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US Amb. Confident Liberians Will Choose Ballots Over Violence

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James Butty

The US Ambassador to Liberia said she’s hopeful that Liberia’s upcoming presidential and legislative elections would be free, fair, and peaceful.

Those elections are scheduled for October 11 depending on how the Supreme Court rules on whether the leading candidates, including President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf have met the 10-year constitutional requirement to run.

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told VOA that although the US is concerned about the possibility of violence, she’s confident Liberian voters will choose the ballot over violence.

She said the U.S. has done everything possible to make the Liberian elections free, fair and transparent.

“As you may already know, the U.S. government has been providing assistance through USAID to the National Elections Commission [NEC]. We provided them technical assistance since 2009 through an $8.5m grant that was given to IFES [the International Foundation for Elections Systems]. They have been providing technical training, capacity building assistance, commodity procurement, voter education, you name it, to the NEC,” she said.

Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield said the U.S. is also providing financial assistance for an international election observer team from the Carter Center, and working with the Economic Community of West African States, the African Union and the Mano River Union to give as much coverage as possible to the Liberian election through international observation.

She said she’s confident the NEC will be able to conduct a free and fair election. However, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield said the U.S. remains concerned about the possibility of violence.

“I think we are concerned that we are beginning to hear some innuendo and some reference to violence that has all of us feeling somewhat uncomfortable. And I want to take the opportunity to call upon all Liberians and all political leaders to help Liberia move into the next phase of peace and prosperity,” Thomas-Greenfield said.

She called on all political party leaders to issue statements discouraging their supporters from engaging in political violence.

Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield said she’s convinced Liberians will choose ballots over bullets.

“We are worried, but I think the Liberian people have seen enough violence, and I’m very confident that the people of Liberia will stand up, use their ballots as their weapons, vote for the candidate of their choice, and move Liberia forward into the future,” Thomas-Greenfield said.

She said while some progress is being made, it would take some time for Liberians to fully realize the democracy dividend, especially, she said after years of civil war.

“I think the government has made some progress in the area of providing the democracy dividend.  But again, Liberia went through 15 years of war, and during those 15 years, the infrastructure in this country was brought to its knee. That cannot be rebuilt in a day. So, I think the biggest challenge has been to manage people’s expectations of the dividend of peace and democracy because it does take time to rebuild,” she said.

During a speech earlier this year at the graduation of Cuttington University, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield said corruption was still the #1 problem facing Liberia.

She said the fight against corruption is still ongoing with the rule of law and the justice sector needing some attention.

“I think the government has made some progress, and I’ve said over and over to Liberians that we know more now because of freedom of press and the freedom press and the freedom of expression about the corruption than we’ve ever known in the past about Liberia . We are still in a system where rule of law and the justice sector require some attention, and I think that’s an area that will continue to need some focus in the next administration so that we can ensure that there’s accountability,” Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield said.

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