Ambassador Tunde Ajisomo, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Special Representative to Liberia, says his mission in Monrovia is closely following the row over the Code of Conduct.
For that, Ajisomo has called on Liberian political actors not to resort to violence, but to seek the path of peace to resolve the impasse.
Section 5.1 in Part five of the Code of Conduct Act on political participation says all presidential appointees such as ministers and other public officials, including those in tenured position desirous of running for elected offices, must resign two and three years respectively prior to elections.
In an exclusive interview at the weekend, Amb. Ajisomo said that his mission in Liberia was engaged in behind the scenes consultations to quell the rising tensions from the interpretation of the Code of Conduct.
Ajisomo said although Article 41 of the Vienna Convention says diplomats must respect the laws of the host country and refrain from commenting on issues considered within the premises of a country, “the Code of Conduct issue has now become very contentious, thus the need to engage Liberia’s political actors was necessary.”
He said the ECOWAS mission in Monrovia was not sitting on the fence, because in recent weeks, some Liberian politicians have been visiting his offices to raise issues relating to the controversial Code of Conduct.
“Our approach is for a dialogue, for the laws to be respected. Our approach is to engage ourselves. This is not the time for us to engage in violence. They’ve been coming to us to explain their concerns, but ECOWAS has been telling them not to resort to violence,” said Ajisomo.
A recent ruling of the Supreme Court upholding the code of conduct as legal and constitutional has placed the candidacies of many politicians in doubt, heightening tensions ahead of the October 10 presidential and legislative elections.
In a related development, National Elections Commission (NEC) chairman Cllr. Jerome Korkoya shortly thereafter vowed to enforce the Code of Conduct to the letter.
But Amb. Ajisomo reminded politicians that the Supreme Court is the highest court in the land in any country.
“What I can assure you is that ECOWAS is monitoring, is talking and engaging with the politicians on the need for them to be law-abiding and the need for them to ensure that they respect the laws of Liberia,” Ajisomo added.
He then called on all sides to peacefully resolve the ongoing dispute, adding, “Therefore, we want the Liberian government and people to ensure that this matter is handled in a very peaceful manner; in a manner that will not bring conflict to this country.”
The ECOWAS mission has meanwhile expressed support for President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s call for the holding of a national pre-elections political forum, but indicated that ECOWAS and the United Nations should spearhead such a meeting.
In her state of the nation address last January, President Sirleaf named Dr. Amos Sawyer, Governance Commission chairman, to chair the planned conference.
Ajisomo said the ECOWAS office here is working with the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and other stakeholders to get involved in the political dialogue, “with a view to ensuring it becomes inclusive.”
Ajisomo said such a meeting should bring together groups such as the Inter-religious Council of Liberia.
According to him, the upcoming October elections are crucial and that ECOWAS was deploying a long-term technical elections observers mission to provide support to ensure a transparent, credible and peaceful elections.
He said ECOWAS, which played a key role in ending Liberia’s long-running civil conflict well over a decade ago, is exerting all efforts to build on the democratic gains made so far, as the pending polls will be the third postwar democratic elections.
Amb. Ajisomo has also cautioned all political actors in the country to comply with the ECOWAS protocol on good governance and democracy, reminding politicians or political parties about the recent robust action taken by the sub regional grouping in The Gambia.
He warned that any political actor or group failing to comply, “ECOWAS has a mechanism in place to ensure that things are done properly… we will ensure compliance.”