The National Youth Movement for Transparent Election (NAYMOTE), a local non-governmental organization engaged in bringing young people together to discuss electoral and political matters, has begun a new project that provides detailed knowledge on the workings of the Local Government Act (LGA).
The LGA took center stage in the Legislature during the administration of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and was later passed into law in the current administration. President George Weah signed it into law in September 2018, before taking off for the United States to attend the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York.
Like many laws that have been passed, not many Liberians are knowledgeable of the LGA, and this unfortunate situation induces many young people to see local government positions as those that belong only to chiefs and elders and not them.
“Local Government is the foundation for national government; and when we have a strong one, we will have a strong national government, because it will be a driving force for young people who want entry into national politics; who want to work in local government can prepare at that level to enter national government,” Eddie Jarwolo, Executive Director of NAYMOTE, said.
The gathering of youths from academia, political parties, District Development Councils, women and student groups from across Montserrado County is the fourth event, held on August 27, 2019 at the Young Women Christian Association (YWCA) building in Congo Town. As a result, over 70 young persons, who participated in the discussions, have expressed strong interest in learning more about the new LGA.
The goal of the project is to increase the number of young people stepping forward to seek positions at the local government level, and increase knowledge of young people about strategies to mobilize other young people to support their peers during the formation of County and/or District Councils under the LGA of 2018.
“We are preparing them to seek positions in local government and, because people do not have knowledge of how important local government is, they are all centralized here in Monrovia, seeking positions at the national level,” Jarwolo said.
He added, “Local government has been seen by many young people as positions only for old people, all about chiefs, and this is why the country is as it is. But because we have a decentralized government and power is given to the people in the rural areas, young people cannot be left out.”
Some of the speakers were Professor Levi B. Zangai, Country Manager of SPARK-Liberia, and D. Emmanuel Wheinyue, Media Consultant at the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
Professor Zangai, who had served as Minister of Education, President of the African Methodist Episcopal University (AMEU) and the Grand Bassa Community College, spoke on the topic, “Local Government, Local Economic Development through Youth Empowerment;” while Wheinyue spoke on “Overview of the LGA 2018: Power and Authority of the County Council and County Administration, the Benefit of the AGA to Liberians and the new local government structures.”
In his presentation, Prof. Zangai said, “Liberia is not preparing youth to be job ready, which may result to recruitment of youths by people for subversive activities.”
He told the young people of different socio-political backgrounds to strive for understanding of the issues to elect people on the basis of issues rather than personality.
Prof. Zangai, like NAYMOTE Director Jarwolo, agreed that when local government is organized and has ensured jobs for youths, every activity will not be centralized here and people will not rely on government.
Emmanuel Wheinyue of Internal Affairs also said in an interview with the Daily Observer that local government has been viewed as positions for chiefs and elders, but the Act defines the roles of chiefs, elders and councils.
The council, Wheinyue said, is the highest decision-making body in the LGA. Although the superintendent is the highest authority, Wheinyue said decision by the council is implemented by the superintendent.
He said young people need to serve in local government, because from there they can gain popularity among the people when they serve well, and through that they can ascend to national positions such as representative or senator.
He said the perception that local government position is for older people is wrong, stressing that a young person can be nurtured at the local level among the chiefs and elders for future role at the higher level.