Bong Traditional Leaders Want Reform in NEC’s Voter Education

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Mr. Joko Kuyon, former Superintendent for Cultural Affairs, Bong County.

Traditional leaders across Bong County have joined the dialogue on electoral reform, and are calling on authorities of the National Elections Commission (NEC) to institute long term civic voter education.

In separate interviews on Wednesday April 17, 2019, as part of the Citizens in Liberia Engaged to Advance Electoral Reform (CLEAR) Project activities, some traditional leaders in the county said effective citizens’ participation in any electoral process is greatly determined by the coverage, and quality of Civic and Voter Education (CVE).

Joko Kuyon, former Bong County Native and Cultural Affairs Superintendent, told this newspaper that the experience from the previous CVE is that it has been ad-hoc; implemented only when NEC releases elections’ timetable.

Kuyon said the exercise largely focuses on voting procedures, and not rooted in larger and longer term governance and democratic system and processes.
“The only time you will hear about the CVE, for example, will be the time election is getting closer, like in 2020 when the senatorial election is approaching, but as soon as the election is over, you don’t hear about CVE anymore,” Mr. Kuyon said.

“Everybody needs the CVE to understand the importance of citizens’ full participation in the political and democratic processes. Again, a key objective of the CVE is to motivate all voters to participate in the elections, because they will understand what the process entails, but the CVE should not be an ad-hoc thing,” the traditional leader said.

He said the CVE does not emphasize only citizens’ awareness, but their participation in all aspects of democratic society, adding, “the CVE should therefore be a continual process, not tied to electoral cycles.”

motivate all voters to participate in the elections, because they will understand what the process entails, but the CVE should not be an ad-hoc thing,” the traditional leader said.

He said the CVE does not emphasize only citizens’ awareness, but their participation in all aspects of democratic society, adding, “the CVE should therefore be a continual process, not tied to electoral cycles.”

Ernest Siakor, Bong County Culture Inspector.

The Inspector for Cultural Affairs in Bong County, Ernest Siakor, said the CVE exercise should not only be tied around the NEC, but through school administrations and civil society organizations.

“In Liberia, our main focus on the CVE is who to vote for rather than how to vote. As the result, we have always voted wrongly. So if we have continuous CVE, citizens will understand the way to choose a leader of their choice,” Mr. Siakor said.

“Citizens should firstly understand how their votes will contribute and impact their livelihoods; so the CVEs should continuously be conducted by representatives of the CSOs, whether election or no election,” the traditional Poro Society leader suggested.

“The New Elections Law,” Siakor said, “should be amended to give the legal authority to another institution, like the Governance Commission (GC), or establish a new autonomous commission that will serve as the driver of a comprehensive CVE program, extending its contents and making it a continuous process,” Siakor said.

By that, he believes NEC would play a monitoring role to ensure quality and consistency of the electoral messages”.

With that goal in mind, Mr. Siakor has begun asking civil society groups in the county to join the traditional leaders to push a local reform agenda to attract government attention.

The New Election Law gives legal authority and responsibility to the NEC to lead, conduct, and facilitate all CVE programs.

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