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Liberians Confident Elections Will Be Peaceful


Liberians say they are confident post-war elections in their ruined country will be peaceful. A large U.N. peacekeeping mission is making sure Tuesday's balloting goes smoothly.

A siren wails in the streets of Monrovia, but there is no sign of trouble. It is a peaceful activist using a bullhorn to promote her candidate, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Besides what U.N. spokesman Paul Risley calls a few scuffles between opposing camps, the campaign season, involving 22 presidential candidates and more than 700 candidates for Congress, has been peaceful.

Mr. Risley says every precaution is being made to make sure this will also be the case on Tuesday.

"We have 15,000 heavily armed U.N. peacekeepers and over 1,000 international police officers. They will be on full alert," he said. "Many of them will be deployed to forward bases outside of their normal barracks and camps to ensure their presence nearest and closest to those areas where the most voters are likely to participate in Tuesday's election."

A former Liberian soldier in the civil war, Peter Clark, says all indications are good the election will be a success.

"The campaign was peaceful. So, I believe that election day will be peaceful. I don't think it's true that somebody will go and cause trouble on election day," he said. "I don't think it's true, because everybody is tired with the war, and we want peace."

A statement has been circulating, signed by so-called Yana Boys, the name used for petty traders in Monrovia's markets, saying that, if international soccer star George Weah does not win, they will riot.

One of these traders, Steven K. Massah, who trades U.S. dollars for Liberian dollars, denies this, saying it is a plot to discredit Mr. Weah.

"I want to tell you, it's false. It's a rumor," he said. "When you are famous, when people like you, other people go against you, they say lot of things against George Weah. It's a propaganda, don't let nobody fool you. There will be free and fair election. Nobody is going to disturb nobody. We are going to live and enjoy ourselves in the country. We are tired with war. Nobody wants war again."

We are tired of killing ourselves. If you people are leaving here tomorrow, how are we going to rescue ourselves?"

There are an estimated 100,000 former combatants, many of whom seem to be supporting Mr. Weah.

A disarmament program was completed earlier this year, but not all fighters took part, and armed robbery is on the rise. A new Liberian police force is being formed, but the new officers are not armed at this point.

In the presidential election, Mr. Weah faces a strong challenge from former government minister Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who is popular among women, and former Senate President Charles Brumskine, who has appealed to Christians. All candidates have appealed for calm, whatever the results may be.

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