LNBA Recommends Mechanism For Peace Consolidation By: Yassah J. Wright

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The Liberia National Bar Association has called on the national government to ensure the consolidation of peace through commitment to non-violent dispute resolution, as well as post-election democracy and peace consideration by ensuring that everyone is “law abiding;” irrespective of their status in society. According to the Association, the rule of law is essential to democracy. The LNBA stated that democracy entails that everyone is subject to the law, including government officials.  Therefore, the Association wants the government to ensure that laws are transparent, consistent, and applied equally to all citizens. “Democracy entails that everyone is subject to the law, including government officials. It ensures that laws are transparent, consistent, and applied equally to all citizens. It provides a mechanism for the protection of rights, enforcement of contracts, and peaceful resolution of disputes,” the Association has indicated. It emphasized that one of the essential elements of democracy is RULE OF LAW, adding that political freedom, economic equality and social justice, rule of law  are cardinal to the survivability of peace. The initiative is in fulfillment of the LNBA and the National Elections Commission, Electoral Project which is supported by the United Nations Development Program UNDP, Europe Union, amongst others. The stakeholders’ engagement dialogue which was held Thursday, February 15, 2024 in Monrovia brought together political parties, civil society organizations, religious leaders, media community as well as members of the public. The interactive symposium was brainstormed under the theme: “Raising Awareness and Seeking Commitment, Non-violent Dispute Resolution (ADR) as well as on Post-elections Democracy and Peace Consolidation.’’ However, the engagement dialogue brought to a closure the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Electoral Support Project (LNBACNP) that was launched September 19, 2023 which aimed at strengthening the legal capacity of Liberian lawyers and providing civic engagement for stakeholders across the fifteen counties of Liberia.

The project came about due to an MoU among stakeholders that included the LNBA and the NEC to execute a grant of Hundred and Fifty thousand United State Dollars. The initiative is the LNBA collaboration with the NEC project. Also, the objective of the project was to initiate collaboration with the NEC and stakeholders to ensure successful conduct of the 2023 Presidential and legislative elections and support the NEC on its effectiveness in the disposal of elections cases and increase public knowledge, particularly, lawyers, aspirants and political parties and leaders of legal electoral process to reduce court dockets. Lastly, the project also seeks to allow elections stakeholders to fully understand the distinction between courtroom litigation process and administrative hearings conducted before NEC. Giving the introductory remarks, LNBA President, Cllr. Sylvester D. Rennie, extolled the participants for honouring the invitation for the closure of the project, saying that the consolidation of Liberia peace and democracy rested on the collective efforts of everyone. “Today marks the closure of a program that was born in September. The concept was developed by the LNBA to ensure there would be a partnership with NEC in connection with the Electoral program. Now, we have come to see how we can brainstorm on the consolidation of Liberia peace and democracy. On that basis, we have called you here for us to brainstorm,” he noted. According to him, based upon some missteps they saw along the way on the part of lawyers and NEC, they decided to come in to build the capacity of lawyers, civil society organizations, media and stakeholders to ensure peaceful elections and understanding of legal electoral processes. Cllr. Rennie noted that not understanding the laws sometimes created problems in the past therefore, the LNBA sees the decongestion of electoral complaints carried by political parties and lawyers as a major concern to be addressed with urgency. Moreover, during the program, the security sector was informed about their roles and responsibilities because of partisan security reportedly seen in Liberia. “First phase, we visited Montserrado, Nimba, Grand Bassa, Bomi, Grand Gedeh, and the last phase concluded with the rest of the counties. We also provided Civic Education during the runoff election, “he concluded. For his part, the Political Party Campaign Finance Specialist/ UND-CESP, Cllr. Aagon F. Tingba, said defending democracy in Liberia and around the world involves a number of civic obligations that are necessary for everyone to fulfill; such engagement, surrounds the principles of self-governance, the rule of law, an independent judiciary, the free press, and all the civic institutions necessary for democracy to function. Cllr. Tingba stated that UNDP, along with its partners, the EU, Sweden, Ireland, endorsed the agreement between the LNBA and the National Elections Commission in June 2023. “As a result of this agreement, public dialogues, awareness campaigns, and workshops were conducted throughout Liberia for Magistrates, Hearing Officers, the Media, Civil Society Organizations and Joint Security regarding election rules and the prompt handling and settlement of matters involving electoral disputes,” Cllr. Tingba revealed. He indicated that they acknowledged that the leaders of the political parties met and discussed the need to further solidify their commitment to using the Electoral Dispute Resolution (EDR), process for non-violent depute resolution. Also, he said with other interventions, this resulted in peaceful presidential and legislative elections in 2023 and a democratic handover of power on January 22, 2024. “Through the NEC, we tried to assist political parties in talking to one another and figuring out how to cooperate for the benefit of Liberia as well as their individual localities,” Cllr. Tingba noted. Cllr. Tingba explained that to guarantee that democracy triumphs in Liberia and peace is maintained, the UNDP pledges to promote various intervening discussions, such as multi stakeholders engagement, political actors’ talk, political party’s dialogues and informal dialogues. He said the roles of the LNBA, the media, CSOs, political parties, including but not limited to the press are key and remains integral part, which shines the light and holds the scale, blinded by a veil covering the blind goddess, dispensing justice without fear or favor.

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