Liberia's Young Voters Engage For Peaceful Elections
Muhammad Irfan Published October 04, 2023 | 05:19 PM
Buchanan, (APP - UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 4th Oct, 2023) In a schoolroom, young Liberians take it in turns to draw an image expressing what they fear most as they become eligible to vote for the first time.
Entitled "war", the image sums up what many worry about most: a return to violence.
The fear is never far from the surface in a country scarred by back-to-back civil wars.
Liberians will vote in presidential and parliamentary elections on Tuesday, in what the main political parties have pledged will be a peaceful process.
But the killing of three people on Friday in clashes between supporters of the two main political parties have fuelled fears.
"What is violence?" asks Nehemiah Jallah, 24, who is behind the initiative aimed at promoting peace.
"Violence is when you force somebody to do something," one of those listening responds.
"It's when you are seeking to do harm," suggests another.
Jallah pulls no punches in telling his young audience seated at wooden desks to stay clear of any form of violence.
"Know that when violence escalates, buildings will be destroyed, innocent people will be killed," he said.
- 'Safe from violence' -
The discussion is lively.
More than 60 percent of Liberians are under 25 years old.
"Politicians are trying to use you because they know that you are more vulnerable," said Lawrence Sergbou, who introduces himself as a youth activist to the audience.
Liberia's civil wars were notorious for the use of child soldiers, he said, adding that violence decimates hope for development.
"When we look at social networks, listen to the radio, see the country's history... Yes, I'm afraid," Sergbou acknowledged.
"We've been living peacefully for 20 years now and we don't want that to end."
- Fuelling fears -
Several former warlords still play an influential role in the country's politics.
One of them, 71-year-old Prince Johnson, a senator, has teamed up in an alliance with candidate Joseph Boakai.
Johnson has threatened a popular revolt if the ruling party manipulates the elections.
Boakai, who was vice president between 2006 and 2018, is among the frontrunners for the presidency.
All parties vying in the polls pledged in April under the aegis of the United Nations and the West African bloc, ECOWAS, to refrain from violence and resolve electoral disputes through legal institutions.