Monrovia - The National Movement for Transparent Elections (NAYMOTE) has launched an inter-party youth debate program in Liberia.
These debates will bring together youth representatives from major political parties in Liberia.
Speaking at the first amongst series of debates on Friday, January 20 held in the auditorium of the University of Liberia’s Capitol Hill Campus, the Executive Director of NAYMOTE, Eddie Jarwolo said the exercise aims at creating the space for young people to come face-to-face with political parties in order to understand these party’s platform.
“There will be series of debate throughout the election process. We decided to do this because you are the ones that will make the president of this country. You have the power to decide who will lead you as we go through a powerful transitional process,” Jarwolo told the gathering.
Jarwolo said: “Young people between 18 to 32 years make up 55% of the voting population. Your group has been the most marginalized poverty stricken group.
"So, we thought by now, nine months to the election for them to start saying what is it that those political parties have in mind for you.
How will they address the issue about your education? There is no way this country can move forward without building the capacity of its citizens.”
The first debate, which brought together youth representatives from the opposition all Liberian Party and the Liberty Party, discussed the manifesto of political parties, highlighting the issues of land reform and education in the country.
Jarwolo noted that land reform and education were discussed because they were key factors toward nation building.
During the debate, both political parties promised to improve the educational sector.
ALP Youth Chair Ike M. J. Moore, along with the party’s Montserrado County Youth Chairman, Adolphus N.S. Weah, said when their party is elected, the government would provide subsidy to private schools and carve policy to protect citizens’ land rights.
On the contrary, Cephas Flanzamaton and Emmanuel K. Barnes, Vice Chairman and Secretary-General respectively of Liberty Party’s National Youth Congress deferred, arguing that there’s no need to subsidize private schools.
The LP youth wing leaders mentioned that these private institutions are profit making institutions, so a LP government will allot more funds to public schools in order to improve the system.
Responding to a member of the audience question about stopping the double sale of land, the LP stalwarts said the party would ensure that the current land reform laws are well implemented.
“There are laws put in place to stop the double sale of land; but they are not being implemented properly. So we will ensure that the laws are implemented properly, ” said LP youth secretary general.
For their part, the ALP youth leaders promised to strengthen the Judiciary System and introduce harsh punishment for people who will sell a piece of land to multiple parties at the same time.
“We will strengthen the judiciary to persecute those who will be involved in such act,” said Adolphus Weah.
The program was attended by cross section of youth groups and students as well as children from across Liberia.
Siatta F. Sherriff, speaker of the Liberian Children Parliament hailed Naymote for the initiative, and said the children parliament is following the electoral process keenly because any decision taken during the 2017 elections would have great impact on them.
“It is important for us the children of Liberia to know what political parties have within their manifestos that reflect the current realities and issues that are faced by children. "
"Even though the children of Liberia are not eligible to vote, it is important that their issues are flagged out in their (Political Parties) platforms because we are also citizens of Liberia and the ones that will inherit the future,” Sheriff asserted.
She also called on the young people especially those who will be voting for the first time in October, 2017 to get actively involved in the electoral process.
“Your votes will determine who will become the next leader in 2017."
"And since the voter registration card is something that will qualify you to vote, it’s time for us to speak out through our votes by going to the registration center to get our voter card come February 1, 2017,” Sheriff admonished.”
NAYMOTE is a nongovernmental institution that promotes democracy, peace building, human rights and civic engagement in Liberia.
Established in 2001 by students’ leaders and activists, the institution has initiated several programs to foster political accountability, thereby making elected leaders more accessible, responsible and accountable to the electorates.
NAYMOTE also builds capacity of local leaders to be more effective in service delivery and increase youth and women participation in decision making processes, among others.