Open Letter to Chairman Jerome G. Kokoya of NEC

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Amb. Martin K. N. Kollie
Youth Ambassador
International Human Rights Commission
IHCR

March 4, 2017

Cllr. Jerome George Korkoya (LLB. LLM. JD)
Chairman
National Elections Commission
Republic of Liberia

A Patriotic Call to Extend the VR process by 2-Weeks

Dear Cllr. Korkoya,
In an effort to sustain long-lasting peace, uphold democratic values, promote national unity and pursue a new era of social justice and economic parity through patriotism, nationalism and fraternal love, I reverently extend my sincere compliments and courtesy to you and your fellow commissioners.

With a common sense of putting Liberia first always and in due fulfillment of my pledge of allegiance to this free land of liberty I dearly cherish, I hope this communiqué meets you in a mood of patriotism as you lead our nation to yet another historic election in October 2017.

With 218 more days to go to the polls, we crave your indulgence to conscientiously maintain the fundamental essence, structural values and basic principles upon which the National Elections Commission was established in 1986. The world is watching once more as everyone anticipates a free, fair and credible electoral process this year.

The National Elections Commission must do all it can to jealously uphold and protect Chapter 2, Section 9 of the New Elections Law of Liberia approved in 1986 and amended in 2003, 2004 and 2014. Anything on the contrary could severely injure our democracy and painfully wreck our hard-earned peace.

The responsibility to either sustain this peace or ruin it predominantly lies with NEC. During this process, independence, impartiality and integrity are indispensably essential to guaranteeing public confidence and reliance. Chairman Korkoya, I just thought to remind you and the entire commission about how critical your role is during this very decisive dispensation of political transition.

Beyond this end and more importantly, my interest of penning this letter is basically to proffer a genuine case – A case to create a flexible democratic space for more eligible voters to register and decide Liberia’s future on October 10, 2017. This is a case for NEC to recalibrate or readjust in order to vigorously review performance, investigate frauds and mitigate prevailing flaws.

In pursuit of this cause to ensure a flourishing democracy through mass participation and fraud minimization, I am cautiously calling on NEC to extend the Voter Registration exercise by two (2) weeks. This process of critical reassessment could place NEC in a better position to justify and/or cover-up for some of its pitfalls as a result of poor planning, unpreparedness and funding constraint.

Cllr. Korkoya, I hope you have not forgotten that the first week of the VR process was characterized by too many complaints and challenges, some of which include, but not limited to:
1. Faulty Digital Cameras
2. Shortage of Optical Mark Recognition (OMR) forms
3. Blurred OMR cards
4. Intrusion of aliens and foreigners as a result of porous borders
5. Late arrival of VR officers in some areas
6. Inadequate training of VR staff and poor civic education
7. Refusal of owners of private properties (schools) to house VR process
8. Low participation and absence of BIN and LNP officers at some centers
9. Double registration, etc.

These were some early barriers that discouraged and deprived thousands of citizens from registering even up to now. Furthermore, the exercise was also halted at some centers as a result of fraud, violence and other factors. Notable among those centers are Boatswain and St. Francis. The process was also put on hold in Lofa due to aliens’ involvement in areas like Voinjama, Foya, Vahun, Quardu Gboni, Zorzor, Kolahun and Salayea.

Even though there have been some cases of flaws and fraud at few centers, which are common in most electoral settings especially in Africa, but I vehemently disagree with those calling for the entire process to be nullified and halted. The identification of few cases of irregularities cannot be used as an empirical justification or rationale to disqualify and/or halt the entire process. No electoral system is free of fraud or error. Even in the great United States of America where the electoral system is digitized, irregularities still exist.

With more than 60 other activities to accomplish before October 10, 2017 and less than 20 hours to the end of the VR process according to your official timetable, it is logically prudent for everyone to understand that NEC does not have the time and resources to halt this process and start over. Budgetary constraint is already fueling some of these challenges the commission is currently faced with. What is best now for our country is for NEC to extend the VR process by 2-weeks. The cost associated with halting this process far exceeds the cost of extending it by 2-weeks.

Chairman Korkoya, I know this may be a difficult decision to make, but this decision would obviously be in the best interest of our nation. It would strengthen the bond of confidence and credibility between NEC and all political parties as well as the people and international partners. It would also preserve the true essence of Article 80(c) of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia.

Chairman Korkoya, I am aware that funding has been a challenge and still remains as a result of low budgetary appropriation. Even though NEC through you in a communication dated February 9, 2016 requested US$57,197,661.24 to successfully conduct the 2017 general and presidential elections, but only US$24,777,516 was appropriated by the Legislature, which connotes a deficit of US$32,420,145.24.

I am still left to wonder who will provide this remaining US$32.4 million. I hope the Legislative and Executive branches of government will find remedy to this situation. However, I suggest that the commission remains closely and gainfully engaged with donors and partners to source more funding.

For me, it makes no sense for us to spend US$15.3 million to conduct the 2014 midterm senatorial election for just 15 Lawmakers while we spend US$24.7 million to conduct general and presidential elections for 73 Lawmakers, 1 President and 1 Vice President. What is the rationale of this decision? This is unrealistic and falls flat below the equator of sagacity and common logic.

Considering the huge cost associated with conducting general and presidential elections, the government needs to step in now to find concrete solution to NEC’s financial woe. Anything less than this, it would be unfair to completely blame NEC for existing and potential challenges. It is time to face the reality and fix the problems NEC has had so far. When NEC fails, our DEMOCRACY fails!!

Chairman Korkoya, before closing, I would like to recommend the following as our nation and its people gradually move towards October 2017:

1. The Setting up of a National Electoral Taskforce (NET) to continuosly audit NEC’s output and uproot frauds.
2. The establishment of an Independent Citizen Action Committee Against Electoral Fraud (ICACAEF) in every district across Liberia.
3. Mass civic education and sensitization through community engagement and media awareness.

On this note, I also crave the indulgence of international partners to help safeguard our democracy by empowering NEC through financial and logistical support. Cllr. Korkoya, with much being said, I want to admonish you and your fellow commissioners to remain committed and steadfast in the discharge of your national duty.

A free, fair and credible election is what Liberia needs. With God above, a violence-free election is possible. I remain optimistic of a peaceful political transition in 2017.

Democratically yours,

Martin K. N. Kollie
Youth Ambassador, IHRC

Cc: Office of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Office of Senate Pro Tempore Armah Z. Jallah
Office of Speaker Emmanuel J. Nuquay
United Nations Development Program (UNDP)
US Embassy near Monrovia
Chinese Embassy near Monrovia
African Union
ECOWAS
European Union
World Bank
African Development Bank

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