The second phase of the NEC training, which basically focuses on campaign activities, including financing of political parties and independent candidate campaign, procedures and offenses as well journalists' role and responsibility in reporting on these activities, is being held in Ganta, Nimba County. It could be recalled that the commission sometimes ago conducted the first of the training on the heel of the voters' roll update (VRU) in Gbarnga, Bong County. That training was geared towards educating journalists on importance of the VRU process as well as legal basis and the legal basis for the conduct of the ensuing referendum. Speaking at the start of the two-day training, the Deputy Executive Director for Programs at NEC, Atty. Nathan P. Garbie, said the initiative is intended to build the capacity of journalists reporting on electoral issues so to enhance their reportage.
He noted that the training is in the direction of promoting good democracy through the media. "Training of this kind is significant in the promotion of democracy. If you don't have knowledge, you dwell on rumors rather than accuracy.
Mr. Henry B. Flomo, Director of Communication at NEC, indicated that the training is being organized by the Commission through its Department of Communication with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with the aim to abreast journalists on regulations and laws governing campaign financing and the penalty thereof. "This is very necessary for journalists covering electoral. It is intended to make you understand campaign expenses, with the campaign being one of the cardinal aspects of the electoral process," stated Flomo. "This will help everyone of us if you report well. Let's take our time and help ourselves and the Liberian people," the NEC communication chief told the gathering.
Mr. B. Coffey Jr., President of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), in remarks, praised the commission for maintaining a strong tie with the local media. He said NEC through its communication department has been proactive and effective in its partnership with the Liberian media. The PUL boss urged journalists to now use the new knowledge acquired to infuse new dynamism in writing on electoral issues. "Not that you must just write with facts; you must also be nationalistic. It is not everything that comes from politicians worth publishing or broadcast. The country depends on you," the PUL head warned. Mr. Roosevelt Zayzay of UNDP pledged the UN agency's unflinching support towards the democratization of the country by supporting the programs of the country's electoral body."UNDP remains committed to supporting NEC to ensure that democracy flourishes in the country. The journalists are critical partners to the process and the peace of this country depends on you," he added
Environmental and Human Rights Defenders Want Intervention in the Political Tensions in West Africa The Mano River Union Civil Society Natural Resources Rights and Governance Platform (MRU CSO Platform) says it is alarmed over the rising political insecurity in the West African sub-region and calls for prompt actions to prevent any potential conflict. Of specific concern is the prevailing situation that has marred the election in Guinea, the killing of protesters in Nigeria and the looming fears ahead of elections in Côte D’Ivoire and Liberia. The MRU Platform is a network of environmental and human rights defenders, indigenous people and grassroot activists, women and workers’ unions, representing nine countries in West Africa, committed to improving and defending the lives of communities affected by corporate and government operations relative to land and natural resource exploitations.
In separate letters written to ECOWAS Commission, UN High Commission on Human Rights and the Secretary General of the Mano River Union Secretariat, the Platform recalls past rowdy elections in in the region which replay must be nipped in the bud. The MRU CSO Platform also recalls the protests against the constitutional review of 22 March 2020, in Guinea that allowed the current president, Alpha Conde to run for a third term, resulting in considerable material damage, injuries and deaths. Guinea has been on the edge since, with authorities deploying troops and closing the borders on the frontiers with Sierra Leone, Senegal and Guinea Bissau. Following the October 18 polls on Monday, gunshots were heard in the Capital, Conakry as supporters of opposition candidate, Cellou Diallo took to the streets to celebrate after he declared himself winner of the first ballot.
We are in this release further reinforcing our appeal for ECOWAS to act swiftly in forestalling a bloodbath in the region, by activating the ECOWAS Early Warning and Response Network consistent with Article 58 of the revised 1993 ECOWAS Treaty as defined by the Protocol, Relating to the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention of December 1999. Our concern is especially about the humanitarian situation that comes with these political tensions, the loss of the lives of ordinary citizens, physical injuries, destruction of properties, the displacement and movement of refugees across the borders. It is in this vein we are calling for early robust interventions and monitoring. The Lead Campaigner for Green Advocates International (GAI) based in Liberia and the 2019 Goldman Environmental Prize Winner for Africa, Alfred Lahai Brownell, Sr. lamented that “many defenders of the 2010 constitution that opposed a 3rd term bid of the incumbent Guinean leader were arrested, imprisoned, tried and convicted on frivolous criminal charges; we therefore called on the United Nations and the Office for the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) to help prevent the continuous violations of the rights of environmental and human rights defenders, including journalists, bloggers and political activists”.
Cote D’Ivoire is also concerning as the country heads towards the presidential election scheduled for 31st October 2020, the opposition has threatened a boycott of the polls, to be followed by actions of “peaceful civil disobedience.” There are worries about a relapse into widespread crisis in the country. Sadly, the situation in Cote D’Ivoire is sparked by another case of incumbent - President Alassane Ouattara who is controversially seeking a third term in office.
“We are encouraging the Mano River Union Secretariat and other stakeholders to act now to prevent these countries from undermining the peace, security and stability of a region that has suffered from historic conflicts,” Dr. Michel Yoboue, Executive Director, Extractive Industries Research and Advocacy Group of Cote D’Ivoire, added. Elsewhere in Liberia, the MRU CSO Platform is equally wary of the growing incidents of electoral violence and dispute over the voters’ roll clean-up prompting a planned opposition protest, ahead of the mid-term senatorial elections on December 8, 2020.
These combined power plays in an already fragile region, could potentially explode and destabilize the region and therefore requires the immediate attention of stakeholders in the region and the international community. Abu Brima of the Network Movement for justice and Development (NMJD) of Sierra Leone submits: “Our worries are not just about the lives of the struggling citizens across the borders who are grappling with socio economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also about the long-term political stability and development aspirations of the sister countries.” West Africa is a classic example of how conflicts and instability starting in one country can spill over across borders. Urgent steps must be taken to stop any possible conflict that would further worsen the human sufferings in the region. Meantime, the MRU CSO Platform unequivocally condemns, the shooting and killing of protesters in Lagos, Nigeria who are demanding police reforms. “The reported use of live bullets by Nigerian security forces on citizens protesting against police brutality, is simply an act of banditry and a crime against humanity that should not go unpunished,” insists Chima Williams, Acting Executive Director of Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria.