ECOWAS Envoy in Liberia Blames Female Voters for Low Women’s Representation in Legislature
MONROVIA – The Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) Ambassador to Liberia has expressed strong feelings over national elections in Liberia, in terms of electoral inequality of women on the country’s political landscape.
Report by Samuel G. Dweh, Contributing Writer
The ECOWAS envoy said Liberian women who voted for a male candidate over female candidate should take responsibility for the extreme low number of women in Liberia’s National Legislature.
“Women who vote for male candidates against their female colleagues in the national election, with requisite qualifications over the male opponent, are the cause of the low number of women in the House of Representatives or the Senate,” Ambassador Tunde Ajisomo said.
He made the assertions at a three-day (21-23, July, 2020) workshop to build the capacity of reporters of ECOWAS Radio as part of preparation for the Mid-Term Liberian Senatorial elections scheduled for December 8, 2020.
Ambassador Ajisomo’s comments were part of his Opening and Welcome Remarks at the Workshop.
Veteran Liberian radio journalist, Frank Sainworla, Jr., served as lead facilitator of the Workshop.
Still on the ‘political choice’ issues, the Nigerian ECOWAS Envoy said such male-preference voting action by women voters is also responsible for Liberia’s struggle to attain the ‘30% gender-parity’ of men and women for each political party’s leadership list to be taken to the Elections Commission (NEC) Chapter 4, subsection 4.5 of the Liberian Electoral Law, under the 1986 constitution, talks about ‘gender-balance’ (male-female ratio) of 30% in the number of persons on each political party’s list of leadership for submission to the NEC.
However, this trend can be reversed with political education by women’s groups, Ambassador Ajisomo envisaged.
“Women’s groups can solve this problem by educating their colleagues on the qualifications of women in the elections, and their power to bring about positive changes for women and men alike when they are in political power,” he added.
The Nigerian ECOWAS Diplomat spoke on many political issues and the Coronavirus pandemic confronting Liberia and another ECOWAS member-State—Mali.
“COVID-19 has become a multiplier threat to each ECOWAS member-State hit by the virus,” he said.
Still on COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. Ajisomo said the impacts of the respiratory virus has made covering elections in ECOWAS member-States, with the virus, much complicated now than before COVID-19 arrived. He said, enforcing Social Distancing on voting queue, for example, may deprive some eligible voters of casting their ballots in the time stipulated for voting, and this will certainly political crisis.
“Getting elections materials is another major challenge for any ECOWAS member-State preparing for elections in this time of COVID-19. Companies, in Western Countries, African Governments had always relied on for elections materials have stopped production due to impacts of COVID-19,” he informed the audience of Liberians.
He urged all Liberian journalists and politicians of ECOWAS member-State, Liberia, to take a political lesson from the ongoing political upheavals in another ECOWAS member-State.
He explained that the Malian political crisis was sparked by the main rival political bloc’s perception of election-rigging by the ruling party or the Government.
“Kidnap by a popular member of the main rival opposition party by Islamic Jihadist and Government’s inability to free the kidnapped politician have further inflamed the political upheaval in Mali,” the ECOWAS Nigerian Diplomat reported.
Ambassador Ajisomo told the Liberian media practitioners that three vital factors determine the credibility of any election of any Country: Participation, Competition and Legitimacy.
He advised the Workshop’s participants and, by extension, the general Liberian journalists’ community: “Be abreast with latest information about COVID-19 to report on it effectively. Have sufficient knowledge about the impacts of COVID-19 in other ECOWAS member-States, through COVID-19-related information on the website of the West African Health Organization, or WAHO.”
There’s so much falsehood in many of the media reports on COVID-19, based on many journalists’ failure to thoroughly investigate COVID-19-related reports given to them by other sources, Ambassador Ajisomo expressed his observation. “This is part of a chain of unethical media reports collectively called info-demic—a new term coin to describe the damaging effect of such story,” he explained.
He showed the Liberian journalists their side in the political arena of their Country.
“On media ethics, Journalists are expected to be apolitical—meaning they are not partisans to any political party,” he emphasized, and relayed a story about a non-Liberian ‘role model’ in the news media profession; “A journalist, of another country, refused a Press Secretary job offered by the President of his Country. He told the Head of State, ‘I won’t be able to criticize your governance style when I’m in your employ’.”
The Nigerian ECOWAS Diplomat also spoke on a major political issues that often beats the political will of Liberia’s political ruling class since the birth of the political foundation of Liberia 173 years ago (1847)
“This is called “Trucking in Liberia; in my Country, Nigeria, it is called Vote buying,” he disclosed, referring to wealthy politicians’ Illegal transportation of registered voters to vote at where they (trucked voters) didn’t register (an electoral constituency where the chief ‘Trucker’ registered to vote) “This is another disrupting factor in the electoral process around ECOWAS member-States,” ECOWAS Ambassador to Liberia Tunde Ajisomo warned.
The Executive Director of the Liberia Broadcasting Corporation (LBS), Ledgerhood Rennie, another Facilitator at the Workshop, tailored his Presentation solely on the ‘gender-parity’ issue highlighted in the Opening and Welcome Remarks.
“A replacement for a Representative or Senator who had been voted out, for example, should be another woman, to maintain women’s political strength in the Country’s political arena,” said the LBS Leader, speaking on the topic “Striking the Gender-Balance and Highlighting Women Political Participation”.
His opening comment was “The World is Not Fair,” which he supported with photos of different scenes of protests by women’s groups in other parts of the World.
He expressed his conviction that regular play of women’s-political-competence jingles over various radio stations can spike political love in more educated sitting-over-the-fence-women to jump down into the “men-dominated” political arena.
He tasked female journalists, especially the membership of the Female Journalists Association of Liberia (FeJAL), to begin spearhead generating discussions surrounding the gender-disparity issue by running inviting various educated women to their shows on radio.
But, Saywhar Gbaa, a female participant, of ECOWAS Radio, said many of the educated women invited to women-run radio programs by female journalists often turn down the journalist’s invitation minutes to commencement of the program. “Some of them don’t pick up your call to remind them about the program,” she said to the Facilitator.
Other hired professionals made Presentations at Workshop. They are: Klonnious Daniel Blamo, Program Manager, Independent Media, on “Media Audience Engagement in a Time of COVID-19”; Mr. Euriahs Togar, Chairman, Mass Communication Department, University of Liberia, on “Effectively Using Digital Resources and the Social Media In Covering COVID-19”; Mr. Calixte Hessou, Communications Specialist, on “Putting the COVID-19 Stats into Proper Perspective”; Mr. Malcolm W. Joseph, Executive Director, Center for Media Studies & Peacebuilding (CEMESP), on “Reforming Our Elections Law & Journalists’ Effective Use of Election Reporting Handbook”; Mr. Peter Kahler, Deputy Director General, Liberia News Agency (LINA) on “Fairness and Objectivity in Reporting News About COVID-19”; and Mr. Frank Sainworla, Jr. (Workshop’s Lead Facilitator), on “Key Provisions in the Elections Law and Challenges for the Liberian Media in Covering Elections”, and two other topics.