Liberia: Gov’t Launches Elections Violence Mitigation System

Stakeholders at the launch of the Early Warning and Early Response System.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs has launched an early warning and early response system to mitigate election violence.

The launch of the initiative comes as the country is expected to hold general and presidential elections in 2023. However, there are reported pre-campaigning activities taking place ahead of the elections, which is an early warning sign. 

Launching the initiative, the Minister of Internal Affairs, Varney Sirleaf, said since 2013, the Liberian government declared early warning and response as a sound policy and a right political move for maintaining peace and security in the country.

“Since that time, we have tried to incrementally strengthen our early warning and response capacity with the help of partners. We are exceedingly glad that our conflict early warning system has become decentralized at county, district, and at some community levels,” he said.

According to him, the system potentially provides accurate and actionable information in a transparent and sustainable manner to decision makers that helps to prevent violence and maintain peace and security across the country.

“Before going forward, let me clarify that our conflict early warning and response infrastructure in Liberia may seem to be polarized.  For example, the PBO has conflict early warning and response functions, while the National Centre for Coordination of Response Mechanism (NCCRM), another government entity, may seem to have similar functions,” he said.

However, the minister mentioned that each structure has different functions required to coordinate all responses of early warnings and provide recommendations to Government and other stakeholders.

Sirleaf said that the Government has worked over the years with partners to develop the early warning and response infrastructure.

“Based on what I have been told, the System has the capacity to identify risks and threats to peace and security and raise ‘Red Flags; for a real-time response by policy makers and relevant institutions,” he explained.

The Minister used the occasion to appeal to the media and politicians to be mindful of what they put out there in the public that could potentially undermine peace and stability of the country.

“Be mindful of misinformation and hate speech — that potentially undermine social trust between government and its citizens,” he warned.

He expressed gratitude to international partners, particularly UNDP, for modernizing the System.

The Chairperson of the National Election Commission (NEC) Davidetta Brown Lansannah said that the NEC remains committed to ensuring free, fair and transparent elections for the country.

She said that election is the central act of democracy and it is usually the bridge between peace and stability as well as economic development. 

And as such, the NEC chairperson said her institution is not oblivious to the reality. However, she said she wants all stakeholders of election issues to be mindful to play a role that will show credibility to the election processes to ensure that the outcomes are acceptable to all.

“The NEC remains committed to organizing the 2023 General and Presidential Elections in a free, fair, transparent and credible manner. This is necessary to maintain the stability of our nation and to facilitate the actualization of the development of our country, she stated.

According to her, there are some steps the NEC has taken to ensure that the voters’ registration remains peaceful. 

“We have signed a memorandum of understanding with the PeaceBuilding Office to cooperate and coordinate its efforts aimed at maintaining the peace during the electoral processes. The two parties will share information through their decentralized structures and the early warning situation room for regular dialogue to avoid potential conflict issues, she explained. 

She said the NEC is working with the relevant stakeholders to address some of the challenges associated with administrative electoral boundaries.

The NEC Chair said civic and voter education has already commenced in some counties to educate the public.

Brown further said that the Commission has been engaged with briefing development partners.

“These engagement meetings with development partners have proven to be worthy for our cause for a free fair democratic and transparent elections,” she explained. 

Also speaking, the Resident Representative of UNDP Stephen Rodrigues said he though there are people in Liberia who may be ready to cause chaos he is confident that the peace process will not become derailed.

“I feel very confident that Liberia will not bend, will not break and will not fall because of a few. This is because the vast majority of the people of the country want peace and stability. And we will help them to ensure that Liberia takes a peaceful path to its elections. The fear mongers will not succeed. Those waiting in the dark and scheming will not succeed,” he said. 

Meanwhile, the Executive Director of the Liberia Peacebuilding Office, Edward Mulbah has called on the government to fund the work of the Peacebuilding Office.

According to Mulbah, the early warning and early response system is highly donor dependent. 

“We are worried that this system should not be donor dependent, rather the government should take full responsibility to sustain it through financial investments,” he mentioned.

The event was held in Monrovia over the weekend and was attended by high-level government officials and development partners.