Naymote Partners for Democratic Development has concluded a virtual conference aimed at strengthening democracy in Liberia.
The one-day event, which took place on Friday, August 14, 2020, was part of Naymote’s previous engagements with young people about democratic processes before the outbreak of the Coronavirus in Liberia.
The online conference brought together experts from around the world to lecture people on those democratic struggles, what are its benefits and what are some of the dividends of democratic participation and how should young people get involved in democratic processes as well as the procedures in setting up a democratic movement.
Naymote’s Executive Director, Eddie Jarwolo, said: “We have started what we call the democracy lecture forum and this we started just before the outbreak of the COVID-19.”
Mr Jarwolo told journalists in Monrovia that the conference was also intended to deepen the minds of the young people’s understanding about what democracy is all about and how it works in other great nations.
Some of the issues that were discussed at the conference include the fundamental principles of democracy which include citizens’ participation, equality, transparency and accountability, political tolerance, among other things that people need to know in order have a vibrant democratic society.
“People think having elections is all [there is] about democracy. That is one component of it,” Jarwolo said. “Accepting elections results, been politically tolerant, these are things that we thought to lecture young people about.”
He clarified that because of the coronavirus pandemic, the organization thought it was important to have Mr. Carl Gershman, President of the National Endowment for Democracy, who, according to Mr. Jarwolo, has been in the democratic struggle for more than 45 years, to share his experience with young people.
The audience comprised basically young people who are members of political parties or from around the ECOWAS region, including graduates of Naymote’s Young Political Leadership School. There were also other young people who were in attendance out of sheer interest in understanding what democracy is.
Impact of COVID-19 on democracy
“The expert we invited lectures on how some other countries during these health crises want to undermine what democracy is really about.”
He quoted (Mr. Gershman) as saying some countries use “State of Emergency (SOE) which limits the freedom of movement and freedom of association, he said was not limit to Liberia but other countries in Africa and around the world.
According to Jarwolo it is also important to note that in as much as the world is challenged with the issue of COVID-19, democracy also leaves room for people to participate or get involved.
“Government should not silence the voices of the majority because there is a pandemic,” he added.
He also spoke of many countries around the world that postponed elections, shut down media institutions and stopped people from doing certain things only in the name of virus. He, however, encouraged everyone’s participation in the process of responding to the virus, where citizens will also hold the government accountable for the management of donor funding.
At the same time, the Mr Jarwolo indicated that the conference also spoke of people being tolerant to each other’s views and, in democratic elections, people should focus on the issue and not personalities.
Giving specific reference to the recent instance of political violence that occurred in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County, against opposition leaders Alexander B. Cummings and Rep. Yekeh Kolubah, Jawolo stressed: “Liberia came from a long way and we need to do everything possible to sustain the peace.”
In a related development, Naymote has begun some consultations with some youth groups around the country. In an interview Mr. Jarwolo said: “Currently, we have a structure in the 15 counties, and we have what we call our volunteers and are waiting for the National Elections Commission (NEC).”
He stated that the organization want to make sure that the message of the elections remains the same. “We don’t want to start with a message that will go contrary to the NEC. Therefore; we expect that the NEC will work closely with civil society groups to ensure the message remains clear.”
In his quest to ensure that the pending Senatorial midterm elections is free, fair and transparent, Mr. Jarwolo has called on the NEC to ensure that the elections time table be enforced.
He pointed out that there are two major areas where there will always be violence — during the campaign period and during announcement of elections results.
He has expressed serious concern about the current happenings, adding that politicians have started pre-campaigning, “if the NEC doesn’t step in to enforce those elections laws, I mean the code of conduct and enforce the timetable, we may be heading to violence before the actual campaign can start.
“We want to take this time to call on the NEC to ensure that elections laws are enforced, those elections guidelines and policy frameworks that are needed to ensure that we have free, fair and transparent elections and credible elections.”
The organization said it is willing to work with the NEC to reach out to young people across the country especially, those who are considered first-time voters and people who have lost their voters card.