The United Nations (UN) is providing Liberia with important support to ensure credible and successful presidential and legislative elections in October, towards the consolidation of democracy in the country and the ECOWAS region, Farid Zarif, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General (SRSG), and Head of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), has affirmed.
Receiving a team of ECOWAS Long-term Election Observers and the ECOWAS Special Representative to Liberia, Ambassador Babatunde Ajisomo, at the UNMIL Monrovia Headquarters on 22nd September, the SRSG said the technical and logistic support included provision of 148 trucks to the National Electoral Commission (NEC), Liberia, for the movement of electoral personnel and materials. UNMIL will also assist with the airlift of sensitive materials to mitigate the challenge of inaccessible roads to the hinterland.
According to Ambassador Zarif, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) is also coordinating international donor support for Liberia, through mobilisation of a basket fund.
He commended ECOWAS for its continued support to Liberia and for “paving the way for others to follow in the establishment of best practices in democratic governance.”
The UNMIL, which has been maintaining peace in Liberia for the past 14 years following the outbreak of a devastating civil war in the country from 1989, began a gradual drawdown last year ahead of its complete withdrawal in March 2018. This puts the security responsibility for the forthcoming elections on Liberian authorities.
However, Ambassador Zarif is optimistic, saying: “we are comfortable with what we have seen so far in terms of preparations by NEC and the capacity of the Liberia National Police to manage security during the elections.”
“We are therefore looking forward to a seamless process, because all technical tools are in place to deliver peaceful and credible elections,” he added.
In his remarks, Ambassador Ajisomo thanked the UN for its invaluable support to Liberia and for bequeathing the facilities of the UNMIL Radio to ECOWAS, adding that a Steering Committee would meet soon on the project transfer.
As part of its on-going consultations, the ECOWAS election observation team later met with representatives of Liberia’s civil society groups at the Monrovia Country Office of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA).
OSIWA Country officer, Massa Crayton and representatives of local Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), including the Deepening Democracy Coalition (DDC), Election Coordinating Committee (ECC) and the National Youth Movement for Transparent Election (NAYMOTE), briefed the regional observers on the activities of their organisations towards ensuring effective citizen participation, inclusivity, monitoring, and how to hold political actors to account. As part of their contribution, the CSOs organised the first-round of Debate for presidential candidates last month and the second-round is slated for 26 September 2017.
OSIWA is one of the key development partners supporting the ECOWAS Electoral Assistance Division and the ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commission (ECONEC).
The ECOWAS long-term election observers will continue consultations with political stakeholders ahead of their deployment across Liberia’s 15 administrative Counties to observe various phases of the electoral process.
They will be joined by the short-term observation mission, and both teams will be led by Ghana’s immediate-past President John Dramani Mahama, to observe the October 10 polls, which success is considered crucial for the consolidation of peace, stability, national development and democracy in Liberia, with ramifications on the entire ECOWAS region.