“Testament of Commitment” -Pres. Weah Says of Farmington Declaration

MONROVIA – President George Manneh Weah says the “Farmington River Declaration” signed by 26 political parties will serve as a testament of their firm commitment to national stability, security, peace and development, adding that he is certain that with the collective determination of all to preserve Liberia’s peace and unity, he is sure that the peace and non-violence Pledge manifested in the document testament of their firm commitment to national stability, security, peace and development in the country.

President Weah further indicated that the ensuing Presidential and Legislative elections, when peacefully and credibly held, will be a manifestation of the strengthening and showcasing of Liberia’s democratic credentials. President Weah maintained that the anticipated October 10th legislative and presidential elections present yet another opportunity to strengthen a deepening political culture that has at its core, the principles of freedom, justice, and equality, and the respect of human rights, including the rights of women and children.

The Liberian Leader spoke yesterday when he addressed a political forum at the Farmington Hotel in Margibi County where 21 political parties of Liberia signed what they tagged as “The Farmington River Declaration 2023”. He historicizes previous 2017 “Farmington River Declaration” of June, 2017, prior to the elections that brought him to the helm of leadership of the country.

Our reporter who attended the ceremony says 26 political parties in Liberia have signed the document named ‘Farmington River Declaration 2023’ to ensure a non-violence free 2023 General Elections in Liberia. Liberians are scheduled to go to the polls to elect a new leadership on 10th October, 2023.

At Tuesday’s colorful signing ceremony of the Farmington River Declaration, notably amongst parties who signed the declaration were the three main contenders in the 2023 process, including President George Weah who signed for the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), Former Vice President Joseph N. Boakai signed for the Unity Party (UP), and Alexander Cummings signed for the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP)

Only the newly formed Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party of Liberia did not sign and was not represented at the program. The Vision of Liberia Transformation Party (VOLT) did not return a commitment for the declaration to the NEC Political Affairs Section. Hence, the party did not sign.

In his address at the occasion, President Weah historicized that  “…A few months before the Presidential and Legislative Elections which were held in Liberia that year, twenty (20) of Liberia’s twenty-two (22) registered political parties met here in this place and signed a document which was named as the 2017 “Farmington River Declaration,” the president recounted.

Saying, “In this document, we committed ourselves to an orderly and peaceful elections process in October 2017.  We agreed, individually and collectively, to prevent electoral violence, impunity, and injustice; and pledged before the ECOWAS Heads of State, who were present in Liberia at the time attending the 51st Summit of that Organization, that if ever and whenever such conflicts occurred, we would address them through mediation or through legal means,”  the Liberian leader who was victorious of the 2017 process noted that every party that signed the Farmington River Declaration in 2017 kept true to their word, and the elections were conducted in a free, fair, and transparent manner, without violence; and, moreover, all differences were processed and resolved through the justice system in Liberia, under the rule of law.

“Once again, six years later, the citizens of this country will be going to the polls in October of this year to participate in Presidential and Legislative Elections to choose their leaders.

These elections present a significant opportunity not only to consolidate Liberia’s democratic gains, but to entrench and build upon them,” he told his audience.

The Liberian Chief Executive sees the ensuing process as opportunity to strengthen a deepening political culture of Liberia on the core of the principles of freedom, justice, and equality, and the respect of human rights, including the rights of women and children. 

“They will also provide the occasion for the Government of Liberia to continue to demonstrate its unreserved commitment to the protection of the rights of all citizens, as enshrined in our Constitution. The Presidential and Legislative Elections of October 2023 will be the first to be primarily organized and administered by Liberia, since the drawdown of UNMIL, although since the incumbency of my Administration in 2018, the National Elections Commission has successfully conducted By-elections and a Referendum that were recognized by all stakeholders as peaceful, free, fair, and transparent,” he intoned.

He pointed out, “It is therefore incumbent on all political stakeholders, including the ruling party, as well as the opposition parties, civil society, the media, and in fact ALL Liberians, to recognize the centrality of peace during these elections, and work collectively to deliver a credible, inclusive, and peaceful process,” adding that the risk of post-conflict countries to regress to war is extremely high as he considered as Liberia is a post-conflict success story.     

“Today’s signing ceremony is truly another milestone achievement to be admired and celebrated. It marks a symbolic celebration of twenty (20) years of uninterrupted peace since the signing of the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2003,” President Weah asserted, continuing that the country have now enjoyed five years of sustained and unbroken peace since he assumed the Office of President of Liberia on January 22, 2018. 

Indicating that the transformation is stark, he nevertheless said Liberia is now contributing troops as part of United Nations peacekeeping forces in several countries in Africa, instead of requiring peacekeepers to maintain peace here in Liberia.

