WHEN ON APRIL 4, 2023 and July 21, 2023 registered political parties and independent candidates respectively signed on to the Farmington River Declaration which among other things is to ensure a nonviolent free, fair and transparent October 10, 2023 general elections which was witnessed by our international development partners, there were excitement and jubilations from majority of Liberians from both at home and abroad even before the inks on those sacred documents could dry up.
IT WAS A welcome development and it was seen as a test to improve on the 2017 version where a similar agreement was signed and was obeyed by all parties to the instrument. Encouragingly, despite some challenges encountered during the electoral exercise in that year, winners and losers were declared and the present dispensation under President George Manneh Weah was the product of what the politicians went into and accepted as the will of the people and the election was later to go into history as the first democratic contest that was participated in under a genuine multiparty environment that saw an incumbent government losing the race to the major opposition bloc.
HOWEVER, THE REPORTED violent clashes in some parts of country, specifically Montserrado and Nimba counties between some members and supporters of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change(CDC) and the Unity Party(UP) are complete distraction to the violent free election the Farmington River Declaration intends to achieve. The ugly incidents came at the time when there was high expectation that these 2023 elections will improve and consolidate on the gains of previous elections, especially the 2017 edition as a way of entrenching maturity and seriousness in our nascent democracy.
IN MONTSERRADO COUNTY, members of both the CDC and UP clashed and left several rival partisans and supporters wounded over conflicting campaign schedules and the activities therefore did not go down well with the respective camps. The clash was unavoidable and no doubt if NEC has insisted getting the schedules of political parties, we would have saved ourselves the unnecessary embarrassment.
THE STORIES COMING out from Nimba County are disturbing to the extent that death has been reported after serious argument erupted between partisans of CDC and UP. Besides there have been series of clashes between rival parties and threatening statements reportedly to have emanated from Senator Prince Y. Johnson one the one hand and Atty Garrison Yealue, Chairman of the Governance Commission and Representative Gunpue L. Kargon on the other hand. Pundits are of the opinion that never in the history of Nimba County has there been a serious political tension brewing up in the county.
THESE UNFORTUNATE SITUATIONS have also created doubt and confidence crisis on the part of our international development partners about us and how genuinely committed we are towards these elections and whether after spending much time and resources into the process their efforts and even us will not go down the drain. This is a serious indictment and it was unfortunate that those instigators did not take into consideration the bigger picture they should have seen beyond their own selfish interest.
AS USUAL THE allegations and counter allegations are all over the place where the rival camps are playing the victim game without the iota of conscience that what happened on that day had an adverse effect on the peace we deserve and the credibility of the ensuing elections which should not have even happened in the first place.
WE WANT TO put ourselves on record that we vehemently condemn these shameful acts which are deliberate attempts to derail almost everything that is at stake in these elections which has to do with the need to peacefully co-exist, work together as a people and nation to elect our leaders who are capable enough to lead this country to prosperity and secure our collective future. We call all Liberians and other stakeholders in our polity to stand with and by us on this decision and beyond that call on the government and NEC to institute a probe into the crisis, make the outcome public and punish any erring party(ies) with so as to serve as a deterrent against future occurrence.
WE NEED TO remind ourselves of our ugly past which we should not revisit or be forced to revisit. We need to also educate ourselves that election outcomes which are products of violence and distraction do not enjoy legitimacy and leadership without legitimacy cannot guarantee peace. We have come a long way with our democratization process and we all should find a way to maintain and protect it. The best way to make these elections to be credible, free, fair and transparent is for all stakeholders, mainly the political parties, their leaders, candidates and their supporters to abide by what was shrined in the Farmington River Declaration which the registered political parties and independent candidates signed on to.
INDEED, ON THE Farmington River Declaration We Stand !!!!