By Gwendolyn S. Myers, Executive Director, Messengers of Peace-Liberia, Inc.

Liberia goes to the polls next week Tuesday, 10 October 2017, to elect a brand new President and 73 Legislators. Electoral campaigns would close on Sunday 8 October 2017 and electorates would have sufficient period to reflect on who would be our next democratically elected President.

As the country prepares to vote and as we continue the meaningful involvement of young people in the electoral process designed to promote peace, it is important to point out that young people could have an influential role in the outcome of this election and the imminent crowning of not just the next President but of 73 members of Legislature.

One of our main goals during this electoral process has been to enhance peace. We don’t want to just inform or entertain young people to ‘Vote Peace’; we crave to build relationships with young people to dispel rumours, tribalism, fear and anger. Our joint responsibility is to minimize misunderstanding and conflicts between everyone; particularly young people. We seek to manage their expectations.

Messengers of Peace-(MOP), Liberia, discovered during its second annual peace summer camp supported by ECOWAS/AU/EU under the “Emergency Support to Preventive Diplomacy and Related Actions to ensure a free, fair and peaceful Elections in Liberia”, that one of the keys to changing the outlooks for young Liberians voting for the very first time, is laying that civic responsibility at an early age.

Cestos city, the rural capital of River Cess County, is a place where options for young Liberians, particularly young girls, are limited. Roughly one in five female adolescents will have the opportunity to complete primary school. It is a place where our volunteers for the second time this year, had their most major challenge as well as their most rewarding experience in the implementation of the “Enhance Youth Participation in 2017 Electoral Process”, with funding support from UNDP & UN Peacebuilding Fund.

First was the challenge of getting a four-wheel drive that would ferry us to Cestos City, then was the horrible road conditions and lastly was working against time and the rain. Thanks for our ever innovative and creative volunteers who came up with the idea to use ‘Pem-Pem’ (Motorcycles) to ensure project compliance in order for us to remain on schedule.

The two motorbikes that our volunteers hired lurched and rocked side to side as they ascended farther and farther down the remote roadways toward Cesto City.

Upon their late arrival to Cestos City last Saturday, the young people in that County on seeing our volunteer peace messengers and actors welcomed them in disbelief as they went about performing the theatre4peace the following day.

In the weeks ahead and following the cast of ballots, MOP-Liberia will continue the call for dialogue and mediation and we expect all young people to respond to our messages for free, fair and peaceful elections next week and whatever the outcome, we expect them to accept the results and work with the next administration.

Until then, when we begin a new series on ‘Mediation and Dialogue’, we reiterate our call for a peaceful transfer of power from one democratically elected President to another and from one legislator to another. As you vote, let peace be your watch phrase. Peace first, Peace above all else and May Peace prevail in our time. #Votepeace; #Peace my democratic choice.

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