Hear the president: We have all, for the most part, worked positively to consolidate the peace in Liberia.  But while we have now turned the corner on our recent dark history, it is imperative that we reject and condemn those who would seek to take us back to those dark days. I am proud of what we have achieved as a nation, and equally happy that we have maximized the external support we have received on our journey to this level.

On Liberia’s democratic credentials, President Weah asserted that the elections, when peacefully and credibly held, will be a manifestation of the strengthening and showcasing of our democratic credentials, and maintained that these upcoming elections, when peacefully and credibly held, will be a manifestation of the strengthening and showcasing of our democratic credentials, as well as our resilience and relentless commitment to upholding the tenets of democracy. It is about the building of trust and confidence in our political culture.

“I commend all of us political leaders and our respective political parties for resolving to sign this second Farmington River Declaration, which signifies our commitment and readiness to pursue the path of a peaceful, free, fair, transparent, inclusive and credible democratic election, come October 10 this year that will elevate our standard as a democratic nation. With a guaranteed and successful democratic exercise, we will further demonstrate our readiness for sustained peace, security, stability and development,” he exclaimed.

This signing, he pointed out, is a gesture which further indicates that they political leaders are sending a strong signal to our partisans, supporters, well-wishers, and followers, and also to the entire World, of our unflinching commitment and preparedness to conduct peaceful, free, fair, transparent, inclusive and credible democratic Presidential and Legislative elections on October 10 this year, and to accept the will of the Liberian People as will be expressed through the ballot box.

The “Farmington River Declaration” that the, as political leaders, are making in writing and signing, will serve as a testament of their firm commitment to national stability, security, peace and development.

Above all, the president furthered, “this Peace Pledge is about demonstrating the patriotism and statesmanship needed by us as political leaders to speak Peace to the Nation, and place our beloved nation-state, Mama Liberia, ahead of our personal ambitions.”

“Not only do I look to all of us political leaders gathered here today to live up to the aspirations set out in the Farmington River Declaration 2023, to which we are about to commit ourselves, but I also call upon all our political parties, supporters and the wider electorate to follow our lead and support us in the fulfillment of the promises made today to the People of Liberia and the World, especially the pledge to prevent violence in our elections” the President passionately plead.

He pinpointed the need for all of political leaders and their political parties, supporters, and the electorate in general, to also uphold the pledge to prevent violence against women in the elections, and treat our women with civility and with respect.

“Beyond physical violence, women in elections or politics in Liberia have often faced harassment, discrimination, and psychological abuse, both in person and online. This behavior must not be dismissed as simply “the cost of doing politics.”  It is a clear violation of human rights; it is demeaning, offensive, disempowering and cowardly.  Such violence is considered a threat to the integrity of the elections,” President Weah said, adding “This Peace Pledge will actually be put to the test before the elections, through our pre-election campaign activities; it It will be put to the test on Elections Day, and it will be put to the test during the post-election period, particularly after the results are declared.”  

He noted that the testing time is when the sincerity of our intentions and the genuineness of our commitment in promoting and preserving peace will come under the highest scrutiny, maintaining further that the promotion of peace is the shared responsibility of all stakeholders in Liberia.

“We are therefore expected to play our respective roles appropriately and effectively. We must pursue this common interest with sincerity and goodwill, with a view to strengthening Liberia’s democratic credentials and value, not only for these forthcoming elections, but for future elections that will benefit and safeguard all the generations to come,” President Weah said.

Let me therefore use this occasion to urge all stakeholders who have a vested interest in the October elections to avoid incendiary language and what I perceive to be a growing culture of militancy, which can have the propensity to quickly spill over into violence.

Advising that these vices must be discouraged by all of us, the President urged that the media and civil society have a crucial role to play, and that he is glad that they are represented there at the signing of the Farmington Declaration 2023 because they are very important partners in this process.

Importantly he further advised against “Rhetoric that whips up old divisions and puts tribes and regions against one another must be discouraged” and said they as political leaders must have a duty and responsibility to prevail on all of the members within the ranks of our various institutions to desist from actions that could lead to violence.

“While we all support different causes and interests, there is one because that must bring every one of us together, in spite of our differences, and that is the cause of maintaining the peace of our Nation.  I am not only referring to the parties and stakeholders in this room.  Liberians everywhere have an obligation to ensure that we do not reverse the gains that have been made,” the Liberian Chief Executive of Liberia averred.

The then called on all political leaders who signed the 2023 Farmington River Declaration to ensure that their supporters and the wider electorates who follow them to adhere to the spirit of the Farmington Declaration signed before God and the whole World, as we jointly work to fulfill the  promises that we have made therein.

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