MONROVIA: Whether it is the fear of defeat or the desperation for power or both, many politicians have employed venomous rhetoric in their campaign for victory. The last few weeks has witnessed threats of violence and conflagrations of the nation over perceived electoral frauds, dragging the population on the fringes of anxiety and trepidations. This might have drawn the attention of the United Nations Government which issued a caveat against electoral fraud and violence—undermining the country’s democracy—and has announced entry visa restrictions to would-culprits. The Government of Liberia, for its part, has welcome the pronouncements by the US States Department, saying that’s exactly why President Weah, during the 2023 campaigns, continues to preach peace and consistently commits his government to free and fair elections. The Analyst reports.
Uncle Sam has growled again, this time threatening to clip the wings of anti-democracy forces particularly as the nation goes to elections October 10. The US threat, which includes denying visas to individuals found undermining the democracy of Liberia, perpetrating electoral frauds and violence, comes in wake of threats of violence, coupled with perceptions about electoral frauds, amongst Liberian politicians participating in the 2023 general and presidential elections.
Key officials of the Liberian opposition bloc put themselves on record as preparing themselves and their supporters to respond violently, including bring an end of the existence of the country, if the ruling government rigs the elections.
US Visa Restriction
Whether there will be electoral frauds or whether aggrieved politicians will cause violence or war, the United States has made a preemptive move warning against perpetrators of fraud and violence.
The United States reaffirmed its commitment to supporting and advancing democracy in Liberia and around the world, said a statement released by the US States Department September 27, 2023.
Making the pronouncement, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said: “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.”
He said under this policy, the United States will pursue visa restrictions for those believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining democracy in Liberia, including through manipulation or rigging of the electoral process; use of violence to prevent people from exercising their rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly; use of measures designed to prevent political parties, voters, civil society, or the media from disseminating their views; or engagement in any other activity designed to improperly influence the outcome of an election.
Certain family members of such persons may also be subject to these restrictions. Persons who undermine democracy in Liberia—including in the lead-up to, during, and following Liberia’s 2023 elections—may be found ineligible for U.S. visas under this policy.
The visa restriction policy announced today will apply to specific individuals and is not directed at the Liberian people or the Government of Liberia. The decision to impose visa restrictions reflects the commitment of the United States to support Liberians’ aspirations to have free and fair elections that demonstrate the will of the people and strengthen democracy and the rule of law.
GoL’s Swift Responds
But in a relatively swift responds to the pronouncements of the US’ threats, Government of Liberia says it welcomes “the latest United States Government visa restriction policy intended to target those who undermine democracy in Liberia”.
According the government, the US visa sanctions policy “further reinforces President George M. Weah’s expressed commitment to building a more democratic society – grounded in respect for the rule of law, free expression, and association, as well as the holding of free and fair elections”.
“This was the central theme of his address to the UN General Assembly last week and during various conversations with U.S. stakeholders – including U.S. Charge d’Affairs Catherine RODRIGUEZ,” the Liberian Government said in a release signed by Information Minister Ledgerhood J. Renni.
“The Government believes the U.S. statement, coming at a time when incendiary rhetoric by politicians have been on the rise, will aid its efforts to calm public anxiety around the upcoming democratic exercise,” said the released.
Welcoming Scores of Observers
GoL also used the press release to welcome the arrival in the country of scores of election observers from the ECOWAS, AU, EU, U.S. and other observer missions from around the world.
The release added: “This comes as international partners in Liberia have commended various stakeholders, including the elections commission, for the methodical and open manner in which they have conducted themselves so far.”