By Richard W. K. Stephens
In the wake of preparation for the holding of the General and Presidential Elections in Liberia in 2017, the Special Representative of the President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Liberia, Ambassador Babatunde Ajisomo, has advanced recommendations that are intended to safe guard the conduct of the Elections. Amb Ajisomo said to ensure the safe conduct of the elections next year, the Government of Liberia must strengthen the Justice System of the country and fashion out ways to prosecute election offenders.
He further stated that as the National Elections Commission has no prosecution power or to arrest electoral offenders, the Liberian Government should complement its efforts in establishing Elections Offences Commission of Tribunal to expedite judgment on elections disputes as being practiced by some ECOWAS member-States such as; Nigeria and Ghana saying that this would help to deepen electoral democracy in Liberia.
Amb Ajisomo’s statement was contained in a speech delivered yesterday on his behalf by Lola Osunlalu, Counselor and Special Assistant to ECOWAS Ambassador to Liberia at the opening of a two-day Workshop of Inter- agency Consultative Forum on Elections Security taking place at the Royal Grand Hotel in Sinkor. The Workshop, held under the theme; “Addressing Security Challenges for the Management of the 2017 Elections in Liberia, Creating a sense of Ownership”, brought together stakeholders in the Liberian Security apparatus.
Touching on the role of the media, Amb Ajisomo said the role of the Liberian media was critical in the electioneering process and urged the media to remain neutral and objective and essential to inform the public on party manifestos but, not to take sides and aggravate political violence stressing that the media should be guided by utmost responsibility to the country and not to the candidates of parties or tribal affiliation. He also said that corruption is a major trigger of political violence in Africa and therefore; it was important that Security personnel as well as electoral officials should not be induced with monetary gratification.
Amb Ajisomo further warned that managing and coordinating the activities of multiple Security agencies, systems and processed structures before and during elections could pose major challenges and stressed the need for proper synergy among Security operatives and the National Elections Commission.
The ECOWAS envoy further said there is also a need to promote and strengthen internal democracy in political parties by creating a level playing field for all members of political parties’ positions, as well as for nominations for Executive and Parliamentary seats, adding that the primary duty of political parties is to orientate politicians within their folds on the need to play by the rules.
He indicated that as part of the way forward, it is significant to acknowledge that most people believe that violence in politics is the norm, especially the unemployed youths and disgruntled politicians who often use violence to cause mayhem and ferment trouble, noting that as such, there should be a regular and systematic enlightenment of the populace of the danger of associating violence with politics. “Training and capacities building for Security personnel should involve risk analysis and mapping of potential conflict areas that are crime prone and especially, where there are large unemployed youths should be coded as high risk and this should inform the deployment of maximum-Security personnel, as in the case may be, with necessary equipment for controlling mob violence,” Amb Ajisomo further asserted. He said the international community must continue to help to build and enhance the capabilities of post-conflict states, such as Liberia in order for them to take ownership for their nation-building and reconstruction.