MONROVIA – In Liberia, a country ravaged by a civil war that left most of its youthful population vulnerable, the peaceful conduct of presidential and legislative elections is a major issue as most of its youthful population is beginning to be viewed as vulnerable tools for perpetuating violence by power holders.
By Gerald C. Koinyeneh – [email protected]
Seeking to address this issue in promoting peaceful elections, the USAID-supported Youth for Peace (Y4P) Activity, through its implementing partners, Catholic Relief Services, and the Liberia Peacebuilding Office conducted post-election peace commitment meetings with key population of the society including the youth, student and religious leaders and members of intellectual forums. These meetings were aimed at ensuring a commitment to peace regardless of who wins the presidential election.
At the heart of this initiative was the engagement of opportunity youths called “Zogos and Zogies,” who have been stigmatized as agents of violence. The event focused on amplifying the voices of not just the opportunity youths but also students, religious leaders, and members of the intellectual class.
During the meeting, they courageously shared their personal stories, highlighting the challenges they faced and, more importantly, their aspirations to promote peace in Liberia. These opportunity youths, who have often been used as agents of violence, found a platform to express their desire for change and a chance to contribute positively to society.
The youth, in a statement adopted during the dialogue, affirmed their commitment to peace and expressed heartfelt gratitude to the international community for supporting Liberia’s electoral process.
“We extend our heartfelt appreciation to the international community’s involvement in observing and supporting the electoral process. In conclusion, we the leadership of the various ghettos in Montserrado hereby pledge our support towards remaining peaceful after the announcement of the run-off election results and say thank you to the American people, USAID, for their support to the Liberian people during times like these, the group said through their leader Jenkins Sieh of Doe Community.
The religious community
During the dialogue with the faith groups, they acknowledged that Liberia has gone through an experiential period of extreme violence since the incursion of the 1990 civil war. And as such the important role played by the religious community over the years (1990 – 2005) facilitated by the faith groups have helped to a large extent in the sustenance of peace in Liberia.
The faith groups warned politicians to stop undermining the peace of Liberia because of their “selfish and naked” quest for power and as statesmen, they should be in the position at all times to carry out a responsible and violent free message that will promote peace.
It is also observed that some persons are involved with the spreading of fake news, and hate speeches which have the propensity to derail the hard-earned peace. The dialogue meeting frowned on actions carried out by some politicians who are in the habit of using hate speeches against one another. The leaders say that respect for one another, upholding of integrity, and accountability should at times be exemplified.
The religious leaders acknowledged the role of the joint security in the management of the peace and called on the NEC to speed up with the announcement of the election results.
“We called on the National Elections Commission to speed up the pronouncement of the result of the runoff presidential election so as to alleviate fear in the communities and give hope to the citizenry.
We call on the religious community to review roles performance, negate compromising of neutrality, engage the campaign for voter education in the voting process so as to reduce invalid votes.
“We call on political leaders to desist from the premature pronouncement of unofficial election results outside the National Elections Commission; as well as extend an open invitation to political leaders on the electoral process and the acceptance of results. Any party unsatisfied should use the legal means to address their issue of contestation. The religious leaders say that we want peace, no more violence.
The IRCL also calls on all Liberians to be calm, peaceful and await the pronouncement of the results of the runoff presidential election by the NEC.”
Youth and student leaders
For the students, youth and intellectual centers’ leaders, they also reaffirmed their commitment to maintain the peace and stop any acts of violence now and after the results of the presidential runoff election are announced.
“We gather here today as agents of peace in buttressing the international community’s effort, particularly the United States Agency for International Development. We urge government leaders, multilateral organizations, and civil society organizations to seize the moment and be champions of this agenda across their various networks and communities. We call on all leaders to prioritize protecting the peace of this nation, as it is supreme for the country’s growth and development,” they said in a statement ready Mohammed Gandhi Kamara, president of the Liberia National Student Union.