ON WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2023, the US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken cautioned the Liberian people that his country will not condone electoral irregularities and violence in the October 2023 polls in Liberia.
“THE UNITED STATES is committed to supporting and advancing democracy in Liberia and around the world. Today, I am announcing a new visa restriction policy under Section 212(a)(3)C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act for those undermining democracy in Liberia. This policy will take effect in advance of the upcoming election,” Secretary Blinken said in the September 27 statement.
THIS STATEMENT IS commendable for two cardinal reasons. It presents as an inspiration and relief to millions of Liberians who, for the past weeks, had been bracing up for the worst in the wake of a recent US security memo that advised US Embassy details to get into emergency readiness. Secondly, it comes, most of all, as a marching order for those who are contemplating on vote rigging as well as those who are seeking violent countermeasures. We hold that though mild, this statement could not have come at a better time.
AS LIBERIA PREPARES for its upcoming presidential and legislative elections, it is crucial to acknowledge the pivotal role played by the United States government in facilitating this democratic process. In appreciation of this role comes a responsibility on the part of the Liberian people to ensure fair and transparent elections, free from violence and manipulation. The recent statement by US State Department officials cautioning against election violence and vote rigging should be affirmed, and their warning regarding US visa restrictions for those engaged in electoral vices should be strongly supported.
IT IS IMPERATIVE that all parties involved, including party leaders and campaign strategists, heed the electoral laws of Liberia and uphold the concerns expressed by the US State Department. These concerns are not to be taken lightly; they reflect the commitment to democratic principles and the desire for a peaceful and legitimate electoral process. By doing so, Liberia can demonstrate its dedication to upholding democratic values and ensuring the will of the people is respected.
IN ADDITION TO the responsibilities of political actors, the electorate itself must also play a crucial role in shaping the outcome of these elections. It is our duty as citizens to make a conscious decision to vote against any candidate and cohorts who employ violence as a means to gain power. Violence has no place in a democratic society and undermines the very essence of fair elections. By rejecting candidates who resort to such tactics, we send a clear message that violence will not be tolerated. This brings us back to the crucial part of the Secretary’s statement.
THE WARNING ISSUED by the US government regarding visa restrictions for those
culpable in electoral vices should be taken seriously. Such measures serve as an effective deterrent, as they hold individuals accountable for their actions and send a strong message that electoral misconduct will have consequences. This approach not only protects the integrity of the electoral process but also ensures that those who undermine democracy face appropriate repercussions.
IN A NUTSHELL as we hail the US State Department for its proactive stance against election irregularities, we encourage all Liberians to take up the gauntlets of transparency and peace. We encourage the local and international media not only to be interested in the outcomes of the elections but also vigilant in tracking efforts to hijack the process.