Touch Action Awaits Trouble Makers

With less than 11 days to Liberia’s Presidential and Legislative Elections, the United States says it will pursue visa restrictions for individuals believed to be responsible for, or complicit in undermining democracy in the country including through manipulation or rigging of the electoral process.

In a press statement issued late Wednesday evening in Monrovia, US Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken noted, “United States is committed to supporting and advancing democracy in Liberia and around the world. Today, I am announcing a new visa restriction policy under Section 212(a)(3C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act for those undermining democracy in Liberia. This policy will take effect in advance of the upcoming election.”

“Under this policy, the United States will pursue visa restrictions for those believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining democracy in Liberia, including through manipulation or rigging of the electoral process; use of violence to prevent people from exercising their rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly; use of measures designed to prevent political parties, voters, civil society, or the media from disseminating their views; or engagement in any other activity designed to improperly influence the outcome of an election.”

Mr. Blinken added, “Certain family members of such persons may also be subject to these restrictions. Persons who undermine democracy in Liberia including in the lead-up to, during, and following Liberia’s 2023 elections may be found ineligible for U.S. visas under this policy.”

“The visa restriction policy announced today will apply to specific individuals and is not directed at the Liberian people or the Government of Liberia,” Mr. Blinken added.

Mr. Blinken noted that, “The decision to impose visa restrictions reflects the commitment of the United States to support Liberians’ aspirations to have free and fair elections that demonstrate the will of the people and strengthen democracy and the rule of law.”

The United States is committed to supporting and advancing democracy in Liberia and around the world. Today, I am announcing a new visa restriction policy under Section 212(a)(3)C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act for those undermining democracy in Liberia. This policy will take effect in advance of the upcoming election.

The restrictions will also affect officials of government and other stakeholders who will use violence to prevent people from exercising their rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly; the use of measures designed to prevent political parties, voters, civil society, or the media from disseminating their views; or engagement in any other activity designed to improperly influence the outcome of an election.

Meanwhile, responding to the latest statement from the United States Government, Information Minister, Ledgerhood J. Renniesaid the Government of Liberia stated that it welcomes the visa restriction policy intended to target those who undermine democracy in Liberia.

“This policy, the government believes, further reinforces President George M. Weah’s expressed commitment to building a more democratic society grounded in respect for the rule of law, free expression and association, as well as the holding of free and fair elections,” he noted.

“This was the central theme of his address to the UN General Assembly last week and during various conversations with U.S. stakeholders – including U.S. Charge d’Affairs Catherine RODRIGUEZ.”

“The Government believes the U.S. statement, coming at a time when incendiary rhetoric by politicians has been on the rise, will aid its efforts to calm public anxiety around the upcoming democratic exercise.” Ledgerhood J. Rennie, the Information boss said.

At the same time, the government has also welcomed the arrival in the country of scores of election observers from the ECOWAS, AU, EU, U.S. and other observer missions from around the world.

“This comes as international partners in Liberia have commended various stakeholders, including the elections commission for the methodical and open manner in which they have conducted themselves so far.” Information Minister Ledgerhood J. Rennie, statement concluded.

This move comes at a time when members of the opposition community are already crying foul that the National Elections Commission is doing everything in its power to rig the elections in favor of the incumbent, President George Weah and his party, the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC).  With less than eleven days until the elections, the NEC has yet to make public the Final Voter Roll (FRR), which will make known the total number of people expected to cast their votes in the pending elections.

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