By: G Bennie Bravo Johnson
The Liberian National Bar Association (LNBA), has revealed the signing of a strategic collaboration between it and the National Elections Commission, for the peaceful conduct of the 2023 October General and Presidential Elections.
The Bar avers that the July 11, 2023, Memorandum of Understanding signed between the LNBA and NEC, set the basis for the LNBA strategic support to the NEC, in order to ensure that credible and transparent elections are conducted with the mass participation of Liberians, consistent with Law.
In a communication delivered under the signature of National Secretary General of the Liberia National Bar Association, Clir. Borno M. Varmah, on Tuesday, July 25, 2023, the LNBA stated that under the MoU, the LNBA will provide legal support to the NEC by sensitizing the public through the holding of public conversation on elections Laws and rulings of both the NEC and the Supreme Court on past election cases as well as advocating for the adherence of the rule of Law by all actors during the electoral process.
Providing that under the arrangement, the LNBA shall provide support to enhance the legal capacity of NEC to be effective in the adjudication of electoral disputes and increase public knowledge on electoral dispute resolution mechanisms; especially working with all stakeholders.
“The LNBA shall sensitize the public on the calendar of events covering the entire process. The Bar will provide training support to electoral staff to include elections magistrates, hearing officers, political parties’ representatives, independent candidates, media organizations and others on the disposition of all electoral disputes.
Under the MoU which is for a period of one year, the Bar shall organize engagement meetings with relevant international partners to seek their support and collaboration to address issues around electoral violence as well as organize meetings with CSOs, religious leaders, joint security about the potential risks associated with early warning signs of conflict.”
The signed MoU further charged the LNBA to provide training support to Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), security sector, media organizations etc. It is intended to focus on the effective, efficient and timely disposition of electoral complaints and also enhance the knowledge of LNBA members on the differences between court room litigation and electoral dispute resolution in Litigation Vs Administrative Hearings.
Meanwhile, the LNBA stated that it has agreed wholly to formulate long term capacity development and training plan for its members and the NEC with support to come from the UNDP and partners.
At the same time, the LNBA said that for the implementation of the short-term interventions under the MoU, the UNDP Electoral Support Programme with support from the Swedish, Irish, and the European Union (EU), is to provide One Hundred Fifty Thousand United States Dollars (150.000.00 USD). Stating that the short-term activities will be implemented within six months.
The Bar revealed that under the MoU, NEC in collaboration with the Bar, will organize stakeholder conferences to do stock-taking amongst the LNBA, NEC and the Supreme Court and Peace Building Office on all critical electoral interventions. NEC will recruit Hearing Officers and clerks and prepare them for training and set up a case management system for optimum efficiency.
“NEC shall provide strategic information and education plan on Electoral Dispute Resolution targeting political parties and other stakeholders to be rolled
out for the smooth conduct of the electoral activities.
Under the MoU, NEC and the LNBA shall hold experience-sharing sessions on ethical aspects of the EDR to withstand political pressure on the NEC senior leadership.
The NEC will from time to time consult with the LNBA and raise’ any concerns regarding presentations made by any assigned lawyers on any related electoral matter.” the LNBA stated
The LNBA in it communication continued by revealing that the two parties under the MoU have agreed that any lawyer performing legal services shall do so in keeping with the highest professional standard.
At the same time, the Leadership of the LNBA has commended the Chairperson of the NEC, Madam Davidetta Browne-Lansanah and the Board of Commissioners.
The UNDP Electoral Support Program, the Swedish and Irish Governments and the EU for their Support to actualize a mechanism that will enhance Liberia’s democratic credential.
The Bar says to satisfy one of the principles of any vibrant rule of law system, it would encourage all eligible voters to freely participate in the October 2023 elections to decide their leaders which is consistent with law.