MONROVIA–Three Women Non-Governmental Organizations comprising the Women NGOs Secretariat of Liberia, (WONGOSOL,) Sister AID Liberia, (SALI,) and the Peace Hut Women of Lofa County have applauded all political stakeholders and electorates for participating in the just-ended election in Lofa County.
According to the release issued over the weekend the release said, from June 25 to 30, 2022, the joint team monitored the opening and set-up of the polls; voting and counting of ballot papers and votes, as well as closing of voting polls in three representative districts – Voinjama, Salyea and Zorzor.
The release noted that, in addition to these crucial points, they observed critical electoral incidents that occurred at polling places as well as in the larger political environment of Lofa County and based on observations made, they qualify that the voting process was free, fair, and peaceful.
The release said the joint mission team observed a number of concerning issues that require the urgent attention of the relevant political and electoral authorities including development partners.
The Women Non-Governmental Organizations in a release said opening and closing of the polls were timely carried out but slightly delayed beyond the required time of 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. in isolated cases and polling precincts were seemingly accessible to all, including people living with disabilities and they (set-up) tend to guarantee confidential vote casting.
Speaking on the issue of Security presence, the release said the presence of the Liberia Joint security officers was moderate or nominally low in rural areas but more visible in urban/city areas and added that, they did not observe any incident of campaigning – directly and indirectly – at the polling centers and/or in the environment of those areas and also voters were seen in an organized, single file queues, usually adhering to the guidance of poll workers and police officers.
On the issue of Voters turn out, the release indicated that, they noted that turnout of voters at all the polling stations the joint-team visited was seemingly low. Results from basic inquiry made after the Election Day regarding this revealed that many voters were likely demotivated and tend to feel their votes would have made no difference.
Touching on Women’s participation, the release said, basic inquiry carried out, women said they felt reluctant to vote because they do not have a significant stake in Lofa’s political processes, including holding traditional and political leadership positions to directly advance the interest of women.
Quoting respondents, the release said, women who have leadership and political ambitions are rejected by traditional leaders because women cannot “talk to the devil” and are not allowed to participate in certain traditional fora and rites. This issue raises serious concerns of women’s political participation and leadership.
On the issue of Violation of the right of women to vote: the release said that, they learned about a few cases where the right of women to vote was violated by male counterparts adding that the case of a young woman who was prevented from voting by her elder brother because she was reportedly not voting for a candidate of his choice in Zorzor District is well known also other cases we witnessed were related to men demanding their wives to do farm works and businesses instead of going to vote.
On the issue of Peace and security concern the release said unofficial announcements of preliminary results by political actors and journalists in ways that suggest a certain candidate already won was common as such this could serve as an undercurrent and potentially erupt into violent tension if the official election result is contrary to pronouncements being made.
An even graver situation was the case of a candidate giving concession speech and congratulating a candidate ahead of the official result. On the other hand, while there was no situation that threatened the peace and security of women during the voting process, the approach of campaign applied by supporters of the two major contenders (Amb. Joseph Nyemah Boakai of the Unity Party and Rep. Thomas P. Fallah of the Congress for Democratic Change) in market places in Lofa County reportedly interrupted the livelihood activities of poor women who depend on daily wage and profits from petit businesses they operate to survive.
Based on observations made, we request political actors to desist from announcing unofficial results, including spurring of mal-information, misinformation, and disinformation ahead of official announcement by the National Elections Commission.
Additionally, we recommend to the National Police and NEC that critical incidents such as violation of women’s rights to vote should be addressed to guarantee equal participation of women and men in electoral processes in Liberia.
Finally, we implore all political stakeholders, traditional leaders and electorates to support the participation of women in all aspects of political life and to as well continue to support the peace completion of the remaining phases of the election.