MONROVIA-Ahead of the upcoming presidential and legislative elections, it appears that attention is not just placed on the result of the polls, but on how peaceful the process will unfold given the wave of drug abuse and violence that has marred campaigns in the past, a sign, according to some women and youth, has the growing influence of threats to the 2023 elections.

Therefore, under the project Title: Sustainable and Inclusive Peace in Liberia through Promoting Women Leadership and Participation in Civic and Political Life and their Strengthened Role in Conflict Resolution, a flagship program of the ‘’Women Situation Room (WSR)” initiated by Angie Brooks International Centre for women’s Empowerment, Leadership Development, International Peace and Security in partnership with ZOA-Liberia with support from the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund organized a two-day mediation dialogue in Gbarnga, Bong County, from July 29-30  2022.

The initiative brought together chiefs, women, and youth leaders from 20 communities, 10 from urban and rural Montserrado County while 10 from Bong County converged at the program to explore issues, including drug abuse, political violence as a national emergency, and understanding election and civic responsibility, aimed at strategizing to consider important issues in the interest of the country.

Among communities who attended the program were PHP, West Point, Clara Town, King Gray, New Kru Town, Todee, Bentol, District #8, Crozierville, Garnesville, Gbarnga, Belefanai, Palala, Suakoko, Totota, Folobia, Gbartala, Salala, Cuttington and Wainsue

In her opening remarks, the Establishment Coordinator of the Angie Brooks International Centre, Cllr Yvette Chesson-Wureh told the gathering that the platform was organized to listen to the plight of the women and youth, of whom are local and community leaders made of representation of 4,000 Liberians.  She warned if nothing is done to solve the problem then the country is in trouble.

A discussion from the two-day event through several presentations pointed out that illicit drug sales across the country is supported by the high-ups in government, indicating that whenever a drug seller is arrested the next day the person is freed.

They also said market women are involved in transporting drugs for drug dealers and decried that the menace has entered into schools, according to Youth Chair and Chairlady Boakai Kawah and Comfort Peters of District #8.

The issues according to the participants are not unique to one community. They further explained that political violence is always occurring because one party thinks that a particular community is its stronghold as such, no other party should campaign. Naming voter trucking, buying of votes by politicians among other things as issues that provoke electoral violence.

Making their case they recommended to the Angie Brooks Centre (ABIC) to work with the government of Liberia to ensure the passage of the drug law is non-billable, that ABIC initiate a drug and civic education awareness campaign in all participating communities and train and deploy observers during the elections. Furthermore, they underscored the need for the construction of a vocational and rehabilitation center for illicit drug victims.

Responding to the women and youth recommendations at the program, Cllr Chesson-Wureh encouraged the participants to share the knowledge have acquired from the program and mentioned that ABIC is interested initiating entrepreneurial training for the women and youths to enable them do business that will impact  their livelihood and community and create jobs.

“The training you getting is not for yourself but for you to spread to others. It is not what you get, but what you scatter”, she said and added that the Women Situation Room will train observers, saying the knowledgeable you are, the better you can secure you country’s democracy.

While thanking the participants for attending what she termed as comprehensive look at electoral violence, drug abuse and understanding election and civic responsibility, Dr. Chesson-Wureh noted that ABIC will look at all of the input and ensure mechanism to get the country moving forward.

Also providing her expertise was Certified Social Worker and Psychologist Counselor, Rev Evangelist Judy Stryker who pointed out that drug addiction can shake peace and security, and urged the participants to keep having discussions that is befitting to the progress of Liberia, because they who are participating in the program are the ones that will bring transformation to the nation. We will enhance series of discussion on the matter, she added.

Rev. Stryker was followed by former Chief Justice of Liberia’s Supreme Court, Frances Johnson Allison, who encouraged the participating communities to register and vote when the time comes. She told the chiefs and other community leaders at the event to treat their residents equally. “People have the right to use public facilities, do not deprive them. We have to make this nation to move in a forward position.”

NEC can have some constraints to perform properly because of the lack of sufficient funds. Voter education is important and if you don’t vote you are not good citizens. Don’t say you will not vote because of the bad behavior of others. Do not put a political hurdle ahead of your country; if you do that then you have jeopardized the future of the country, NEC former boss said in further comment.

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