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Liberia: UN Moves To Ensure Free Elections

Liberia: UN Mission Steps Up Efforts To Ensure Free, Peaceful Presidential Election

With five days left before Liberia’s run-off presidential elections, the United Nations mission that has for the past two years assisted the country’s transition to peace and democracy from 14 years of vicious civil war, is moving into top gear to assure a fair poll while preventing cross-border recruitments into troubled Côte d'Ivoire.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative Alan Doss yesterday visited the three largest towns in Liberia’s easternmost Nimba County, which suffered massive destruction during the conflict, to assess the level of security and logistical preparations for the 8 November run-off between former soccer star George Weah and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a former World Bank and UN development official.

Accompanied by National Elections Commission Chairperson Frances Johnson-Morris, Mr. Doss told residents through UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) Radio and community radio stations that he was satisfied with the level of security preparations.

A day earlier he met with media executives in Monrovia, the capital, to encourage them to be objective, draw a clear line between facts and opinions, and help make the election as peaceful as possible.

“One thing is to win; and another is to govern,” he told them. “To govern effectively, there has to be participation from all the Liberian people. All Liberians will emerge as winners from a successful electoral process.”

On the issue of recruitment of Liberian ex-combatants by parties to the conflict in Côte d'Ivoire, Mr. Doss said UNMIL military and police personnel are paying very careful attention with close surveillance of official and unofficial crossing points into the neighbouring country which has been virtually cut in half by fighting between Government and rebel forces.

“If we find people actively involved in trying to lure people across the border to take part in the conflict, we would deal with them very severely through the law,” he added.

UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Representative to Liberia Angela Kearney accompanied Mr. Doss to gather first-hand information about recent reports of the recruitment of Liberian children to fight in Côte d’Ivoire.

Mr. Doss said that UN Agencies and UNMIL, with coordination by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have put together a contingency plan to deal with the possible influx of refugees from Côte d’Ivoire. He said he hopes this will not happen and the tension will subside and the peace process will be successful.

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