IRC Welcomes 'Crucial Elections' in Liberia
Voters cast ballots today for Liberia's first elected president since the end of the 14-year civil war. Twenty-two candidates, including ex-rebels, a former football star and veteran opposition leaders are running in the race. The International Rescue Committee's director in Liberia, Nicky Smith, said that the elections are critical in order for the war-ravaged country to move forward.
Liberia has been under a transitional system since the 2003 peace agreement and major reforms are urgently needed on the constitution and the development of the country, she said. It is also crucial that the country's marginalized groups, such are women and children, have a chance to have their voices heard.
Smith adds that sustained support from the international community is required for the country to successfully transition from its current post-war situation to a peaceful democracy.
A shift in government is not enough; Liberia will need financial support for at least 10-15 years still. It is also important that careful systems are put in place so that the country's natural resources, such as diamonds and timber, are not exploited by the few and that the people can actually benefit from Liberia's rich natural wealth.
Approximately 1.3 million Liberians have registered to vote at some 3,000 polling stations across the country. The IRC's information officer in Liberia, Moses Zangar, said that polling day in the capital Monrovia was peaceful and that people were excited to cast their ballots.
They were dressed up in their best clothing and the atmosphere was joyful even though some people had to line up for hours to cast their ballots, Zangar observed.
To assist the electoral process, the IRC provided pre-election briefings for its 400 national staff who in turn provided information workshops for partner community-based organizations and IRC-assisted former combatants. Based on information obtained from the national election authorities, IRC teams also held information sessions on the election process, including why it is important to vote, where people can cast a ballot and how security and transparency are being assured.