21 November 2017

Liberia: Naymote Enhances Role of Youth in Political Process

NAYMOTE Partners for Democratic Development has continued to intensify its youth peace and reconciliation dialogues among young people in political parties and statutory youth organizations. The dialogue was held to develop a sense of oneness among young people from different political intuitions as well as to garner their opinions on the lessons learned during the first round of the 2017 elections and how these lessons can be used to inform decisions during the runoff and future elections to prevent electoral violence.

The second regional youth peace dialogue was held at the Bomi County Community College in Tubmanburg Bomi County over the weekend and brought together 75 young people from Gbarpolu, Grand Cape Mount, Montserrado and Bomi counties, representing six political parties. The parties included the Coalition for Democratic Change, Unity Party, Liberty Party, Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction, Alternative National Congress and the All Liberian Party. Leaders from the Federation of Liberian Youth, Liberia National Student Union and the Mano River Union Youth Parliament also participated in the dialogue.

This dialogue, according to a NAYMOTE press release, will be held around the country to advance peace and reconciliation efforts, build mutual relationships among young people from different political parties, increase the participation of young people in the country's post-election governance process, ensure young people remain actively engaged with the political and democratic process after the elections, and understand best practices and lessons learned through the various legal and democratic exchanges through a lessons-learned forum.

Participants at the dialogue expressed concern over the ongoing election dispute legal cases between the Liberty Party and the National Elections Commission (NEC), the rates of invalid votes during the first round, alleged incompetence of poll workers, returns of election results (Article 83 C), hearings based on complaint regulation and due process as well as mitigating the risks of electoral violence.

Young political leaders at the dialogue also noted that the NEC, political parties and citizens need to take into consideration the following issues which they believe could hamper the rerun, runoff or even future elections: Constitutional crisis, voter apathy, acceptance of election results, publishing of the voter roll, recruitment and deployment of competent NEC polling staff, resolution of electoral disputes, independence of the Supreme Court to handle the election crisis.

"Training and deployment of polling staff at polling centers and publishing of the voter roll are serious issues that need to be handled by the National Elections Commission in case there's a rerun or runoff. It has caused us serious problems and we don't want such situation to be repeated in the future. A credible election is dependent on a credible voters roll," said James Crayton, a young political leader.

"As leaders from different political parties, it's time to drive the change we want to see. Let's avoid violence and segregation, obey and respect the rule of law. Let's encourage our brothers and sisters to respect the rule of law" said Olushola Kim Ekunede, a Unity Party youth leader.

The participants stressed that young people need to remain law abiding, love one another, be patriotic, become more involved in the political process, be informed and tolerant, respect the rule of law, share the message of peace, avoid smear campaigns or inflammatory messages during the campaign and political process, seek legal redress and prioritize constructive engagements.

"Let's continuously share the message of peace and love of our dear country above everything else. This is the only way we can hold together as young people. I want to challenge every one of us here to always serve as ambassadors of peace," said Yassah David, another young political leader.

The participants also recommended that parties to the election dispute should work for an outcome that will preserve the peace; that the NEC should increase its efforts to improve how the public perceives it, and hire competent people to ensure the effectiveness of the administration of the electoral process, which is key to sustaining democracy in the postwar nation.

NAYMOTE believes the project is creating the platform and opportunity for young people from across the political divide to mend relationships fractured as a result of political divisions and to forge a common front in engaging a post election governance process that promotes the interest of all young people.

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