MONROVIA: The former Secretary General of the Mano River Union, Ambassador Medina Wesseh, was the Chief launcher of the Situation Room of Liberia council of churches (LCC) intended to keep an eye on the 2023 general elections in Liberia.
In her launching statement, Madam Wesseh said some politicians or political parties who shout first round victory either plan to cheat or look for short cut. She therefore warned leaders of the religious and other leaders in the country to get involved to help protect the votes of the electorates during the election process.
Ambassador Wesseh further called on prominent Liberians to ensure that ordinary citizens do not sell their votes or let anyone take ballots away from them, as they could lose their power and their voices if and when they do not vote.
Launching the Situation Room of the Liberia Council of Churches (LCC) on September 11, 2023 for the ensuing October 10, 2023 legislative and presidential elections in Liberia, she said if citizens vote wrongly, they could also lose their right to complain for the next six years.
The accomplished Liberian Ambassador noted that Liberians do not want anyone beating war drums neither do they want to hear the drum major calling the military band to attention as the country goes through this period of electioneering.
She reminded stakeholders that the reappearance of kaki or leather booths in and around the sub region, “something that should alert us to reduce the ‘do or die’ expectations of a one round victory.
“We do not want anyone beating war drums. We also do not want to hear the drum major calling the military band to attention. The re-appearance of khaki or leather booths in and around the sub region should alert us to reduce the ‘do or die’ expectations of a one round victory,” Madam Wesseh indicated, indicating that the triangle of three horse race is real. CDC, CPP and UP appear evident throughout.
“That is not to say LINU of Dr. Clarence Moniba is not kicking dust along with the Liberian People’s Party of Tiawon Gongloe or ALCOP of Alhaji Luseni Kamara,” she noted, saying, “If politics was like baking then the recipe would be easy to follow and the baking process made simple.”
The Liberian astute Ambassador said Prof Dr. Sawyer, Liberia’s best brain to the Academy of African political scientists, once posited that no one political party can go it alone and expect to win results in the first round.
“So it may be useful to surmise here that some people or parties who shout first round victory either plan to cheat or look for a short cut,” she said.
Starting her address, she earlier said “religion is central in Liberian life and the Church has been pivotal in nurturing the spiritual wellbeing since the foundation of the Liberian nation.
“The Church and religious institutions help sustain harmony and cohesiveness in the communities.”
According to her, the general elections this year are being held at a time when Liberia is at a crossroad; when the country recently celebrated 20 years of uninterrupted peace since the signing of the Accra Comprehensive Peace Accord ending our civil war.
“The LCC and the Interfaith Religious Council led the initial efforts at restoring peace in this country,” she recalled.
Delegations of religious leaders at the onset to the war in 1990, she explained, took the risk to shuttle between the government in Monrovia and rebel leaders in the bush or bushes to arrange peace talks, long before the international community came around.
She also indicated that religious leaders both – Christians and Muslims, have never hesitated since to make available their good offices to facilitate conflict resolution.
Notwithstanding the restoration of civility in the country, Ambassador Wesseh said alarming flashpoints have arisen over the last five years that tested our fledgling democracy and nearly brought our country to the brink of calamity.
She pointed to the wave mass protests in the streets against corruption, shortages of essential commodities, skyrocketing cost of living, extrajudicial killings and challenges to the rule of law, and added that the religious leaders were quick to raise their voices every time to try to avert the crisis.
Madam Wesseh said it seems most appropriate the Situation Room serve as an information hub to monitor the elections scheduled to be conducted by the National Elections Commission (NEC).
She noted: “Through the Situation Room, the LCC will gather data from precincts from the 15 counties. LCC anticipates 20 campaign monitors and 300 Election Day observers will be deployed throughout the country. The LCC will also collaborate with other situation rooms and observers. In this way, the LCC leadership will be better informed to speak periodically on the conduct of the various campaigns and issues concerning the election.”
She said the whole world appears to want Liberia to succeed and that Liberians themselves must want to succeed also.
“Hundreds of international observers are to be deployed to monitor the election to ensure that it is free, fair and transparent,” he added.
Speaking about protecting the people’s Madam Wesseh, pointed out that the Liberian Constitution gives power to the people to elect their own government and to change their government if it fails to meet their needs.
“The way to exercise that power is to vote. Every vote counts. The people must register to vote so we know people have registered. The next thing is they must get out on Election Day and go to the polls to cast their ballots.
Stating that the LCC and its constituent member churches and denominations, she advised, they must all get involved in this process as the good shepherds to lead and guide their flock. “On Election Day, the people must leave their houses, take their voting cards, in this case the latest biometric voter identification card, go to the polling center or precinct where they registered and cast their votes upon receipt of the ballot papers.
“You the leaders of the churches must get involved by encouraging your people to go out on October 10 to leave their homes and abode to go out and cast their votes; full stop. The Bible says a good shepherd is there to lead his sheep. The good shepherd is not expected to lead his sheep astray. The shepherd protects his sheep from the moment he takes them out to graze till dusk when they all retire,” she said.
She then narrowed her discussion to political corruption, relying on Claude Philip’s African Political Dictionary which defines Political Corruption as “the practice by public officials or politicians of selling government privileges or rights for private gain; the giving or withholding of a government service or entitlement by a government official in exchange for dishonest personal gain amongst others.
Madam Wesseh reasoned that the burden of the voting process is actually on the people collectively but comes down to the individual vote in that every vote counts. “The sum is greater than the whole. It is the sum total of all who take part in the voting process that will determine the turnout and how we will get a winner.
She said it is often heard that there is low voter turnout or high voter turnout, but acknowledged that the constitution and our elections laws speak of 50 plus one for there to be a presidential winner and a simple majority for senate and representative elections, a reason she gives to encourage massive turnout during the polling.
She added: “Turning to the issue of data, I understand 20 trained Campaign Monitors and 300 election day observers will be deployed in the 15 counties. We should note that there are 73 political electoral districts with over 2000 precincts and more than 5000 polling places. Our direct political representatives come from these districts and one senator for each county. Article 45 of our constitution states, “the senate shall be composed of senators elected for a term of nine years by the REGISTERED VOTERS.”
She also recalled the recent launching of the Angie Brooks Women’s Leadership Center Situation Room and that Oscar Bloh’s Elections Coordinating Committee, which over the years they have kept their focus and core activities centered around elections activities, may also have their own situation room
“You as religious leaders in the situation room will be expected to serve as goalkeepers in a very tense electoral match in some districts more than others most especially in Montserrado. We have seen NEC and the Supreme Court come under pressure. We have heard others say if the results do not come out of the ballot box then the bushes will grow flowers looking like ballot papers. A whole week has gone bye with district 11 causing a stir and neighboring district 10 remains restive. Different issues in each district but the LCC must engage because this is part of the elections process,” she catalogued recent trending events.
She then said from the sub regional perspective, “we remain alert to post elections of June 24th in Sierra Leone.
She furthered that there was the process which all said went on well. There was the voting which all said went on well. There was no common ground for understanding how results were announced and what results were announced or if all results were announced, adding that therefore the Tally and transparency aspect of the sum of the whole process was put on the blackboard for further review.
“Currently as we speak the government of Sierra Leone has shown willingness to hear the concerns of the opposition party and the Commonwealth Secretariat; the African Union and the ECOWAS have a high powered delegation engaging both the APC and the ruling government of Sierra Leone. Let us keep our ears and eyes on Sierra Leone as they heal and form a government after elections of June 24,” she accentuated, as she launched ROOM of the Liberia Council of Churches.