First Press Statement by the Women’s Situation Room-Liberia on the Conduct of the October 10, 2017 Presidential & Legislative Elections in Liberia
October 19, 2017
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen of the media, on October 10, 2017 Presidential and Representative elections were held in Liberia. The Women’s Situation Room (WSR)- Liberia is pleased to release this preliminary position statement on the conduct of the elections.
The WSR is a women’s peacebuilding mechanism for the mitigation of conflict before, during and after elections in African countries. It mobilizes women in collaboration with youth to lobby and advocate stakeholders to support the call for peaceful elections. It is a non-partisan and neutral process that was initiated by the women of Liberia in 2011 with technical support from the Angie Brooks International Centre (ABIC) for Women’s Empowerment, Leadership Development, International Peace and Security.
The WSR-Liberia rolled out a series of activities leading to the setting up of two physical Situation Rooms. These included the setting up of a mini Call Centre during the Voter Registration; the Talking Bus which captured issues from communities in hotspot counties, the Youth Peer to Peer Peace Process, the Youth Peace Torch, the 15,000 Women Peace March for peaceful elections, training for the Yannah Boys followed by the ECOWAS Youth Peace Summit.
The WSR-Liberia trained and deployed 322 women observers with 20 supervisors coordinating in all seventy-three districts of Liberia. As part of the ABIC collaboration with the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre in Ghana, 25 of their Kofi Annan Centre observers were deployed. The WSR-Liberia set up two physical Situation Rooms at the TM Mall at Mamba Point in Monrovia and the Suakoko Centre in Bong County which were connected by Skype.
We commend the people of Liberia for turning out to vote and remaining largely orderly throughout the process. The turnout was massive, and despite the challenges, voters remained mostly calm and peaceful throughout the voting process nationwide. We applaud the large turnout of women who came out to vote.
However, reports from our observers across the country as well as data received from the public via the 1010 short code in our Call Centres pointed to some deficiencies on polling day. As at yesterday Sunday, 15th October, 2017 our two Call Centres received a total of 1086 incident reports. 784 of these incidents were NEC related while 302 were security related. The rest were general queries and observations. The NEC related calls were on issues of identification of voters polling places (voters who could not identify where they were supposed to vote), NEC changing precinct locations thereby confusing voters, large number of invalid votes which is indicative of poor voter education, many of the polling precincts were in schools which were inaccessible to the physically challenged and the elderly, the late arrival of ballot boxes and voting materials in some places, overcrowding and long queues at polling places; and late pick up of ballot boxes.
There were some cases of violence reported, which included frustrated voters who had been standing in queues for a long time while others seemed to be getting preferential treatment, opposing parties supporters clashing along the way, youth preventing the elderly from voting, intimidation of polling staff during and after the counting process.
We note with concern the incident that happened in District # 4, Nimba County in which voting was compromised and the voting was rescheduled after NEC’s intervention. We hope for a speedy rescheduling of that election to ensure that voters can exercise their constitutional rights and that legal action will be taken against the perpetrators.
The WSR-Liberia continues to monitor the counting, tallying and pronouncement of preliminary results. We reiterate that this phase of the elections is just as important as the registration, campaign and voting process, as it has the propensity to derail the process and cause conflict.
We are pleased that media institutions announcing preliminary results are emphasizing that official results can only be released by the NEC which has the statutory responsibility to do so.
We call on all standard bearers, political parties and their supporters to remain calm and patiently await the collation, tallying and announcement of the final results by the National Elections Commission.
The WSR-Liberia appreciates the vigilance of the general public who called in to report threats and incidents of violence which the Eminent Women of the physical Situation Rooms in Monrovia and Suakoko were able to intervene in a timely manner in collaboration with NEC and the Police.
1. Provision should be made for lighting in the polling precincts to ensure increased visibility.
2. A change in the dates of elections should be considered so that elections are held in the dry season thus eliminating the problems encountered during elections in the rain season, which adversely affect the ability of the National Elections Commission to distribute ballots, electoral materials and staff.
3. Should a Run-Off election be declared, we are requesting immediate training of NEC’s polling staff due to the high percentage (7.2%) of Invalid Ballots which were, as our observers reported largely due to polling staff inking fingers before ballots were deposited in the boxes, as well as other polling staff inefficiencies.
4. Additional voters’ education prior to the implementation of any run-off elections should be undertaken; and Civil Society should be recruited to carry out the training.
5. There is a need to alphabetize the Voters Registration book in each polling station so as to eliminate the long time it takes polling staff to locate voters on the Register.
I thank you and Remember
“PEACE IS IN OUR HANDS