For Mary Kolee, aged 18, President George Weah has failed the youth and thus does not deserve a second term. She claims that Weah has done poorly in the educational sector.
"Though he's the president, people have so much to say about him, even myself. I have the negative and positive sides of him to talk about, but when it comes to the educational sector, he has not performed," Kolee said.
Kolee, a Public Administration student at the University of Liberia, will be among thousands of first-time voters exercising their constitutional rights in October of this year.
"George Weah said free educational policy, but I tell you for free that George Weah has failed us when it comes to that," she added.
She claims that Weah has dashed young people's hopes and inspired them to engage in dangerous activities.
Liberia is one of several African countries holding elections this year. These elections, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, will have a significant impact on the continent.
The Economist Intelligence Unit also warned that the election could be volatile in Africa, with a high risk of political protests, mass demonstrations, and strikes in several countries.
Despite the fact that there have been no incidents of electoral violence in Liberia pertaining to the October 2023 elections, fourteen active political parties, including the Liberty Party, Unity Party, All Liberian Party, People's Unification Party, and Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction Party, will vote to unseat incumbent George Weah of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC).
Others include the National Democratic Coalition, Movement for Economic Empowerment, Liberia Transformation Party, United People's Party, Victory for Change Party, and National Union, Liberia Transformation Party.
These political parties will undoubtedly require the votes of young people like Kolee. According to the United Nations Population Fund, 63% of Liberians are under the age of 25, and 32.8 percent are between the ages of 10 and 24.
"Every day you see dead bodies everywhere. Prices are increasing everyday. Transportation is high, and everything is just so hard,"said Bamidele Ogundele, another first-time voter.
For him, if Liberians want to see real change they should vote Weah out come October. "The present government in power is not really getting access so I will vote for another person."
Ogundele says there has been no awareness-raising to educate them on how to vote.
The National Elections Commission (NEC) is responsible for conducting elections for all elective public offices and administering and enforcing all election laws throughout the Republic of Liberia.
Prince Dunbar, the NEC spokesperson, refutes Ogundele's allegations, stating that there are ongoing campaigns across the country about the election. But there is no specific target--both first time voters and those who have voted before are being targeted.
"I have observed that it is mostly young people who are the ones that are used to agitation," President Weah said during his annual state of the nation address. "These young people have had little or no experience of war. We have now enjoyed 20 years of unbroken peace, and it can readily be seen that young people, who are coming of voting age for the first time since turning 18 years old, have had no experience of war. They are quickly and easily manipulated to do harm and instill violence. We need to guide our young people and inspire them to reject violence and conflict as a means to express their grievances and dissatisfactions."
Two years ago, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) launched the Elections and Democracy Activity (EDA). Implemented by Democracy International, the EDA is a five-year project designed to help Liberia overcome the most serious threats to its democracy and foster inclusive, sustainable democratic and political development.
EDA works with Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), NEC, and the Government of Liberia to cultivate accountable elected representatives who govern in the interest of their constituents.
The Chief of Party at Democracy International, Stephanie Lyn, said the program is working with first time voters to encourage and equip them to engage more fully in the upcoming general elections.
She says the project provides youth leadership training through the Emerging Political Leaders program with IREX and NAYMOTE in all 15 counties, delivering civic education grants in Gbarpolu, Lofa, Maryland, and Nimba.
"First-time voters are one target group in a series of community, theater, and radio engagements from January 2023 through the elections," she said.
According to her, one full cycle took place in September, training nearly 400 youth. The next rounds are in March and June, again in all 15 counties. Participants can apply through NAYMOTE," said madam Lyn.
Lyn added that the project works with the NEC as it reaches out to first-time voters through civic voter education as well as recruiting Liberians, including youth, to serve as poll workers in their communities.
Democracy International "is partnering with the Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC) as they prepare to monitor the process; again, first-time voters could be election monitors to secure free, fair, and transparent elections in support of Liberia's democracy. Interning young university students as Democracy Fellows to support each of our program objectives, benefiting from these students' direct experience to reflect the needs of first-time voters during the 2023 general elections," Lyn said.
Many of the first time voters interviewed said they were going to vote for better education, improved infrastructure, and peace. "I will vote because I want to see change and the betterment of young people," said 19-year old Jessica Toe.