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March 28, 2023

By:  Abraham K. Kollie,                                                                                                                                           kollieabraham23@gmail.com                                                                                                                                                                                                                             0770412341/0888542937

(MARGIBI, Liberia) Residents of Gbeketa in rural Margibi County, Electoral District #4 have threatened to teach their leaders what they called  a ‘‘political lesson’’ beginning with the ongoing Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) exercise.

They said they have criticized their leaders for what they called failing them, with some of the citizens threatening to boycott the ongoing BVR process.

Gbeketa is located in Rural Margibi with a population of nearly 2,500.

The town borders Bong County and its residents have outlined numerous challenges they face. The challenges range from poor roads, health care facilities, inadequate safe drinking water and schools.

According to Article 77 of the Liberian Constitution, which is regarded as the organic of the country, “Every Liberian citizen not less than 18 years of age, shall have the right to be registered as a voter and to vote in public elections and referenda under this Constitution.” And the new election law says citizens above 18 shall register to vote in the places they ordinarily reside.

At the same time, the Youth Chairperson of Gola-Town, Samuel Bondo, has raised concern about the low turnout of the ongoing voter registration, over the three weeks’ period given for phase one of the Biometric Voter Registration, which includes Margibi, Montserrado, Bomi, Grand Bassa, Gbarpolu and Grand Cape Mount Counties.

In what is seen as a desperate demand, Chairperson Bondo wants Representative Ben A. Fofona and the Margibi Legislative Caucus to construct their roads and bridges before the BVR process comes to an end in Margibi County.

But one critical observer opined whether it is the duty of a lawmaker(s) to construct roads and bridges. He believes this not true.   

However, Mr. Bondo explained that elected officials in District # – 4 are normally paying key attention to the urban areas like Kakata, leaving the majority in the rural regions abandoned.

“Our children, who we consider our future leaders,  are not benefiting from this government, during the rainy season,  they  do not  go to school because of the rivers, that are within walking distances just to have access to education while lawmakers are sending their children to private universities out of this country,” the Gola-Town Chairperson asserted.

“We will not register until our roads and bridges are built,” Mr. Bondo insisted.

Meanwhile, the District # – 4 Coordinator of people living with disabilities, Nakpah Yarkpowulo Kermoun, speaking in his kpelle tongue, explained about the disappointment of the Disabled Communities in Margibi Electoral District # – 4. Mr. Kermoun added that PWDs have not been reorganized over the years, as such, they are not going to participate in the ongoing BVR process.

He mentioned that people living with disabilities in past elections did not participate in Margibi due to the accessibility of public buildings, and voter registration centers across the County.

“The reason we are not attending or participating in the BVR process is simple; people who we have elected into positions are not speaking or representing us. How can I be visually impaired, taking my time to stand in the rain or sun to vote and they are not doing nothing for us? Even people living with disabilities find it difficult to public facilities,” Mr. Kermoun narrated.

Speaking in contrary view, the Head of the Women in the Peace Building Network, Janka Clark, has encouraged Liberians to turn out in their numbers to register to vote. Mrs. Clark added that obtaining the voter registration identification Card is also intended for other purposes, stressing that it gives you a status of being a citizen of Liberia.

She maintained that the card will also be used to carry on other transactions across the country. 

“I understand the concern and greed of our people, but I am encouraging them to turn out and do their voter registration because it is very important for us as Liberian citizens,” Mrs. Clark pointed out.  

Mark Flomo, Head of First Time Voters in District # – 4, is also encouraging first time voters to get their registration cards, something he said, qualifies you to be a citizen of Liberia.

Mr.  Flomo, in a loud tone, expressed delight of getting a voter card for the first time declaring him a citizen of Liberia.

“I am very happy to get this card; it will not only allow me to vote, but to also give me status of being a Liberian Citizen,” he averred. 

Meanwhile, when contacted regarding the allegation,  Margibi County District # – 4 Representative Ben A. Fofona denied the allegation and described it as being ‘‘political’’.

He said that he has visited Gbeketa on several occasions, encouraging citizens to participate in the ongoing BVR process.

However, the Communications Director of the National Elections Commission (NEC), Henry Flomo, has encouraged the Gbeketa Residents to take advantage of the ongoing BVR process, adding that the voter registration cards are used for different purposes, and it is a national document.

Mr. Flomo further referenced chapter 5.2. of the Election Rules and Procedures, which state that, The NEC shall use the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) technology to register all qualified citizens of the Republic of Liberia and 5.2. A person must register at the voter registration center established for the locality where he or she ordinarily resides.”

The NEC Communications Director called on every Liberian to participate in the process and make an independent decision. “We are encouraging our people to turn out and do their voter registration because the card is important as it qualifies you to be a Liberian citizen,” Mr. Flomo added.

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