By: Laymah Kollie
Monrovia -November 13,2023-WTVNEWS: The West Africa Network for Peacebuilding has deployed one hundred thirty -three (133) local observers ahead of November 14,2023 Presidential Run-off elections. Of the total number consist of twenty (20) were Long Term Conflict Monitors have been deployed in seventy-three (73) prioritized low, medium to high-risk areas across thirty-eight (38) districts in nine (9) Counties including Montserrado, Lofa, Grand Gedeh, Bong, Gbarpolu, Grand Bassa, Grand Cape Mount, Nimba and Margibi.
The observers utilize structured checklists to report real-time data on incidents to the situation room regularly.
However, the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP) has reopened its Election Situation Room (ESR) supported by the European Union and complemented by Swedish and Austria Development Agencies, which is an integral part of its Electoral Violence Monitoring, Analysis, and Mitigation (E-MAM) project. The ESR is designed to mitigate election violence in West Africa through National Early Warning Systems (NEWS) and complimented by the Insider Mediators represented by and through the National Election Response Group.
WANEP in partnership with the Office of the Special Representative of the President of the ECOWAS Commission in Liberia and the Peace Building Office (PBO) is operating the ESR at Bella Casa Hotel in Monrovia from November 13-15, 2023. It monitors, analyzes, reports, and facilitates November 14, 2023, responses to violent threats to the peaceful conduct.
The ESR comprises four operational sections: the Data Gathering Room, Analysis Room, Decision Room, and Communication Room. 45 Liberians, including youth, experts, and eminent persons are mobilized to operationalize the ESR with the support of resource persons from other West African countries including a team from WANEP Regional Office.
In addition, a team of Fact-checkers from the Center for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID) will provide support to the ESR in validating sensitive incidents and other social media posts before being released to the public.
At its first briefing at Bella Casa on 13th November, Mr. Matthew Giah, a member of the Decision Making Room of WANEP ESR appreciated Liberian citizens and institutions of the state for the decorum exhibited in the first round of the election and urges all Liberians to continue to observe the peace to ensure a successful Presidential run-off election on November 14th 2023 Presidential Run-off election.
“The WANEP-Liberia National Early Warning System (NEWS) from October 11 to November 10, 2023, recorded 23 incidents of violence and political tension across the country. For instance, in parts of Nimba, Lofa, Montserrado, and Grand Cape Mount Counties among rival party supporters. These incidents undermine the peaceful atmosphere applauded by the international community in the first round of the electoral process and the entire security situation in Liberia.
WANEP ESR hopes and implores the National Elections Commission to pay attention to some of the lessons from the first round of the election already identified and emerging hotspots like Maryland, River Gee, and Grand Gedeh”
The Elections observing body however frowned on the self proclamation of political parties, late arrival of NEC staffers at polling places amongst others.
“Unofficial announcement of results and the operations of political parties “war rooms” comments/statements on campaign trails, mainstream and social media, The late arrival of NEC officials and ballot papers to the polling centers and understaffing at some of the centers, Slow voting process as a result of long queues and over populated centers, Poor lightening of voting booths leading lack to visibility of ballot papers, contributing to high numbers of invalid votes”.
Meanwhile, the WANEP ESR in concluding this 1st statement urges the NEC to continue to exhibit a high level of professionalism. “NEC should remain sensitive in the timeous release of the results in line with the electoral laws, NEC should ensure adequate lighting systems including solar lamps or torch lights, especially during the voting, countering, and tallying processes where needed, Political parties and supporters should refrain from unofficial pronouncements of election results, intimidation, and violence and Political parties and supporters should avoid rhetoric that deepens divisiveness, continue to demonstrate leadership and tolerance and commit to accepting the outcome of the elections”.
As part of the statement, ESR recommended that security apparatus should intensify timely and effective response mechanisms to address security concerns during the voting, tallying and official announcement of results; the leadership of the Joint Security should be proactive and non-partisan in the discharge of their duties and functions and the media should refrain from inflaming tensions and being purveyors of mis and disinformation on mainstream and social media.
On Tuesday, November 14, 2023, a total of 2,471,617 registered Liberians, comprising 1,237,257 females (50.058%) and 1,234,360 males (49.9 % ) , will go to the polls to participate in the presidential run-off election. This election is adjudged critical in sustaining the country’s democracy since the end of the civil war 20 years ago.
The run-off election requires a simple majority for a winner to emerge in line with the provisions of the Electoral Act. This followed the keenly contested first round wherein the incumbent President George Weah of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) pulled a total of 804,087 (43.83%) of the valid votes cast, while the closest challenger, former Vice President, Joseph Boakai of the Unity Party (UP) secured 796,961 valid votes, (representing 43.44 percent)². Since the conclusion of the first round of the election, the political context has been fluid.