UN Envoy for West Africa and Sahel Urges Peaceful, Equitable Elections in Liberia

MONROVIA: With Liberia rapidly approaching its pivotal presidential and legislative elections within a mere two months, Leonardo Santos Simao, the United Nations representative for West Africa and the Sahel, has called on the country and its citizens to prioritize nonviolence and ensure a fair electoral process.

Mr. Leonardo Santos Simao recently embarked on his inaugural visit to Liberia. During his visit, he engaged with key stakeholders, including the National Elections Commission (NEC), President George Weah, other presidential candidates, members of the security sector, and civil society representatives.

Concluding his visit with a press conference, Mr. Simao underscored Liberia’s turbulent history and emphasized the importance of preserving the hard-won peace that the country has enjoyed for the past two decades.
“Liberia is a country which went through a very difficult moment. Now the country is enjoying 20 years of peace. And the main challenge is to maintain the peace so that the problems of the past cannot repeat themselves. So, elections can’t be moments of risk, relapse of peace in the country. And therefore, all institutions we met with are fully aware of that,” Mr. Simao said.

Liberia has made significant strides in fortifying its democratic foundations. The upcoming presidential elections, scheduled for October 10, will mark the fourth consecutive occurrence, accompanied by various legislative elections. Notably, these elections will be the first presidential polls overseen by the Liberia National Police following the withdrawal of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).

Mr. Simao commended Liberians for their commitment to peace, highlighting the important role played by the international community in helping Liberia navigate its path to stability. He assured that the international community remains dedicated to supporting Liberia’s continued progress in peace and development.

During high-level discussions with political party leaders, concerns were raised regarding the potential for conflict and violence, particularly in light of recent incidents between the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) and the Unity Party (UP).

Regrettably, breaches of the Farmington River Declaration have been reported since the beginning of the campaign season. A violent clash between CDC and UP supporters erupted last week, resulting in injuries on both sides. On the initial day of campaigning, CDC supporters paraded through Monrovia with a casket adorned with images of former Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai, the UP’s standard-bearer. The procession was marked by anti-UP slogans and was intended to symbolize Amb. Boakai’s political downfall.

Mr. Simao called upon political parties and independent candidates to educate and sensitize their supporters about the significance of violence-free elections. He emphasized that youths should not be used as instruments of violence but rather as vital partners in Liberia’s development journey.

“It is the duty of political parties to ensure their supporters adhere to established rules. Campaign activities should not jeopardize the nation’s peace and stability,” Mr. Simao stressed.

During his discussions with President George Weah, the Liberian leader reaffirmed his administration’s commitment to conducting the 2023 elections with transparency, fairness, and in accordance with both national laws and international standards.

President Weah highlighted his dedication to preserving national peace and stability by nurturing Liberia’s nascent democratic culture, which encompasses the conduct of just and equitable elections. He emphasized his government’s efforts in supporting the National Elections Commission and conducting previous by-elections that were widely deemed free and transparent.

“Liberia is on the way to an inclusive and peaceful election. This is my commitment to Liberians and the world. I will ensure all within my powers that that happens under my watch,” he averred.
He then called on the international community and other political leaders to play their part for the betterment of the country.

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