President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has received in audience a high-powered delegation from the National Democratic Institute (NDI) headed by Ambassador Johnnie Carson, former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs and member of the NDI Board, an Executive Mansion release said. According to the release, President Sirleaf received the delegation on Tuesday, September 5, at her Foreign Ministry office when they paid a courtesy call on her. The delegation consists of regional and elections experts from Africa and North America, including Ms. Hannah Tetteh Kpodah, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ghana; Dr. Tadjoudine Ali Diabacte, former Deputy Director of Electoral Assistance Division, United Nations, Togo; Dr. Christopher Fomunyoh, Regional Director (Cameroon) – NDI; Samantha Smoot, Observation Mission Director (USA) – NDI; and Michael McNulty, Senior Program Manager (USA) – NDI.
Amb.Carson, who headed of the delegation, thanked President Sirleaf for the warm reception and audience accorded them since their arrival in Liberia. He reflected on progress made over the years and informed the President that the delegation was in the country to assess the ongoing campaign activities, and as well evaluate the overall political atmosphere and other aspects of the elections preparations aimed at consolidating prospects for peaceful, transparent and credible elections. He informed President Sirleaf that they have begun holding talks with various key stakeholders including the Inspector General of the Liberia National Police, and described the meeting as successful. Carson said they have also deployed observers in all 15 counties, and will hold discussions with the leadership of the National Elections Commission (NEC). He added: “We recognize that this is an important moment for Liberia’s history.” Amb. Carson commended President Sirleaf for her fine leadership, which he said is worth commending. He informed her that the NDI will issue a statement from their findings on Friday, September 8, at a press conference.
In response, President Sirleaf thanked Amb. Carson and team for their visit especially at this critical period in the country’s history. She described the upcoming elections as a defining moment for Liberia. She also told the delegation that Liberia has come a long way to consolidate its peace and democracy, “although there are some challenges, especially in the areas of roads and logistics.” She said the NEC is prepared to conduct elections, adding that the NEC has conducted several other elections, which according to her were credible. “Campaigns are in heavy gear right now; and as you may recall, presidential candidates signed on to the Farmington Declaration aimed at ensuring peaceful elections free of violence,” the President said.
She used the occasion to inform the NDI delegation about the overall atmosphere of the campaign period; stressing enthusiasm by both the candidates and electorates, calling on them to respect each other during political campaigning. She noted: “One needs to look at this area carefully.” She also informed the delegation that the Supreme Court will not be going for a break, given the importance of the October elections.
She said despite the challenges, the campaign is moving progressively in anticipation of free and fair elections that will be accepted by all.