West Africa: UN Envoy for West Africa and Sahel Cautions Liberians Not to Return to Ugly Past

Monrovia — As Liberia gears up for its crucial presidential and legislative election in less than two months, the United Nations through its envoy to West Africa and the Sahel, Leonardo Santos Simao, has called on the nation and its people to refrain from violence

Mr. Leonardo Santos Simao serves as the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel. Ahead of the elections he made his inaugural visit to Liberia and met with major stakeholders including the National Elections Commission (NEC), President George Weah and other presidential candidates, the security sector and the civil society.

Addressing a press conference at the end of his visit, Mr. Simao said Liberia has gone through a difficult moment, and with 20 years of uninterrupted peace, it is incumbent on all Liberians to ensure the ugly past is not repeated.

“Liberia is a country which went through a very difficult moment. Now the country is enjoying 20 years of peace. And the main challenge is to maintain the peace so that the problems of the past cannot repeat themselves. So, elections can’t be moments of risk, relapse of peace in the country. And therefore, all institutions we met with are fully aware of that,” Mr. Simao said.

Liberia has achieved substantial strides in strengthening its democratic foundations. The upcoming presidential elections mark the fourth consecutive occurrence, along with various legislative elections. This year’s Presidential and Legislative Elections on October 10 will not only be conducted under the auspices of Liberia’s National Elections Commission but will also be the first Presidential polls overseen by the Liberia National Police in the absence of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).

Mr. Simao, while Liberians should be lauded for allowing peace to their country, the international community was very instrumental in helping Liberia return to peace, and was still committed to support the country’s peace and development.

He said during the high-level stakeholder meeting, some political parties’ leaders express concern about the potential of conflict and violence, judging from last week’s incident between the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change and the Unity Party.

Since the commencement of the campaign season, there have been alarming breaches of the Farmington River Declaration. Last week a violent clash erupted between supporters of the CDC and UP, resulting in injuries to several partisans from both sides, with each side blaming the other. On the first day, supporters of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change paraded through Monrovia’s streets, carrying a casket adorned with images of former Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai, the opposition Unity Party’s standard-bearer. Chanting anti-UP slogans, the supporters declared that their demonstration symbolized Amb. Boakai’s political demise.

The UN envoy called on political parties and independent candidates to educate their supporters and sensitize on the importance of violence free elections. He called political parties not to use the youths as instruments of violence, but major partners to the development drive of Liberia.

“It is the political parties’ responsibility to educate their supporters to be in straight compliance with the rules. Campaign should not endanger the peace and stability of the country,” he said.

Earlier in a meeting with the UN envoy, President George Weah reiterated his administration’s determination to ensure that the 2023 polls are conducted free, fair, and transparent, consistent with Liberian laws and international standards.

President Weah said he remains mindful of his moral and constitutional responsibility to maintain national peace and stability by, amongst other things, sustaining and consolidating Liberia’s budding democratic culture which also entails the conduct of free and fair elections.

He said his government is already on record not only for conducting a plethora of highly-contested by-elections, including senatorial midterm elections, which were widely declared free, transparent and fair, but has also provided ample funding for the works of the National Elections Commission (NEC) for the pending elections.

“Liberia is on the way to an inclusive and peaceful election. This is my commitment to Liberians and the world. I will ensure all within my powers that that happens under my watch,” he averred.

He then called on the international community and other political leaders to play their part for the betterment of the country.


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