— Says young people represent a huge percentage of registered voters
As Liberia prepares to conduct its legislative and presidential elections in October, Naymote Partners for Democratic Development concluded a one-day forum on national youth dialogue on democratic accountability and electoral integrity in Monrovia.
The forum, which took place at a resort in Sinkor, brought together 65 young leaders in politics and civil society from across Montserrado, Nimba, Bong, Grand Bassa, Margibi, Grand Cape Mount, and Bomi Counties with the objective of strengthening young people's understanding of the various frameworks and mechanisms in place to contribute to a peaceful electoral process and to hold political leaders accountable.
Eddie D. Jarwolo, Executive Director of Naymote, who spoke recently at the start of the forum, indicated that the upcoming election is a critical moment for the country's democratic consolidation, with political observers closely watching whether Liberia will continue its progress toward democracy or regress towards exploitative governance models and impunity.
Jarwolo added that the young people represent a huge percentage of registered voters, where they can make a difference through votes, and which can determine the winners and losers of this year's elections.
“So, the overall goal of this event is to contribute to the peaceful conduct of the electoral process through active youth civic engagement and enhance political knowledge,” he told participants.
Jarwolo then informed the young people that on the ballots, they will see faces, but urged them to know that beyond those faces are about accountability, transparency, justice, human rights, job creation, the economy, quality education, healthcare, provision of electricity and safe drinking water, etc.
The Naymote executive director said in 2018, power was peacefully transferred to President George Weah, who pledged to expand political, economic, and social opportunities for all Liberians. However, Liberia's political landscape remains fragile, and the electoral process has become a source of political polarization and social tension.
For his part, Sean Boda, the United States Embassy's Public Affairs Officer, acknowledged Naymote and its partners for organizing such a forum.
He informed the participants that the upcoming elections are yet another opportunity for Liberia to demonstrate to the region and to the world that, despite the difficult economic circumstances and the recent tragedies of COVID, Ebola, and the emergence after the civil war, Liberia is showing the path forward for democracy in a post-conflict state.
“You must continually stand up and promote peace in your communities and amongst your cohorts. This is your duty as a democratic citizen,” he urged. “You are the defenders of your own democracy and of the rule of law. Remember, this fundamentally comes down to a shared belief system and shared values. Liberians have demonstrated their commitment to the shared values of democracy for two decades now, and you, the youth, are the ones who will sustain it.”
Boda further assured them that the United States stands committed to supporting Liberia’s democracy and free, fair, and peaceful elections this year.
“You understand this. You fundamentally understand that folks in this room today will be future decision-makers, and that is why it is so important and so inspiring to see you engage on the tough issues at this point in your life so that you will be better positioned to lead in the future,” he added.
Earlier on, Nathaniel B. Walker, Political Advisor and Early Warning Focal Point at ECOWAS, and UNDP Representative James Mulbah, highlighted the importance of collaboration and partnership in promoting democracy and good governance in Liberia and the sub-region.