By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor
Liberia, the West African nation founded on the principles of liberty and freedom, once again made history with its peaceful conduct of the Legislative and Presidential elections held on October 10, 2023.
This remarkable event serves as a testament to the unwavering dedication of the Liberian people to uphold democratic values and demonstrate their commitment to ensuring a peaceful and prosperous future for their country.
In this commentary, we delved into the factors that contributed to the peaceful conduct of the October 10th elections, the significance of this achievement, and the role of Liberians in fostering a brighter tomorrow.
The Historical Context
Liberia’s history is a complex tapestry of hope and resilience. Founded in the 19th century as a home for freed African-Americans and former slaves, the country has experienced its share of turmoil, including a devastating civil war that spanned over a decade, ending in 2003.
In the aftermath of this conflict, the Liberian people embarked on a challenging journey towards reconciliation, democracy, and nation-building.
The peaceful conduct of the October 10th elections is a powerful indicator of Liberia’s commitment to this journey.
It serves as a beacon of hope in a world that often grapples with political discord and division. Here, we will explore the key elements that contributed to this remarkable achievement.
Strong Institutions and a Matured Electoral System
Liberia has made considerable progress in strengthening its institutions, particularly the National Elections Commission (NEC). Over the years, the NEC has evolved to become more professional, transparent, and efficient in organizing and overseeing elections.
This commitment to institutional development laid the groundwork for a credible electoral process.
The continuous efforts to refine the electoral system, including the use of biometric voter registration and electronic results transmission, have been vital in minimizing potential disputes and irregularities. The institutional maturity has fostered a sense of trust in the electoral process among Liberians.
Civic Education and Voter Engagement
Civic education played a pivotal role in raising awareness among Liberians about the significance of their participation in the democratic process.
Various organizations and civil society groups conducted voter education campaigns, empowering citizens with the knowledge necessary to make informed decisions.
This investment in education nurtured a sense of responsibility among voters, who understood that their votes were crucial in shaping the nation’s future.
Liberians from all walks of life, including the youth, came together to engage in voter registration and mobilization campaigns.
The collective enthusiasm and energy of the Liberian people, demonstrated in their commitment to their civic duties, were essential for the success of the elections.
Commitment to Peace and National Reconciliation
One of the most remarkable aspects of Liberia’s journey toward peaceful elections has been its commitment to peace and national reconciliation.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and other reconciliation mechanisms have strived to address the grievances and traumas of the past, providing a platform for healing and dialogue.
The inclusive approach taken by Liberian leaders in post-conflict reconstruction allowed for the reintegration of former combatants into society and the addressing of grievances.
The notion that elections could be an avenue for political change rather than violence became ingrained in the national psyche. This dedication to reconciliation paved the way for a peaceful transition of power from one democratically elected leader to another.
International Support and Observers
The international community, in conjunction with regional organizations such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union, played an instrumental role in ensuring a peaceful electoral process.
International observers closely monitored the elections, providing independent assessments of the process’s fairness and credibility. This external oversight bolstered public confidence in the electoral outcome.
Furthermore, international partners offered technical assistance and resources to strengthen the electoral infrastructure, underscoring their commitment to Liberia’s democratic journey.
Their support exemplified the collective belief in Liberia’s ability to conduct transparent and peaceful elections.
Following the conduct of these election, a joint mission led by Prof Attahiru Muhammadu Jega – the Head of the ECOWAS Observer Mission to Liberia, and Leonardo Santos Simão, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and Head of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), visited Liberia ahead of the 10 October 2023 elections to engage with stakeholders and advocate for peace during the electoral period.
During their visit, the delegation engaged with political stakeholders, national institutions, members of the Diplomatic Corps and the UN Country Team. They acknowledged the strides made in the preparations for the elections, emphasizing the importance of conducting credible, transparent, and inclusive polls.
In response to recent incidents of electoral violence, notably the tragic events in Foya in Lofa County on 29 September, the delegation condemned such acts and called for swift investigation and accountability.
They emphasized that “violence has no place in a democratic process” and urged “all political actors to exercise restraint and safeguard the hard-earned peace and national cohesion of Liberia”.
The joint mission urged political parties and all candidates to uphold their commitment to peaceful elections and seek judicial resolution in case of a dispute, in line with the principles outlined in the Farmington River Declaration 2023.
Furthermore, they called upon the people of Liberia and their leaders to uphold values of tolerance and peace during this pivotal period of democratic consolidation.
Reflecting on the joint mission, Mr. Simão expressed optimism that Liberians endeavour to preserve the hard gained peace.
In 2017, Liberia achieved a significant milestone, marking it the first time since the conclusion of the civil war in 2003 that the Government of Liberia managed the entire electoral process.
