Ahead of the 2020 midterm Senatorial Elections in Liberia, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has dedicated a newly Refurbished National elections Commission (NEC) facility in Gbarnga, Bong County.
The facility includes a powerhouse, a newly constructed fence around the magisterial office, a hand pump, as well as a storage facility.
Speaking at the turnover ceremony of the facilities in the County on August 4, 2020, UNDP Resident Representative to Liberia, Pa Lamin Beyai, told the gathering that the project is intended to provide the needed security support for the Commission through the provision of a better storage facility for election materials and to ensure that the NEC has space without intimidation and hostility.
Dr. Beyai acknowledged that over the past times, the Commission has been requesting the UNDP family to fence office buildings and build a powerhouse in the various counties.
He indicated that through the project, UNDP has installed solar energy in all the magisterial offices in Liberia and, at the same time, included a generator house as a backup.
According to him, UNDP and its partners, including Sweden, Ireland, and the European Union and, at some point, Germany and Japan, through the 'Support to Electoral Cycle Project, began this project in 2015.
He recounted a longstanding partnership with the Government of Liberia (GoL) through the National Elections Commission (NEC) to consolidate Liberia's democracy through credible and inclusive elections.
Dr. Beyai: "The current project, after extension, will finally end in the coming weeks."
He further noted that the project has faced several challenges amid the COVID-19 pandemic, including lockdown and travel bans.
"With the understanding of our partners, we were able to find a way of working with the contractors to complete the project. We are grateful to VACC General Constructions and the International Consultant for delivering on time," Dr. Bayai said.
After five years of the current election project, UNDP and its partners have commenced work on the successor project envisaged to support Liberia from 2020-2024.
He is optimistic that the facility will contribute to the conduct of credible, transparent, and inclusive elections through safekeeping and protection of key electoral materials.
Furthermore, the UNDP Resident Representative has described the successful conduct of the Mid-Term Senatorial Elections and National Referendum as critical to ensuring public trust in future elections and mobilizing international partners' support.
He stated that while NEC may be the anchor, they cannot do it alone without the concerted efforts of all stakeholders including Government, Partners, CSOs, Community Based Organizations, Political Parties, other stakeholders and, more importantly, the Liberian people.
Dr. Beyai said he wants the focus of everyone to be on the peaceful elections before, during, and after, something he believes is necessary for any credible elections.
He encouraged the NEC to work with all electoral stakeholders to ensure a peaceful electoral process in accordance with the 2017 Ganta Declaration and Farmington Declaration.
Dr. Beyai indicated that enhanced awareness and voter education remain critical to ensuring that voters, especially first time-voters and women, exercise their rights to vote.
He underscored women's participation and timely engagement of political parties to consider female candidates as steps that will help to improve female membership in the Liberian Senate.
The UNDP Resident Representative, however, encouraged the NEC to open discussions with relevant government agencies, and other stakeholders on decreasing the cost of elections by effectively utilizing existing assets.
In remarks, the Executive Director of NEC in Gbarnga, Bong County, Anthony K. Sengbe, lauded UNDP for the initiative in the County.
The National Election Executive Director at the same time assured UNDP and it's partners that the entity will take good care of the newly Refurbished Office in the County.
Mr. Sengbe also assured citizens of the County that NEC is committed to holding free, fair, and transparent elections.
About US$240,000 has been spent on three centers in Lower Bong, Upper Bong, and Margibi County Magisterial offices respectively.