Catholic Bishops Want Courts “Resolve Elections Matters Expeditiously”

The Most Rev. Lewis Zeigler, Archbishop of Monrovia

As the Supreme Court renders its opinion on whether or not the temporary stay order placed on all preparations leading to the November 7 runoff election will be officially granted to the Liberty Party (LP), the Catholic Church is admonishing the Court to handle the case expeditiously and with care, as well as within the confines of the Constitution.

The Liberty Party, whose presidential candidate Charles W. Brumskine came third in the October 10 polls, filed a complaint to the National Elections Commission (NEC) alleging electoral irregularities and frauds carried out by some stakeholders in the elections processes. While their complaint was being investigated, NEC went on with preparations for the runoff election, which action caused the party to go to the Supreme Court begging for a writ of prohibition on all preparations for the runoff election until the NEC would deliberate on the LP’s complaint.

“Of more serious concern is the allegation by some political parties of electoral frauds,” the Church said in a statement signed, attested and approved by Most Rev. Anthony F. Borwah, Bishop of Gbarnga, who is the President of Catholic Bishops Conference of Liberia (CABICOL) and the Most Rev. Lewis Zeigler, Archbishop of Monrovia, as well the Most Rev. Andrew J. Karnley, Bishop of Cape Palmas. “They are channeling their grievances through the judiciary system. We commend such political parties who did not seek redress through means of violent demonstration but rather through the pacific means of our court system. We believe that this is the right direction for our emerging democracy. And we urge our courts to expeditiously resolve these matters as part of their national duty to preserve our peace and ensure that our collective national interest is protected.”

Rev. Fr. Dennis Nimene, Secretary General, CABICOL, read the Bishops’ Conference’s statement

The statement was delivered by Rev. Fr. Dennis Nimene, Secretary General of CABICOL.

The Church said like any other human society, irregularities and frauds are part of electoral systems but efforts in good faith to curtail or eliminate them through peaceful and judicious means is a welcome ideology that should be hailed by all.

“Like in any human society, our October 10 elections were not devoid of some irregularities; ranging from late opening of some polling stations to long hours of waiting on queues.  In one of its press statements, the National Elections Commission took cognizance of these challenges and promised to improve on them.”

Invalid Votes

Concerning the alarming number of invalid votes the Church said lack of sufficient civic voter education coupled with some voters deliberate errors caused the invalid votes to swell beyond imagination.

“The news of 88,574 invalid votes during the October 10 elections demonstrates to us the continuous need of education on how to vote. We are therefore calling on all pastoral agents in the Catholic Church (priests, religious, and catechists) to make it part of their pastoral duties to educate our people on how to mark their ballots,” the statement said, noting further that the Church too has a civic duty to assist in ensuring that no one is disenfranchised due to their lack of knowledge of the process. “We urge the National Elections Commissions, various organizations and groups throughout the country to assist in this national endeavor,” the Church noted.

Voters’ apathy.

“It is an open secret that most people feel reluctant to go through the process of exercising their franchise during run-off. Some have cited long queues, unbearable procedures while others fear intimidations,” the Church said.

It added, “Our resolve to elect a leader of our choice must never be discouraged by these variables. We know Liberians are enduring and prayerful people.  Let us be reminded that voting is a sacred duty to both God and the state. We are therefore calling on all eligible voters to please turn out during the run-off.”

The Catholic Church’s Stand

On its position about the political processes the Catholic Church noted that it is not a political institution but it is however committed to working with any political party that will win the Presidential Elections of 2017.

“Nonetheless, the respect and protection of the inalienable rights of each and every Liberian, and all those living within our territories remain a sine qua non condition for a harmonious working relationship,” the statement mentioned.

They noted that they stand to promote a society where all are considered equal, the rights of every citizen are respected and human dignity preserved. “We want free, fair and transparent elections that produce a legitimate leadership that all can support to develop our country and preserve our peace. In peace, we will develop our country,” the Church continued in its statement.

The Church thanked all partners, including the Liberia National Police (LNP), the National Elections Commission (NEC), men and women of all voting age who participated in the process and International partners who continue to support Liberia’s forward march to lasting peace.

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