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Eve Of Liberia’s National Elections

On Eve Of Liberia’s National Elections, Annan Urges Full And Peaceful Participation

New York, Oct 10 2005

One day ahead of Liberia’s presidential and parliamentary elections, Secretary-General Kofi Annan is urging a massiveand peaceful turnout.

The UN peacekeeping mission in the country (UNMIL) is providing technical and logistical support to the polls, while working on security with Liberia's police and armed forces.

In New York, the Secretary-General called on all Liberians “to participate in large numbers and in a peaceful manner in this historic election.”

Through his spokesman, Mr. Annan noted that issues which had threatened a postponement of the vote have been resolved and thanked the candidates who have agreed to withdraw their claims “for their demonstration of flexibility.”

Mr. Annan also thanked former Nigerian head of State General Abdulsalami Abubakar who worked in his capacity as mediator of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to ensure that the elections would take place in accordance with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the electoral timetable.

There are over 3,000 voting places in 1,300 precincts across Liberia’s 15 counties. Up to 10 per cent of those precincts are so remote that they are a two-day walk away from the nearest road. “We can truck the ballots in and once you can go no further by road, porters carry the materials by hand into these precincts, which are often just villages in the bush,” UNMIL spokesman Paul Risley told the UN News Service.

During the five-week registration period in April, UNMIL registered over 1.3 million Liberians to participate in the elections. “If Liberians are able to vote in the same numbers that they registered this will be by far the largest election that Liberia has ever held and will certainly be the first truly representative election, including all parts of the country,” Mr. Risley said. “So this will be a real, remarkable achievement for Liberia and unlike any experience it has ever had in its past.”

The UN mission is providing extensive assistance and advice to the Liberian National Election Commission, including paying salaries for over 18,000 Liberian nationals who will staff the polling places. The UN also moved the ballots by truck, helicopter and even ship in cases where coastal areas could not be reached by land.

These already complex logistics are complicated by the weather. “We’re still very much in the rainy season – its raining right now – and rain is expected to make even more difficult tomorrow’s voting since people will have to walk for hours and its been a great challenge to get the ballots to the polls,” Mr. Risley said.

Assisting in this effort are more than 180 UN Volunteers (UNV). “It is a great honour to be engaged in a part of the election in Liberia,” said UNV Yukimi Ogaki, an electoral support officer from Japan, who is based in the capital city of Monrovia.

The director of the UNMIL Electoral Division, Ray Kennedy, acknowledged the determination and commitment of UN Volunteers in ensuring preparations are in place for the elections. “The 11 October elections represent a critical point in Liberia's efforts to emerge from years of conflict,” he said. “And, with nearly 90 per cent of the UNMIL Electoral Division staff being UN Volunteers, this is clearly an instance of UN Volunteers helping make history.”

Tomorrow’s elections are a result of the Accra peace agreement signed in 2003, which ended more than two decades of political instability and 14 years of brutal armed conflict. In their first chance to vote since 1997, Liberians will cast ballots for President and Vice-President, as well for members of the Senate and the House of Representatives.

ENDS

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