MONROVIA – The Kofi Annan Institute for Conflict Transformation (KAICT) at the University of Liberia (UL) has celebrated the 2023 International Day of Peace with a parade and an indoor program held on the Capitol Hill campus.
Held under the theme “Peaceful Election: Prevent Electoral Violence,” the program brought together students, UL officials, state security officials, foreign guests, religious leaders, and members of civil society.
Following speeches highlighting peace messages, a panel discussion was held in the Auditorium of the University’s Capitol Hill campus on Thursday, September 21, 2023.
Amb. Josephine Nkrumah, the Special Representative of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to Liberia delivered the keynote speech.
As Liberia gets closer to election day, Amb. Nkrumah suggested that electoral processes and the day of voting should be a celebration of fostering national cohesion where citizens exercise their right to vote and choose whom they delegate to lead them.
The ECOWAS Envoy said they should exercise those rights peacefully in an atmosphere of hope for progress and development.
Amb. Nkrumah noted that Liberia has stayed the course of peace, and that should be proven to the world this year.
In proxy of the President of the University of Liberia Prof. Dr. Julius Julukon Sarwolo Nelson, Jr., the Vice President for UL Relations Cllr. Norris L. Tweah said the University has been at the epicenter for the sustenance of peace and democracy even before Liberia transitioned to democracy.
“Many of our forebearers – students, faculty, and staff – lost their lives for the peace in this country. So it is fitting that we are here in this very iconic, historic … place to talk about how do we [protect] the peace especially as our country goes to another election,” said Cllr. Tweah.
The UL vice president expressed confidence that these elections will go ahead peacefully, stating that everyone just needs to be reminded that they now live in a democracy and citizens have to elect their leaders.
During the panel discussion, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) and a product of the KAICT, Maj. Gen. Prince Charles Johnson, III, narrated the role of the Liberian military during the country’s civil war for which it was dissolved after the war.
However, Gen. Johnson reassured Liberians that he often reminds his military commanders that the new AFL respects democratic principles and human rights, and it is no longer used to target people against the Constitution.
Gen. Johson said in the past the AFL was used to come on the University campus to quiet down demonstrations, arrest political leaders, and take them to military barracks for detention in violation of the Constitution.
“I say these things to mean that as we go to the election … because of our experience we’ve decided [that the] NEC [National Elections Commission [ should not bring any precinct center in any of our installations because we don’t want to get involved,” said Gen. Johnson.
He said the mission of the new AFL is to provide support to joint security, explaining that AFL personnel will remain in their barracks on Election Day, October 10, 2023.
The Amry Chief of Staff indicated that the AFL will only come outside if there is an incident that the police cannot handle.
Earlier making remarks, UL Acting Vice President for Graduate School Dr. Anthony A. Kanneh said it was no mistake to observe the International Day of Peace at the University of Liberia, considering that UL is the premier university of the nation.
He said the credibility of the elections is important, adding that the fairness of the elections is the foundation of any democratic institution and society.
The panellists at the program were Bishop M. Wolo Belleh of the Harvest International Ministries; Imam Ali Krayee, National Chief Imam, Republic of Liberia; Liberia Immigration Service Deputy Commissioner for Naturalization Col. Asatu Bah Kenneh; Gen. Johnson; and students Julian Nelson and Salome Tulay.
In their different presentations, the panellists called on Liberians, especially young people, to exercise their rights peacefully during and after the elections and to protect the country’s peace.