Ahead Of October Elections: Political Parties Sign 2023 Farmington Declaration
Twenty-six (26) political parties on Tuesday, April 4, 2023 converged at the Farmington Hotel, Margibi County, to affix their signatures to the Farmington River Declaration 2023, a comprehensive document that commit all participating parties in the ensuing October elections to prevent electoral violence, impunity and injustice.
The event, which builds on the 2017 Farmington Declaration, was organized by the National Elections Commission (NEC), headed by Cllr. Davidetta Browne Lansanah as Chairperson, and witnessed by ECOWAS and UN.
Speaking, NEC Chairperson Lansanah said, “Today marks another historic moment in the democratic landscape of Liberia where the major political actors, who are contestants in the 10th October 2023 elections, have once more mustered the courage and enthusiasm to collectively show to the world their ability to continuously contribute to the maintenance of peace in our dear country, by committing themselves to a violent-free election in October.”
The Farmington declaration was birthed on January 23, 2017, when the former President of the Republic of Liberia, Her Excellency Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, announced during her annual message to the National Legislature the need for a National Political Forum for the peaceful conduct of 2017 General Elections. Committed to a peaceful electoral process, Her Excellency appointed a steering committee for the National Political forum headed by Bishop Jonathan B. B. Hart and Sheikh Omaru Kamara, President and Vice President of the Interreligious Council of Liberia.
Dedicated to its responsibilities, the Hart and Kamara Steering Committee worked diligently with all registered political parties to draft an agreement that was signed on June 4, 2017, known as “The Farmington River Declaration of 2017”. That Declaration sought from the political parties strict adherence to the laws governing the electoral process, and a commitment to an electoral process free of all forms of violence that may endanger the peace and security of Liberia.
Commissioner Browne Lansanah stated, “We have gathered here today as an affirmation of steps taken in 2017 to, once again, witness, with utmost delight, the recommitment of the political parties to ensure that the 2023 General Elections in Liberia shall be free of all forms of violence and intimidations. The National Elections Commission, in this public manner, commends all political parties for your commitment in this regard.”
Signatories to the 2023 Farmington Declaration included President George Manneh Weah, Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC); Ambassador Joseph N. Boakai, Unity Party (UP); Alexander B. Cummings, Collaborating Political Parties (CPP); and Jeremiah K. Koung, Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction (MDR). The leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters of Liberia (EFFL), Emmanuel Gonquoi, entered the hall late, and did not sign the framework document. Former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was also in attendance.
The political leaders of the Liberian People Party (LPP), Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe, and the Movement for Progressive Change (MPC), Simeon Freeman, were not in attendance, while the Political Leader of the Liberty Party (LP), Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, is said to be out of country. The LP was however represented by its Chairman, Musa Hassan Bility, and other members of the party.
The parties pledged their commitment to a peaceful, transparent and credible election.
Among key statements, President George M. Weah reminded the delegates that “in June 2017, a few months before the presidential and legislative elections which were held in Liberia that year, twenty (20) of Liberia’s twenty-two (22) registered political parties met here in this place and signed a document which was named the ‘Farmington River Declaration’.
“In this document, we committed ourselves to an orderly and peaceful election process in October 2017. We agreed, individually and collectively, to prevent electoral violence, impunity and injustice, and pledged before the ECOWAS Heads of State, who were present in Liberia at the time attending the 51st Summit of that organization, that if ever and whenever such conflicts occurred we would address them through mediation or through legal means.”
President Weah said, “These upcoming elections, if peacefully and credibly held, will be a manifestation of the strengthening and showcasing of our democratic credentials, as well as our resilience and relentless commitment to upholding the tenets of democracy. It is about the building of trust and confidence in our political culture.
“I commend all of us political leaders and our respective political parties for resolving to sign this second Farmington River Declaration, which signifies our commitment and readiness to pursue the path of a peaceful, free, fair, transparent, inclusive and credible democratic elections, come October 10 this year, that will elevate our standard as a democratic nation. With a guaranteed and successful democratic exercise, we will further demonstrate our readiness for sustained peace, security, stability and development.”
However, the Unity Party Standard Bearer, Ambassador Joseph N. Boakai, had a descending opinion of the processes leading to the conduct of the 2023 elections. He recalled that violent “incidents are particularly prominent in district #10, Montserrado County, and Grand Cape Mount County. In Cape Mount, the UP has observed the trucking of Sierra Leoneans from across the border by businessman, Idrissa Massaley, who is believed to be a supporter of the CDC. We are told by executives of our party from Cape Mount that this has led to violence in Jeijuah, Mano River, Bambala, and Tieni between those that are trucking people from Sierra Leone and those attempting to put stop to such violation of our laws”.
Ambassador Boakai underscored, “As we pen our signatures to this Farmington River Declaration that will commit us to a non-violent, free, fair and transparent legislative and presidential elections, we call on the National Elections Commission (NEC) to consider extending the registration process in the first six counties. This is intended to make up for the delays and technical problems that have led to many not been able to register. Not doing so will be an act of deliberately disenfranchising Liberian citizens from participating in the elections.
On the other hand, the Standard Bearer of the CPP, Cummings, emphasized, “The future of our country lies in the hands of every single person in this room today. We must not take our commitments for granted. Our country is at a crossroads and, already, we have had incidents of violence. This must stop. We must protect all persons participating in these elections, especially our female aspirants and protect the sanctity of our electoral process. All parties signing on to this agreement must ensure full adherence to what was signed today, especially the ruling party.”
Cummings noted that the Government of Liberia (GOL) must also adequately and timely fund the National Elections Commission, and the Commissioners and staff of the NEC must conduct the elections with the utmost respect for the Constitution and with transparency, accountability and credibility.