Now the country stands peaceful and resilient, and is embracing the democratic spirit that has been a guiding force since the earlier turbulent times.
The joint efforts of ECOWAS and the UN ahead of the elections is a testament to the collaborative spirit uniting nations for a common cause: an Africa defined by enduring peace, unity among its peoples, and prosperity. This statement speaks a lot about Liberians maturity in conducting its fourth successful elections since the 2003.
Significance of Peaceful Elections
The peaceful conduct of the October 10th elections holds immense significance, both for Liberia and the broader international community. It underscores several critical points that are worth appreciating.
Recently following the conduct of these elections,
Peaceful elections are the cornerstone of a robust and enduring democracy. They validate the democratic process and affirm the power of the people’s voice.
In Liberia’s case, the nation’s commitment to free and fair elections is a testament to the strength of its democratic institutions and the people’s determination to uphold democratic values.
In countries with a history of conflict and instability, peaceful elections represent a significant milestone towards long-term peace and stability. The ability to transition power through democratic means reduces the likelihood of violence and conflict, offering a more secure future for the nation.
Regional and Continental Leadership
Liberia’s peaceful elections serve as an example for other African nations and the international community. In a region where elections are often marred by violence and disputes, Liberia’s success sets a precedent for peaceful transitions and the importance of reconciliation.
Encouraging Investment and Development
Peace and stability are integral to attracting foreign investment and fostering economic development.
Investors are more likely to put their trust in a nation that has a history of peaceful elections and political stability, creating the potential for economic growth and improved living conditions for the population.
Appreciating the Liberian People
Liberia’s peaceful elections would not have been possible without the unwavering commitment and resilience of the Liberian people. They have shown their dedication to their nation’s democratic journey in numerous ways:
The Spirit of Unity
Despite a history marked by division and conflict, which subsequently led to the death of our Liberians during the political campaign period, Liberians demonstrated their capacity for unity during the elections.
The collective determination to move forward as a nation and put the past behind them is a testament to the strength of the human spirit.
Active Civil Society
Liberia’s civil society has played a vital role in advocating for good governance and democratic principles. Local organizations, including women’s and youth groups, have been instrumental in fostering political awareness and inclusivity.
The active participation of Liberian youth in the electoral process has been remarkable. Young people have shown enthusiasm in registering to vote, campaigning, and making informed choices. This generational shift bodes well for the future of Liberia.
Liberian political leaders including President George Manneh Weah of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change, Joseph Nyumah Boakai of the Unity Party, Alexander Cummings of the Collaborating Political Parties and Cllr. Tiawon Gongloe and other key players, have shown a commitment to democracy by respecting the rule of law and electoral outcomes.
Their willingness to accept the will of the people and engage in peaceful political transitions sets a positive example for the region.
The Way Forward
As Liberia celebrates the success of the October 10th elections, it is essential to recognize that the journey towards a more peaceful, stable, and prosperous nation is ongoing.
The peaceful elections mark a significant step in this journey, but there is still much work to be done. It is becoming very glaring that Liberia and Liberians will head for a presidential runoff between the ruling establishment and main opposition Unity Party.
It is prayers and anticipation that high spirit of unity, oneness and co-existence that march us through the electoral process peace shall be given the space again to take us through peacefully.
Consolidation of Democratic Values
Liberia must continue to consolidate democratic values, ensuring that every election is free, fair, and peaceful. The nation should work to strengthen its institutions and maintain transparency in the electoral process.
The peaceful transition of power offers a unique opportunity to focus on Liberia’s socioeconomic development. This includes investments in education, healthcare, infrastructure, and job creation to improve the living conditions of its citizens.
Reconciliation and Healing
The nation should not forget its commitment to national reconciliation and healing. The wounds of the past are still fresh for many, and Liberia’s success story depends on addressing these historical grievances.
Liberia’s youth are a driving force for change and progress. Their active involvement in politics and decision-making processes should be encouraged and harnessed to build a brighter future for the country.
The peaceful conduct of the October 10th Legislative and Presidential elections in Liberia is an achievement that deserves commendation and celebration. It represents the nation’s commitment to democracy, stability, and peace.
It also serves as a source of inspiration for other countries facing similar challenges in the African continent and beyond.
Liberia’s journey towards democratic consolidation and national healing is far from over, but the peaceful elections are a testament to the resilience, unity, and commitment of its people.
As the nation looks forward to a brighter future, it is essential to continue building on the successes of the past and addressing the challenges that lie ahead.
Liberia’s peaceful elections are not just a momentary achievement; they are a stepping stone toward a more stable, prosperous, and democratic nation.