PAYNESVILLE – The Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA) and the National Elections Commission (NEC), joined forces to host a significant public dialogue and awareness event aimed at Electoral Dispute Resolution (EDR). The event, which took place on Tuesday, September 19, at Paynesville City Hall in Paynesville, mark an important moment in the LNBA and NEC’s Electoral Support Project.
The theme for the event was “Electoral Dispute Resolution with a Focus on Distinguishing Between Courtroom Litigation and Administrative Hearings Conducted by the National Elections Commission (NEC).” The gathering served as a platform to initiate capacity building, legal advocacy, and a public discourse on election laws and the procedures involved in handling disputes at the National Elections Commission, including the subsequent appeal process to the Supreme Court of Liberia.
Distinguished guests in attendance included Cllr. Sylvester D. Rennie, National President of LNBA; Cllr. Bornor M. Varmah, National Secretary-General and Project Supervisor of LNBA; Honorable Jamesetta H. Wolokolie, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Republic of Liberia; Madam Josephine Nkrumah, ECOWAS Commission’s Resident Representative; Eirini Maria Gounari, Legal Analyst of the European Union Election Observation Mission, and other prominent figures.
Cllr. Sylvester D. Rennie, National President of LNBA, emphasized the significance of the collaboration between LNBA and NEC. He explained that this cooperation was established through a memorandum of understanding (MOU), wherein political parties committed to collaborate with relevant stakeholders to ensure the successful conduct of the 2023 Presidential and legislative elections while upholding the rule of law.
According to Cllr. Rennie, the MOU also outlined several key initiatives. These included public dialogues, engagement with international partners, meetings with civil society organizations, and collaboration with religious leaders and the security sector to address electoral violence concerns. Furthermore, LNBA and NEC would conduct experience-sharing sessions on the ethical aspects of EDR and resilience against political pressure for NEC’s senior leadership.
Cllr. Rennie highlighted that LNBA’s role extended to providing training for Civil Society Organizations, the security sector, and the media on the effective, efficient, and timely disposition of electoral complaints. He also revealed that the MOU envisioned long-term capacity development and training plans for LNBA members and NEC.
Cllr. Rennie underscored the historical significance of the LNBA-NEC MOU, noting that it placed immense importance on its implementation to ensure adherence to the rule of law by both election parties and administrators. He acknowledged the support from international partners, including the Irish and Swedish governments and the European Union, who approved a $150,000 grant for the program’s implementation.
Justice Jamesetta H. Wolokolie, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, emphasized the need for lawyers to uphold the law and ensure the merit of their election-related cases before taking them to the Supreme Court. She urged that cases should primarily pass through NEC, as it serves as the initial point of resolution for election disputes. Justice Wolokolie stressed the pivotal role lawyers play in maintaining peace during election periods, urging them to protect Liberia’s peace as the nation approached upcoming elections.
Boakai Dukuly, Commissioner at NEC, speaking on behalf of Madam Davidetta Brown Lansanah, Chairperson of the National Elections Commission, reiterated the importance of adhering to the legal process. He emphasized that election dispute cases should begin with the NEC, with only appeal cases reaching the Supreme Court. He encouraged all stakeholders to familiarize themselves with the election laws, specifically referencing Chapter Five on page 14 of the 1986 election law, as amended in 2014, to ensure compliance and a fair electoral process.