By: Anthony Gray
Liberia-March 23, 2023: Several Student-Based Political Parties at the University of Liberia, youth league representatives, and eight national youth groups have signed a commitment to maintain a peaceful environment and support a violence-free election process in Liberia, regardless of their political differences.
Liberia is expected to hold a democratic elections on October 2023.
The flagship signing ceremony followed the young people’s participation in a two-day Peace Symposium from March 20-21, 2023 held at the University of Liberia Capitol Hill campus.
The commitment comes following unending battles at the university of Liberia involving young people, student groups and political influences which resulted to injuries and damages.
The symposium, organized by UL student government with students and youth leaders, provided young people a learning opportunity on dialogue, social cohesion, and conflict resolution, among others.
Liberian authorities, the University of Liberia Administration, and foreign missions including the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the United Nations, the European Union, the South African Ambassador, Liberia’s Military, and the Police, witnessed the signing ceremony.
Nine hundred (900) participants were drawn from all campuses of the University of Liberia, seven political party youth wings, and eight national youth groups.
Part of the key takeaways from the symposium was understanding election and the role of youth in a violence-free election, rights-based consciousness, and upholding the rule of law in Liberia.They also included identifying looming threats, with one example being politicians and their supporters’ quest to ‘win by all cost’ in an election process, among others.
Addressing participants at the ceremony, Liberia’s Minister of State for President Affairs and Acting Chair of the Cabinet, Hon. G. Wesseh Blamoh, said it is important to keep the peace in Liberia and on the University of Liberia campus.
“For many years we witnessed violence in our country and even on these campuses. Students died on this campus because of violence. Students got wounded because of violence,” said Minister Blamoh.
Minister Wisseh therefore urged that young people work together to maintain a peaceful and non-violent environment on the campuses of the University.
“The only reason for the existence of this University is for students to learn today and become productive citizens tomorrow,” he said.
Also speaking, the President of the University of Liberia, Prof. Dr. Julius Julukon Sarwolo Nelson, Jr. said violence is a threat to peace, security, and development anywhere in the world. “Violence anywhere is a threat to peace everywhere. Let us all work together to build, to sustain, to maintain a culture of peace and non-violence in the Republic of Liberia”.
He cautioned the students and young people that violence will not solve the problem of the Republic of Liberia.
Despite incidents of disturbances at the University, President Nelson noted that many other good things are happening at the University of Liberia.
However, he said there is a tendency to magnify the wrong things against the good things that are happening at the University; As such; he said the University of Liberia family has the responsibility to re-brand the perception that when you are here at the University, you should think about trouble.
“Maybe, this event, organized by our student government with students and youth leaders in the Republic of Liberia should be a new opportunity that we can use the platform to re-brand the University of Liberia,” said Dr. Nelson.
For her part, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Liberia, Madam Christine N. Umutoni, indicated that peacebuilding among young people is critical.
She urged that the flagship commitment made should serve as the basis for sustaining the peace.
Speaking further, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liveria Maj. Gen. Prince Charles Johnson, III assured the students and young people that under the new AFL, he will do his part to stick to upholding the rule of law just as the students are signing a commitment to peace.
“We are professionals, we will come here, we will dialogue with you, we will engage you and tell you this is my responsibility, [and] this your responsibility, and let both of us respect each other as we do our job,” said Gen. Johnson.
During the signing ceremony, the chairperson of the National Elections Commission (NEC) Chairperson Madam Davidetta Browne-Lansanah joined the students and young people in their strives for a non-violent elections process. She also urged them to speak about the positive side of their agitation, and not the negative side.
International Partners including ECOWAS, South African and European Union Ambassadors rallied the young people to maintain peace across Liberia during and after elections.