“Liberia is greater than our personal interests.”
Ahead of the presidential and general election scheduled to take place in October 2023, Liberian political parties and stakeholders committed themselves on April 4 in Farmington to ensure peaceful, transparent, and credible elections. But at the signing ceremony, it was the voice of a young woman representing Liberian youth who gripped the attention of all and left a profound impact.
Alphia Faith Kemokai is not a candidate of a political party. At 23 years old, she is the Coordinator of Naymote's Young Political Leadership School. Speaking on behalf of the youth at the signing ceremony, she called on political leaders present to abide by the principles signed in the Farmington Agreement, ensuring an election free from violence and respect of electoral laws.
The presidential and general elections of October 2023 will be the first to be organized and administered by Liberia, since the drawdown of United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) in March 2018. According to Liberian commentators, these elections are also expected to be hotly contested with the incumbent facing challenges from former vice-president Joseph Boakai of the former ruling Unity Party and Alexander Cummings of the Collaborating Political Parties.
This context reemphasizes the crucial nature of these elections and brings responsibility not only on the government, but also on political stakeholders, opposition and ruling, civil society, the media, and the citizens, particularly the youth of Liberia to recognize the necessity to deliver a credible, inclusive, and peaceful election process.
The population of Liberia is young: 63 per cent is less than 25 years old and 32.8 per cent is 10-24 years old. Yet, there is also an increasing number of idle and unemployed youths, in particular young men, who have become ideal recruits for criminal and other illicit activity involving violence during elections. In her speech, Alphia condemned the use of young people as “instruments of violence” and encouraged young people to exercise their constitutional right to vote, emphasizing the need to do so peacefully. An extension of this is the need for political leaders to caution their supporters against the use of violence, reflecting the commitments enshrined in the Farmington Declaration.
Alphia also issued a stark message to the media of Liberia, known to hold great influence when it comes to information disseminated during election time. “The media should not be in politician’s pocket” lamented the young Liberian. In this country, like many others, the media are responsible for a significant amount of voter awareness and sensitization to elections issues, including crucial issues of inclusion. Therefore, it is paramount that the Liberian people receive credible and balanced information conducive to exercising their right to vote in an unbiased and fair manner.
Echoing Alphia’s message, Giovanie Biha, the Deputy Special Representative of the United Nations Office of West Africa and the Sahel, implored leaders to, “Create spaces for youth and women to channel their creativity towards building resilience and growth for their country”.
Young people in Liberia have enjoyed peace for the most part – that is something that should be protected. As Alphia Faith Kemokai said, “We believe that democracy should deliver”.