Gbarpolu: Mining Activities Impede VRU Process, Says NEC Magistrate

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The National Elections Commission (NEC) Voter Roll Update is not going as smoothly as anticipated in Gbarpolu County because those that the exercise is intended for are busy attending to mining and farming activities.

The NEC, prior to the commencement of the registration process was looking forward to signing up tens of thousands of young people, many of whom would be first time voters in the October 14, 2014 Special Senatorial election.  However, to their surprise the young people in that part of the country seem to be casting an economic vote, mining gold and diamonds, rather than taking advantage of the VRU exercise.

NEC’s Gbarpolu Magistrate, Duke Sarnor, said most of the young people in the county are wholly and solely involved in mining activities. “This seems to be an obstacle to the process.”

According to magistrate Sarnor, the exercise is not proceeding as expected because the young people are not responding positively. “They are not coming out to register because almost all of them are involved in gold and diamond mining and this is an embarrassment because we don’t have the time to interact with the youths.”

NEC has embarked on a process to register about 250,000 voters, with primary attention to be given first time voters. First time voters include those who were below the voting age of 18 prior to the 2011 general and Presidential elections.

Speaking to reporters in Bopolu, Mr. Sarnor indicated, that the VRU process will not be a success if the present trend continues. “There are more young people in this place, but they are not taking advantage of the exercise.  They are keeping themselves too busy and this is a problem.”

He also made mention of some level of difficulties being faced by the VRU team due to inaccessibility. He complained of logistical support, most especially means of transport.

The NEC magistrate made reference to Henry Town as part of Bopolu which has low amount of participation in the VRU process.

“Our staff made it to go in those inaccessible areas. What they do is drive to the end of the roads, get down and used porters to help them through.”

The local NEC official also confirm of receiving relative low number of registrations from Henry Town.  He said the cause of the low numbers from first time voters in that part of Liberia is because both the parents and children leave the community to get to various mining sites early in the morning.

“In order to help our people be part of the VRU process we included civil educators to help them by performing dramas and speaking other dialects that they understand.  Thank God that the process is going on and we can’t have the people blame anyone because this is Liberia first time carry on this process,” said Mr. Sarnor. 

Some youth have voiced out their preference for minding their own business, mining minerals, rather than minding politicians who will fail them.

“I’m not going to be part of this process because the people we vote for are not working for the good of their citizens,” said 19 year-old Emmanuel Kamara, “so I rather go to the diamond mine early in the morning to look for my daily bread then to waste my time.”

Would-be first-time voter Roseline Hinneh, 18, of Bopolu sees it differently, however.  “I registered to be part of decision making in my country because it’s my right as a citizen. I have noticed that over the years I was stopped by NEC staff from being part of the process because I did not reach the actual age, now that I am of age, I will vote the person with a heart for his people, with my voting card.” 

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