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A proposal for extension of the voters' registration period in the Liberian 2005 elections.

Registration date set by the elections commission: April 24-May 21
Proposed date for voters' registration: April 24 - September 12, 2005


INTRODUCTION:

The Association of Liberian Women in Pennsylvania in the United States believes the October 2005 election is an important step in the transition from war to sustainable peace in Liberia.

The organization, which comprises Liberian women from the States of Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey cautions the elections Commission to guide against measures that have the propensity to discredit the results of the elections.

The women group recognizes, with pain, the disproportionate effect of the war and its accompanied hardships experienced by women and children. Women make up majority of the Liberian refugee population in almost all the displaced camps in the sub-region and abroad, where Liberians are seeking political asylum.

Women, children and the elderly were, and remain the most vulnerable to hunger, malnutrition, and diseases of various sorts during and after the Liberian conflict and conflicts everywhere.

Knowing that governance decisions prior to and during the war were always made with the absolute exclusion of women, we at this time caution against any act that resembles the repeat of exclusionary policies with the acquiescence of the international community, which is funding the electoral process in Liberia.

The Association calls on everyone involved with the search for lasting peace in Liberia to remain sensitive to the total participation of every sector of the Liberian population, especially women. Liberian women are significant stakeholders in the peace process, and should be regarded as such.

Henceforth, we call on the international community to address to our concerns raised in this document about the voter registration time-table, a cardinal component of the electoral process.


PROBLEM:

We are cognizant that Elections are the mechanisms by which electorates choose their leaders. The core tenet of democracy therefore appreciates the full participation of the governed.

Unfortunately, the current time period allotted for voter registration is too short and potentially risk exclusion of majority of women from participating in the process.
Women are historically less considered when making political decisions by the often male-dominant political actors in such events as the holding of free and fair elections in Liberia.

In this instance, the Association of Liberian Women in Pennsylvania recognizes, with grave concerns, a significant problem with the time-table for the voters' registration period in the ensuing elections.

There are compelling reasons why we believe that the period, April 25-May 21, 2005 is too short for the voter registration aspect of the process. First, Internally Displaced Persons and returning refugees, which group constitutes about 65-70% women, will not have ample time to register to vote in October.

Given the numerous logistical problems facing Liberia coupled with the rainy season, the most effective way to ensure maximum participation of majority of the people in the process is to allot at least five months for the voter education and registration aspect of the electoral process.


The Commission needs to do everything to ensure that majority of Liberians who may be interested in expressing themselves through the ballot box, especially women and the elderly, have the opportunity to do so.


The news emanating from Monrovia since the process began continues to point to low turn out for registration. Several factors may account for this low turn out. The question of communication and voter's education is an issue that has not been addressed by any party involved in the current electoral process.

Most recent news from Liberia also identified limited registration centers throughout the country as a presenting problem impeding the registration of citizens, especially in the leeward counties.

On May 10, 2005, with about three weeks into the registration process, the Analyst News Paper quoted the Executive Director of Mass Action for Liberia, an advocacy group, as saying that poor publicity and reduction in registration centers were making it difficult for citizens to participate in the process.


In a related story, the Paper also reported that citizens of Grand Gedeh county risk being disenfranchised from the process because citizens are finding it difficult to reach the voters' registration center in Toe Town.


According to the story, the distance from other towns to Toe Town where the lone center is located for the county is too far to travel by foot. Not only are the citizens in general having problem, but more so the elderly who are incapable of walking such long distances.


A case in point, an 85 year-old woman identified as Glady-Nyoh was quoted as saying "How do they expect me to vote when I can not even walk to that town? Are they saying they will not register us here and they want us to vote?"


Without a doubt, the Grand Gedeh story represents the grim picture of the process in every county. Certainly, these are serious problems, coupled with the short duration of the registration process and they must be addressed promptly, if the elections results are to be considered credible.

Thus, we consider April 24 to May 21, as unrealistic and a fragrant attempt to disenfranchise majority of citizens and, particularly, women from this very important determinant for sustainable peace in our war-torn country.

