Liberia Holding Firm: Upcoming Elections To Test Infant Peace

Liberia’s progress in the last year has largely gone unnoticed since the dramatic scale down of the United Nations Mission in Liberia’s (UNMIL) operations in 2016.

Peace is still a dream to many Liberians, but since the UNMIL took over the country’s security operations in 2003, they have witnessed a heavy militarized controlled peace by external agents.

With UNMIL handing over security operations incrementally, Liberians have enjoyed self-governed peace for almost a year.

Their growth and vigor will witness its first real test with the general elections scheduled for October 10th, 2017.  Much interest will be on how they react to political divide, diverging opinions, and outcomes of ethnic groups’ interpretation of the electoral processes.

Corruption will be of tantamount interest to international observers and neighboring states as the newly and resuscitated democracy will be tested. There were already accusations last year of potential candidates initiating premature and illegal campaigning to snag an early lead in the impending race.

This election is of utmost importance in terms of maintaining peace and setting in stone the pillar of confidence in the revived democracy. Civilians need to see a system that they can trust to reflect their political ideals and voting trends.

The first locally governed election since the Civil War obviously has left a vacuum and many are seeking to attain power at the helm of the country’s political affairs. Twenty-one political parties are registered to contest for electoral victory.

The National Electoral Commissions have circulated a planned schedule for the electoral procedure in their nineteen offices throughout the country. Nominations are set to happen between June 19th and July 11th, 2017. The election calendar indicated that voters registration had ended already, and the voters list is currently being sorted.

Among those already declaring their intent to run are Senator George Weah, a football legend, who has been active in Liberian politics since retirement from professional sports. It would be his second attempt at the presidency.

Should the electoral race generate contentious situations and the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) fails to adequately address it, certain sentiments of civic unrest and divide could pose a problem to stabilization efforts.

The AFL nation-wide preparation and contingent mode of action will determine possible outcomes, should significant disturbances transpire.

With that said, it is important to question what to expect from neighbours? Regional neighbours, like Cote d’Ivoire and Sierra Leone, both of whom have enjoyed recent stability, are hoping for uninterrupted elections to safeguard continued peace.

Given the lingering ethnic troubles plaguing Guinea, history has shown politicians have used cross-border allies and rebel factions to aid their political quest. Liberia could be no different in the upcoming months.

Authorities have reassured the public that preparations for varied scenarios are on schedule.

Liberia is on track to accomplish a significant feat and the world should be watching.

Michael Harrison
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