28 November 2017

Liberia: CSO Wants Independent Probe Into Electoral 'Shortfalls'

A local youth oriented Civil Society Organization, Better Future Foundation (BFF) has called for the creation of an Independent Board of Inquiry (IBI) to investigate allegations of gross irregularities and fraud that characterized the October 10 presidential and representative elections being hotly contested by the opposition Liberty Party (LP) and the governing Unity Party (UP).

BFF president, Augustine Arkoi underscored the need for the IBI to thoroughly investigate factors that resulted to the alleged irregularities and fraud at the polls.

Mr. Arko said that such body should be established throughout the country to probe electoral complaints and put in place the necessary mechanisms to avoid repeat of such shortcomings in the future.

This, he said will help exonerate authorities of the National Elections Commission (NEC) from the dilemma of being a referee (judge) and player (accused) at the same time.

Arkoi spoke as a studio guest of a radio station last week in Monrovia. According to him, such a probe should be conducted to determine whether or not the alleged irregularities were committed deliberately to undermine the nation's democratic process.

Though there are statutory bodies such as the NEC Hearing office, the Board of Commissioners and the Liberian courts to handle disputes arising from the conduct of elections, Arkoi believes that an independent body would be more proactive to have public approval to adjudicate such cases fairly without any political interference.

He emphasized that any society that fails to isolate or condones any wrongdoing by its action or inaction, such society runs the risk of being engulfed by intractable conflicts with disastrous consequences.

Mr. Arkoi observed with regret and disdain that many of the individuals entrusted with state power, including elected and appointed public officials in their desire for self-gratification have apparently conspired over the years against the supreme interest of ordinary citizens, who constitute the vast majority of the population.

He made specific reference to the Code of Conduct, which calls for public officials wanting to contest elected offices to resign two years prior to the 2017 presidential and legislative elections; a law which Arkoi said was grossly compromised simply to satisfy the political desires of some politicians.

He said compromising the Code of Conduct law was glaring as it was selectively demonstrated by re-appointment of a handful of officials, who previously resigned based on its provisions, while many others who acted in line with the very law in resigning their previous positions were never re-appointed for reasons best known only to the appointing authority.

Arkoi also made reference to the overwhelming quest of the Liberian people for law reform, with the aim of addressing issues of ambiguity, some of which are subject to multiple interpretations as well as the reduction of the tenure of the presidency from six to four years, Senate from nine to six and Representative from six to four.

Regrettably, he indicated that all of the above expressed will of the Liberian people, which should have been prioritized and facilitated by the government for full implementation through a national referendum prior to the conduct of the 2017 elections remain a mere dream.

Arkoi stressed the need for civil society and pro-democracy organizations to remain engaged with Liberia's international partners to ensure that the will and aspirations of the Liberian people for participatory democracy, rule of law and equitable dispensation of justice and the provision of basic social services for all are actualized.

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