These are critical times in our country and we will not allow this glaring disregard for the full participation of women in an emerging democracy to go unchallenged.

For too long women have being the lime duck and forgotten majority in the political determinism of our country. Most importantly, we see an emerging attempt to continue such disregard with the acquiescence or worse, the mandate of the international community, which group professes to be committed to the promotion of democracy.

The Beijing Conference and the Inter-Parliamentary Committee of the United Nations are among many international bodies that recognize the invaluable contributions of women in peace building and good governance in post conflict regions of the world.

We insist that Elections Commission recognizes the pivotal role Liberian women continue to play in the resolution of the Liberian civil crisis, and as such must do nothing to risk their participation in the ensuing electoral process.

SOLUTION:

In order to avoid the disenfranchisement of women from this crucial process, the voter's registration period must be significantly extended to allow the full participation of women in the October elections.

While we applaud the Commission and the International Community for the work done so far, we are convinced that much more needs to be done.

Since the Commission would not listen to our request, we are petitioning the United Nations and the donor community to consider our request and prevail upon the Commission to extend the timetable for the voters' registration exercise. This will result to a significant participation of women in the elections.

RECOMMENDATION:

ALWPA recommends the extension of the voters' registration from May 21, 2005 to September 12, 2005. We believe that such extension will enable majority of women returning from refugee camps in the sub-region to have ample time to resettle and register as well.


Further, Liberians who reside in the Diaspora, especially women, will also be able to return home to register and vote as well.

There are precedents all over the world for extended voters' registration periods. Kenya, for example, had a six-month period for its 2002 elections voter registration. It is significant to mention that though Kenya is stable and has considerable road and comparable communication networks, it still had six months for its voter registration.

Kenya's example can only be interpreted to mean the country recognized and respected the people's rights to choose their leaders. Such is the beginning of real democracy-the people's right to decide who leads them. This right can more appropriately be expressed through the ballot box.

Even in the United States where technology is at its optimum, voter registration is an ongoing process at various public service institutions up until 30 days to elections date. Some States even allow registration at polling stations on elections day. This demonstrates the country's respect for the voice of its citizens.


In like manner, we are asking that the United Nations and the donor community give every Liberian who wants to participate in the process the chance to do so by prevailing on the Electoral Commission to extend the voter registration period.


The international community has spend so much of their countries tax payers dollars to relieve the Liberian people of their immeasurable suffering brought upon them by the war. However, to achieve this objective the donor community must ensure that the situation, which precipitated the war, is eliminated.


CONCLUSION:


The Association of Liberian Women in Pennsylvania believes the United Nations and other international groups that are funding the October 2005 elections in Liberia will give this recommendation a serious consideration.


We are grateful for the International Community overwhelming support to Liberia throughout the country's civil crisis, but maintain such help comes handy only when the rights and participation of everyone is respected.


We remain adamant that the right mechanisms will be employed to ensure that such huge effort by the international Community yields the right dividend. Only when a leader elected with the full participation of the people is put in place will there be an absolute peace in Liberia to the credit of the Donor Community and the NEC.


Therefore, we remain proactive and will engage the process to ensure a significant participation of every stakeholder, especially women.

We also remain keen that the Election Commission will do everything within its power to conduct a free and fair election in which the full participation of everyone is guaranteed.

Done on this 21st day of April, AD 2005, and signed by the following members of the Association of Liberian Women in Pennsylvania.

