credibility, including three years in the Senate, to match his sporting icon status.

Today, the 57-year-old is campaigning hard to convince Liberians he can still improve their lives. (NAN)