“Retest for Liberian Democracy” -UN Envoy Cautions LNBA, NEC, Others to Do It Right for 2023 Polls

By Stephen G. Fellajuah

MONROVIA – United Nations Resident Coordinator in Liberia, Ms. Christine N. Umutoni, says the October 10 presidential and legislative elections is a defining moment and retest for Liberia democracy as it represents the will of the people.

She went further to caution the Liberian National Bar Association (LNBA), the National Elections Commission (NEC) and the judiciary branch of government to ensure that free, fair and transparent elections are conducted in Liberia, stressing that in her opinion stakeholders mentioned have no choice but to do it right.

In her keynote address at the LNBA Annual General Assembly held in Monrovia at the EJS Ministerial Complex in Congo Town under the theme: “Beyond Rhetoric and Impunity: Law, Governance and the 2023 Elections-The Basis for Democratic Necessity in Liberia”, Ms. Umutoni further emphasized that the pending October 10 elections can either advance the country or democratically take it back.

“In my opinion, the country has no choice but to do it right. To achieve this, elections must be transparent, inclusive and accountable, and there must exist equitable opportunities to compete.

“Looking at it from the right point of view, political participation is a legal right, which includes the rights to nominate and elect representatives to hold public office in accordance with the principle of equal opportunity, to participate in public and private meetings and the right to form and join political parties,” she noted.

Madam Umutoni urged the Liberian National Bar Association and the National Election Commission to ensure that there is an environment of peaceful, free, fair and transparent Election.

She told the gathering that such commitment also includes people trusting the legal system that is credible enough to support any plan that may arise.

The human rights lawyers stated that the LNBA has a major role to play, a critical role in setting the political agenda and discourse of Liberia during the 2023 Presidential and legislatives elections.

Ms. Umutoni said that the LNBA is a major stakeholder in the electoral process and must play a critical role in setting the agenda of the political discourse.

“The theme for this annual General Assembly, “Beyond rhetoric and impunity: Law, governance and the 2023 elections-the basis for Democratic necessity in Liberia” is really the call for an election based on the law and tenets of governance and promoting the situation where there is no impunity, and will go beyond rhetoric,” she urged.

The human rights lawyer and developmental specialist also extended thanks and appreciation to the LNBA for promoting the rule of law in Liberia and defending human rights, adding that the work the LNBA is doing is critical for national building.

Ms. Umutoni Stated that over and above what they are doing, she likes to give them special thanks for going beyond the call of duty by providing free legal aid for citizens and residents.

“Lawyers of the court must take a lead role in ensuring that the fight for Liberia is respected, protected and always promoted. The LNBA is expected to engage in a conservative nonpartisan commitment to maintain electoral integrity. The LNBA has a crucial role in ensuring that electoral disputes are resolved in accordance with the rule of law and in a peaceful manner,” she cautioned.

The United Nations resident Coordinator pointed out that on April 4, 2023, political parties in Liberia will be signing the Farmington Declaration committing to peaceful elections and bringing any grievance to the law during this election.

She told the gathering that this is critical to the work and role of the LNBA as the country prepares for October 10 polls this year.

“Therefore, we hope that the signature of the Farmington Declaration is not a signature on paper, but that it’s in the DNA of every political party and politician to abide by this declaration; and for those in the legal system to take people to account for what they have signed for. Liberians have made several democratic gains, but elections plus other political processes remain pivotal to the politics of the country’s governance,” she noted.

Ms. Umutoni said the foundation of the rights to participation is shaped by the notion that every citizen should be involved in decision making.

“Everyone should participate in election and decision-making to defend his or her interest, to help create a society which is in fulfillment of his or her interest and desire. The freedom to vote and contest elections and the freedom to assembly are major political expressions,” she concluded.

Earlier, officially declaring the ceremony opened, LNBA National President Cllr. Sylvester D. Rennie said that they had gathered to ensure that there is peace and stability in Liberia during and after the election.

“We gather here today, in honor and recognition of a constitutional responsibility of the LNBA. During past years, the Bar assembled in several cities to ensure that their respective membership duties performed. The membership of the bar thought that it was financially consuming and so we decided on a single Assembly. We say welcome and we declare it open,” Cllr. Rennie stated.

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