NAME: STATE:

1.Edith Gongloe-Weh ---- Upper Darby, PA
2.Kadi Porte----------------Yeadon, PA
2.Gurly Gibson -- ------- -Secane, PA
3.Edith Mahn Kar-------- Colwyn, PA

4.Mary Kieh ------------- Upper Darby, PA
5. Comfort Sobah ------- Upper Darby, PA
6.Beatrice Swen------------Philadelphia, PA
7.Ellen James---------------Philadelphia, PA
8.Barbara Kofa-------------Philadelphia, PA
9.Annie Dahn--------------Philadelphia, PA
10.Cecelia Davis-----------Lansdowne, PA
11.Betty Marshall-Yamue-Philadelphia, PA
13.Sarah Moore-----------Landsdowne, PA
14.Hellen Awo------------Landsdowne, PA
15.Anna Barlee------------Upper Darby, PA
16.Oretha Sobah----------Upper Darby, PA
17.Olive Knuckles--------Upper Darby, PA
18.Carolyn Massaquoi-Upper Darby, PA
19.Melissa Gar-Massaquoi-Upper Darby, PA
20.Victory Tarlue-----------Upper Darby, PA
21.Rose Gilman ----------- Upper Darby, PA
22.Eilleen Norris --------- Upper Darby, PA
23.Georgia Layeni ------- Collingdale, PA
24.Mazoe Randolph ----- Darby, PA
25. Felesia Walters -----Darby, PA
26. Precious Davies ----Upper Darby, PA
27. Zaniab Johnson --- Upper Darby, PA
28. Catherine Paye ---- Upper Darby, PA
29. Elizabeth Birch ---- Philadelphia, PA
30. Yatta Johnson ----- Upper Darby, PA
31. Fannie Dougan ----- Lansdowne, PA
32. Gbolo Kowou ------ Upper Darby, PA
33. Viola Freeman ----- Cowyn, PA
34. Paulina Amah ------ Upper Darby, PA
35. Shirley Doe --------- Darby, PA
36. Rosalyn Blamo ----- Yeadon, PA
37. Geraldine Mensah ---Colwyn, PA
38. Beatrice Wiles---------Philadelphia, PA
39. Ziah Yanue------------Philadelphia, PA
40. Cathrine Davis------Philadelphia, PA
41. Johnnette-------------Gongloe, Colwyn, PA
42. Tarlay Morlu--------Darby, PA
43. Yei Gartei-----------Philadelphia, PA
44. Nuhn Gartei---------Philadelphia, PA
45. Martha Korto--------Philadelphia, PA
46. Marthaleen Menba-Philadelphia, PA
47. Koko Gartei----------Philadelphia, PA
48. Mamee Yormei------Philadelphia, PA
49. Massa Woodson----Philadelphia, PA
50. Satta Carlon-Taylor-Philadelphia, PA
51. Portia Kamara--------Upper Darby, PA
52.Armina Johnson------Philadelphia, PA
53. Angie Weh------------Darby, PA
54.Beatrice Kromah-----Philadelphia, PA
55.Bernice Weanquoi----Upper Darby, PA
56. Nikoyou Jackson-----Yeadon, PA
57. Anita Roberts---------Yeadon, PA
58. Musu Varmah--------Coatsville, PA
59. Anna Fayiah---------Philadelphia, PA
60. Sando Kota----------Roxborough, PA
61. Esther Kota---------Philadelphia, PA
62. Lizzy Koon---------Philadelphia, PA
63. Claudia Jargboh-Lester, PA
64. Esther V. Davis----Sharon Hill, PA
65. Eretha Cooper-----Bristle, PA
66. Salome Daisee------------Philadelphia, PA
66. Hawa Nanka-----------------Philadelphia, PA
67. Florence Jones-------------Philadelphia Pike, DE
68.Jean Samokai----------------Willingboro, NJ
69. Karleh Wehyee----------Philadelphia, PA
70.Kou Voila------------------Philadelphia, PA
71. Leona Stubberfield-Yeadon, PA
72. Margrete Gartei---------Willingborough, NJ
73. Betty Leah--------------Darby, PA
74. Nohn Geh---------------Clifton Height, PA
75. Twaleh Geply-----------Philadelphia, PA
76. Cecelia Brown----------Upper Darby, PA
