Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Liberians hold referendum, election dry run

Voting ends in Liberian referendumSource: UK Reuters

* Ballot over election framework to test poll readiness
* Low turnout due to lack of interest, poor transport (Adds End of voting, turnout)
MONROVIA, Aug 23 (Reuters) - Liberians voted on Tuesday in a referendum held to decide how an election later this year will be run, and to measure the country's progress towards peace and reconciliation eight years after civil war ended.

Observers and polling officials had said they expected a low turnout because of the lack of interest and transport problems, and no official turnout figures were released when voting ended.
"This centre registered over 3,000 people, but today not even one thousand people came to vote," said Lister Kandakai, a polling agent at one of the capital's polling stations.
Results of the referendum are expected in two weeks.
Since years of conflict ended in 2003, Liberia has signed billions of dollars' worth of mining, farming and oil deals, but stability remains fragile, with many young jobless people and a recently ended conflict in neighbouring Ivory Coast, and 9,000 United Nations peacekeepers remain in the country.
Many people did not vote because some politicians who had transported voters to register for the presidential election, did not provide transport for the referendum, said Liberia's roving ambassador Mohammed Shereiff.
The referendum will decide whether the presidential election should be pushed back from October to November, residency requirements for presidential candidates and how lawmakers will be voted in.
Nana Adu Ampofo, analyst at Songhai Advisory, said the questions put in the referendum did not imply dramatic changes to the Liberian political system.
"Should the referendum be rejected, the NEC (National Election Commission) will have less time to organise the general election, and Johnson-Sirleaf's candidacy will be disputed by... opponents," he said.
"Similarly, if the 'yes' vote takes the day, imperfect voter registration may give rise to legal challenges," Ampofo said.
The referendum has raised tension in the west African nation and divided opinion between those backing the referendum and those seeing it as an attempt by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to strengthen her hold on power.
The vote will also test preparations for the first Liberian-run election after a U.N.-backed poll in 2005 and indicate how long peacekeepers supporting fragile state security forces must remain in the country.
Underscoring concerns about the potential for trouble, Ellen Margrethe Loj, the head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Liberia, appealed on Monday for a peaceful vote.
"I appeal to everybody not to be tempted to resort to violence; not to be dragged into violence, but agree that your voice is heard through the ballot paper," she said on UN radio.

One issue the 1.8 million registered voters must decide on is a rise in the retirement age of Supreme Court judges to 75.
The National Election Commission said some ballot papers had been misprinted and did not give voters the choice of keeping the retirement age at 70, causing confusion among voters.
"This is a clear way for the ruling party to cheat us. I do not think this is an error. They did this only to test us. We will not sit here for these people to cheat us," said Richamond Dahn, a supporter of the opposition CDC party.
Other voters said they would save the cash needed to travel to polling stations for election day, and would not take part in the referendum.
Sirleaf, a former World Bank official who has won widespread international praise for her work rebuilding the country, is still struggling to convince many at home that change is coming fast enough.
The CDC party of former international soccer star George Weah called for a boycott and others called for a 'no' vote.
The Brussels-based International Crisis Group think tank warned earlier this month that the election in Liberia would hinge on how well the election commission handled the referendum and opposition perceptions of its support for the ruling party.
Firms like ArcelorMittal and BHP Billiton have iron ore mines in the country and vast tracts of palm oil concessions have been snapped up, including one by Malaysia's Sime Darby. Chevron and Anadarko are leading the oil exploration drive.
The mandate for the U.N.'s peacekeeping force is due for renewal next month but mission chief Loj restated her view that any draw-down must not be too swift.
"First let us all work together to have free, fair, and peaceful elections and no violence and then we will look at the way forward," she said.

(Reporting by Alphonso Toweh and Sylvanus Turay; Writing by David Lewis and Bate Felix; Editing by Tim Pearce

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Inside Liberia with Bernard Gbayee Goah

Everyone is a genius

Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. – A Einstein

Drawing the line in Liberia

Crimes sponsored, committed, or masterminded by handful of individuals cannot be blamed upon an entire nationality. In this case, Liberians! The need for post-war justice is a step toward lasting peace, stability and prosperity for Liberia. Liberia needs a war crimes tribunal or some credible legal forum that is capable of dealing with atrocities perpetrated against defenseless men, women and children during the country's brutal war. Without justice, peace shall remain elusive and investment in Liberia will not produce the intended results. - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Men with unhealthy characters should not champion any noble cause

They pretend to advocate the cause of the people when their deeds in the dark mirror nothing else but EVIL!!
When evil and corrupt men try to champion a cause that is so noble … such cause, how noble it may be, becomes meaningless in the eyes of the people - Bernard Gbayee Goah.

If Liberia must move forward ...

If Liberia must move forward in order to claim its place as a civilized nation amongst world community of nations, come 2017 elections, Liberians must critically review the events of the past with honesty and objectivity. They must make a new commitment to seek lasting solutions. The track records of those who are presenting themselves as candidates for the position of "President of the Republic of Liberia" must be well examined. Liberians must be fair to themselves because results from the 2011 elections will determine the future of Liberia’s unborn generations to come - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's greatest problem!

While it is true that an individual may be held responsible for corruption and mismanagement of funds in government, the lack of proper system to work with may as well impede the process of ethical, managerial, and financial accountability - Bernard Gbayee Goah

What do I think should be done?

The situation in Liberia is Compound Complex and cannot be fixed unless the entire system of government is reinvented.
Liberia needs a workable but uncompromising system that will make the country an asylum free from abuse, and other forms of corruption.
Any attempt to institute the system mentioned above in the absence of rule of law is meaningless, and more detrimental to Liberia as a whole - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's Natural Resources
Besides land water and few other resources, most of Liberia’s dependable natural resources are not infinite, they are finite and therefore can be depleted.
Liberia’s gold, diamond, and other natural resources will not always be an available source of revenue generation for its people and its government. The need to invent a system in government that focuses on an alternative income generation method cannot be over emphasized at this point - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia needs a proper system
If Liberians refuse to erect a proper system in place that promotes the minimization of corruption and mismanagement of public funds by government institutions, and individuals, there will come a time when the value of the entire country will be seen as a large valueless land suited on the west coast of Africa with some polluted bodies of waters and nothing else. To have no system in place in any country is to have no respect for rule of law. To have no respect for rule of law is to believe in lawlessness. And where there is lawlessness, there is always corruption - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Solving problems in the absence of war talks

As political instability continues to increase in Africa, it has become abundantly clear that military intervention as a primary remedy to peace is not a durable solution. Such intervention only increases insecurity and massive economic hardship. An existing example which could be a valuable lesson for Liberia is Great Britain, and the US war on terror for the purpose of global security. The use of arms whether in peace keeping, occupation, or invasion as a primary means of solving problem has yield only little results. Military intervention by any country as the only solution to problem solving will result into massive military spending, economic hardship, more fear, and animosity as well as increase insecurity. The alternative is learning how to solve problems in the absence of war talks. The objective of such alternative must be to provide real sustainable human security which cannot be achieved through military arm intervention, or aggression. In order to achieve results that will make the peaceful coexistence of all mankind possible, there must be a common ground for the stories of all sides to be heard. I believe there are always three sides to every story: Their side of the story, Our side of the story, and The truthBernard Gbayee Goah


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