Monrovia – In 2017 Liberians witnessed a peaceful and democratic election which is expected to facilitate the first transfer of power from one democratically elected President to another since 1944.
The elections saw a huge turnover in the House of Representative with a total of 43 new lawmakers elected out of the 73 seats.
This demonstrated citizens’ dissatisfaction with the poor representation or performance of their lawmakers, which was revealed by a survey conducted by Naymote earlier last year.
The survey revealed that 66% of the citizens interviewed were dissatisfied with the representative functions of their lawmakers.
Naymote as a pro-democracy institution strongly believes that lawmakers should be more accountable, accessible and responsive to their constituents and uphold their constitutional responsibilities to enact legislation, represent citizen’s interests, as well as adequately oversee executive policy implementation, performance and setup a legislative agenda to promote national development.
Unfortunately, the huge turnover during the just ended elections indicated that those elected officials were not working in the interest of the citizens, and that they were not responsive or accountable to their constituents.
It is from this background that Naymote working to strengthen legislative agenda that will be responsive to citizens’ needs and promote democratic accountability in fulfillment of campaign promises has initiated the high level youth stakeholders’ dialogue.
Through these dialogues, Naymote is creating a platform for young people to explore opportunities to influence the legislative agenda of the newly elected lawmakers since young people overwhelmingly voted in the elections.
Over the weekend, the institution held two high level youth stakeholders’ dialogues in Kakata City, Margibi County and Buchanan City, Grand Bassa County respectively.
These dialogues are part of ongoing activities under the project: “Promoting Inclusive and Transparent Election and Youth Engagement in the Electoral Process and Post-Election Debate", which afforded the participants a space to reflect on the factors that contributed to the way these counties voted, highlighting lessons learned from the campaign process and recounting promises made during the campaign period.
The first of the two dialogues, which was held at the Ministry of Education conference hall in Kakata City, Margibi County, brought together 40 participants including young people from youth groups, community based organizations, political parties and the newly elected lawmaker, Hon. Clarence G. Gahrr, district #5, Margibi County.
Similarly in Buchanan City, Grand Bassa County, a replica of the dialogue was held at the Bassa Youth Caucus conference hall and also brought together youth organizations, political parties youth leaders face-to-face with newly elected lawmakers, Hon. Matthew Joe, of district #3 and Hon. Thomas A. Goshua, district #4, Grand Bassa County.
During these deliberations across the two counties, participants stated disunity amongst the legislative caucus, the quest for change, divisive politics and bad media propagandas as factors that influenced that way citizens voted in these counties. They also stated that consistent and clear campaign messages, influence of kinsmen to sway voters as additional factors that decided the election results.
Recounting the campaign promises, participants across the two counties generally mentioned reconciliation, establishment of the District Development Council (DDC), youth empowerment, and healthcare delivery (construction of community clinics) and infrastructure development as promises made by the three elected lawmakers.
Hon. Gahrr for his part emphasized and reintegrated his campaign promises and pledged to live up to the expectations of the citizens, he highlighted reconciliation as key to his leadership as representative of the district. Hon. Goshua reiterated an excerpt of his five pillars campaign promises, which ranked reconciliation first on the list, the construction of a 25 bedrooms hospital in district #4, the purchasing of zincs for residents willing to relocate to Compound and start the rebuilding process amongst other things.
Lastly, Hon. Matthew Joe for his part laid out his plans for the first 90 days in which he emphasized the purchase of a school bus, starting a micro loan for market women and the establishment of the DDC.
At the end of each event, participants expressed their appreciation to Naymote adding that it is the first time that lawmakers are returning to them immediately after the elections to consult them on their legislative agenda. They pleaded with Naymote to replicate the dialogue in other districts.
The lawmakers on the other hand asked Naymote to assist in the training of the district development council members after the establishment as they stressed that the council will be a major tool to help them accomplish their task for the next six years.
Participants and the lawmakers also promised to put their political differences aside and work together in the interest of the district and county. Finally, the lawmakers pledged to setup district’s offices, make their legislative agenda responsive to the citizens’ interests, develop strategies to improve working relationship in their districts and ensure the achievements of those campaign promises which young people committed to track and support.
The three elected lawmakers committed to setting up the DDC and ensure that their districts are reconciled.
This project is supported by the United Nation Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).