The Government of Liberia is endeavoring to ensure a peaceful electoral process that will subsequently culminate in a smooth transition for the first time in over 40 years. To accomplish that objective, a two-day national political forum is scheduled to be held beginning today, Wednesday, May 31, at the Monrovia City Hall.
The forum appears to be an effort to diffuse the tremendous tension generated in the country since the upholding of the constitutionality of the Code of Conduct (CoC) by the Supreme Court of Liberia.
The two-day event with all political parties in the country, except the All Liberian Party of Benoni Urey, is aimed at having them commit to the maintenance of peace in the country. The ALP said in a statement that it does not trust the government of Liberia supporting the forum because of its many violations that have muddled the playing field and hurt other political parties.
The opposition All Liberia Party (ALP) has objected to being a part of the forum and said it would not attend.
The ALP, in a statement to Bishop Hart, president and chairman of the steering committee of the Interreligious Council of Liberia, said the premise of the forum is “unduly redundant, in light of the fact that there is already an Inter-Party Consultative Committee at the National Elections Commission, which addresses these identical issues that are being raised.
“We have, and always shall remain committed to the preservation of peace and stability in our country,” said the letter dated May 24 and signed by J.S.B. Theodore Momo, Jr., national chairman of the party.
“The ALP is resolved not to participate in any forum designed by this government. Moreover, we discern the handiwork of unpatriotic Liberians, who have perennially masterminded acts of constitutional abuses.”
Many opposition leaders believe that the intent of the forum is to find common ground on the Supreme Court’s ruling on the CoC.
The Supreme Court upheld the Code of Conduct, a ruling that has given rise to public skepticism about the qualifications of some presidential aspirants to participate in the elections.
Part V, Section (1) a, b, and c, of the Code of Conduct bars executive appointees – government officials appointed by the President – from seeking elected office. It states that those who want to run for elected office should resign two or three years ahead of the elections.
Many opposition parties have complained about what they see as “the blatant violation of the CoC” by the ruling Unity Party with Minister of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism, Len Eugene Nagbe, and other top officials serving simultaneously in key positions of the UP.
However, at a recent press stakeout during the visit of Ghanaian President Nana Akufo Addo, President Sirleaf was reported to have said that “All Liberians will participate and will exercise their choice. And I believe that our leaders, our political candidates, will all be a part of it and will ensure that the process is successfully conducted, allowing Liberians for the first time in 48 years to make a transition from one elected president to another elected president.”
A member of the secretariat of the organizing committee confirmed to the Daily Observer that the forum is aimed at securing a path of peace throughout the election process.
“We are expecting the political leaders of all of the parties to be in attendance and commit themselves to a violence free electoral process. Also expected to attend are members of various Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), traditional leaders and members of the diplomatic community.”
The forum is being organized by the Interreligious Council of Liberia in collaboration with the Governance Commission (GC) with support from the central government and other partners.
It may be recalled that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, while delivering her final State of the Nation address in January, proposed holding a two-day electoral forum, appointing the Chairman of the Governance Commission, Amos C. Sawyer, to lead the process.
The President at the time described the ensuing elections as the greatest test of Liberia’s democracy. “As we prepare to start campaigning in a few months, I propose a two-day electoral forum, with all political parties and registered independent presidential candidates, to discuss issues pertaining to the electoral process and arrive at a common ground for the campaign and its aftermath,” she said.
“I have asked Dr. Amos Sawyer to convene the meeting. Apart from having played a leading role in crafting the current Constitution, he presided over the interim arrangement and has served as election monitor in multiple places on the continent. He will be the best person to lead such a process. As soon as we work out logistics, in the next few days, Dr. Sawyer will be asked to proceed.”