As Liberians prepare to cast their ballots in the Special Senatorial Elections scheduled for Saturday, December 20, Acting Minister of Justice, Cllr. Benedict F. Sannoh, is cautioning all citizens to remain law-abiding in exercising their political right. In a statement issued late Thursday, the Acting Justice Minister reiterated several times the national imperatives of upholding the rule of law in the upcoming democratic exercise, before laying out the Government’s law-enforcement plans for Election Day.
Cllr. Sannoh, who participated in several peace conferences and negotiations on the Liberian conflict, culminating into the 1997 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, said that the ensuing elections mark an important milestone in Liberia’s democratic history. “One of the root causes of the civil war that virtually destroyed this country was the gross and persistent violations of civil and political rights with impunity,” he said, drawing on his experience of having participated in said peace agreements. “Coming out of the conflict, and with the support of the United Nations, ECOWAS, and bilateral partners, we resolved as a nation and people to end the conflict.”
“We cannot as a people enjoy political rights in chaos, lawlessness or total disregard of the rule of law,” the Acting Minister warned. “And there can be no peace, stability and security where rights and freedoms are not respected. So we need a [balance] between the exercise of political rights and the respect for the rule of law.”
The Minister added: “We must, therefore, candidly remind ourselves that elections are about exercising our constitutional right to vote for the leader of your own choosing. This right should be exercised freely and responsibly, in strict obedience with our Constitution, and certainly, void of all forms of violence. Indeed, violence has not and will never aid our approach toward providing solutions to our problems; it will only divide us, both along political and ethnic lines, deepen our wounds and undermine the rule of law, and invariably lead to chaos.”
Speaking more firmly, Acting Minister Sannoh said that “Government therefore gives notice that anyone who engages in conduct that tend to undermine, disrupt or frustrate this process or violate the rights of other peaceful citizens will be arrested and prosecuted. We will do so without discrimination, and without regard to party affiliation or status.”
According to him, the Government of Liberia has deployed officers of the Liberia National Police and other law enforcement Agencies to cover all 1,780 precincts in all 19 magisterial areas across the country. “We have deployed officers to provide protection at all 19 warehouses where ballots are kept across the country, and we have also mobilized officers for static deployment at the NEC and at all Magisterial Areas throughout the country to protect NEC employees, assets, and electoral observers, to enhance the integrity of the process and to prevent any illegal acts that will disrupt the process. We have put in place sufficient measures to enhance crowd control and increase our visibility through mobile patrol. But that is not all.
“In addition to Government’s preparedness,” he continued, “the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), although not directly involved in the electoral process, will also provide support to our law enforcement Agencies when needed, and will keep aerial surveillance of the process as they may deem appropriate.”