77. Cecelia Sarpee--------Upper Darby, PA
78. Tarlee Pour-------------Colwyn, PA
79. Victoria Garpeh--------Darby, PA
80. Victoria Harris---------Philadelphia, PA
81. Musu Weh------------Upper Darby, PA
82. Martha Harris----------Willingboro, NJ
83. Ellen Dennis------Philadelphia, PA
84. Emma Suah-------Philadelphia, PA
85. Cecelia Suah------Philadelphia, PA
86. Catherine Khasu----Philadelphia, PA
87. Nonlay Glay---------Upper Darby, PA
88. Depeh Ben---------Philadelphia, PA
89. Martha Debleh----Philadelphia, PA
90. Elizabeth Keen-Willingboro, NJ
91. Beatrice Potoway-Colindale, PA
92. Aba Hayes-----------Philadelphia, PA
93. Wiatta Anderson--------Philadelphia, PA
94. Wiatta Weeks------------Philadelphia, PA
95. Mammie Cooper--------Darby, PA
96. Rebecca Yarkpazuo---------Yeadon, PA
97. Linda Suah-------------Collindale, PA
98. Quinah Leah--------Darby, PA
99. Irene Walker-Blay-----Bensalem, PA
100. Karpeday Geply----Philadephia, PA
101. Vickie Wion-------Newark, NJ
102. Mary Logan-------Landsdowne, PA
103. Odessa Davis------Upper Darby, PA
104. Anna Kpou------ Philadelphia, PA
105. Martha Davis----Upper Darby, PA
106. Catherine Paye----Upper Darby, PA
107. Betty Smith--------Secane, PA
108. Vivian Reeves----Collingdale, PA
109. Monkonjay Dole Mandeh-Upper Darby, PA
110. Rose Gilman-------Upper Darby, PA
111.Georgia Layeni-----Collingdale, PA
112. Mazoe Randolph----Upper Darby, PA
113. Felesia Walters-----Darby, PA
114. Precious Dvis------Upper Darby, PA
115. Zaniab Johnson-----Upper Darby, PA
116. Elizabeth Birch-----Philadelphia, PA
117. Yatta Johnson-------Upper Darby, PA
118. Gbolo Kowoh-------Upper Darby, PA
119. Shirley Doe----------Upper Darby, PA
120. Rosalyn Blamo-----Yeadon, PA
121. Viola Freeman-------Colwyn, PA
122. Mondea Smolls------Yeadon, PA
123. Yvonne Tomp------Upper Darby, PA
124. Hawa Tomp---------Upper Darby, PA
125. Yei Gbatu------------Philadelphia, PA
126. Racheal Quiah------Upper Darby, PA
127. Cecelia Youboty-----Philadelphia, PA
128. Fanta Youboty-------Philadelphia, PA
129. Deborah Myers----Philadelphia, PA
130. Nyonnah Davis-----Philadelphia, PA
131. Jeanetta Norkeh-----Philadelphia, PA
132. Annie Dennis--------Philadelphia, PA
133. Barbara Swen-------Philadelphia, PA
134. Cornelia Swen-------Philadelphia, PA
135. Emily Kpaghia------Philadelphia, PA
136. Famata Doe---------Philadelphia, PA
137. Yvonne Togbah----Philadelphia, PA
138. Martha Freeman----Willingboro, NJ
139. Watta Varney-------Philadelphia, PA
140. Audrey Arthur------Chester, PA
141. Frances Towah----Philadelphia, PA
142. Edith Mason-------Philadelphia, PA
143. Victoria Tarpeh----/Philadelphia, PA
144. Beatrice Collins----Philadelphia, PA
145. Regina Wilson-----Trenton, NJ
146. Helena Doe---------Wilmington, DE
147. Edith Kamara-------Upper Darby, PA
148. Gai Tarley---------Upper Darby, PA
149. Rosalyn Dogba------ Upper Darby, PA
150. Evelyn Pennoh------Bristle, PA
151. Cornelia Davis------Atlantic City, NJ
152. Decontee Mahn-----Darby, PA
153. Tonnia Fallah-------Philadelphia, PA
154. Bedee Tommy-----Bristle, PA


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