Liberia: Elections will go ahead in October, saysTaylor

MONROVIA, 21 March (IRIN) - General elections in Liberia will go ahead as scheduled on 14 October "even in the midst of war" between government soldiers and rebels of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), President Charles Taylor said on Friday.
Taylor told a ceremony at the presidential palace at which two additional members of the country's Elections Commission were sworn into office that his government would "do everything possible to fund and supervise a free, fair and transparent election."

The two new commissioners, Mary Brownell and James Chelly, were recently nominated by Liberian political parties to serve on the commission. Brownell is a women's leader while Chelly was one of 18 persons convicted and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for treason in 1999. He was granted clemency by Taylor in March 2002.

On suggestions that international organisations such as the UN provide support to ensure security during the electoral period, Taylor said: "This government will not accept an intervention force in this country." The presense of such a force, he said, would go against Liberia's sovereignty. He added: "What this government has requested the UN to do, is to send a capacity building force to Liberia that would assist in the training of our security forces."

Civil society, human rights groups, political parties and the international community have increasingly expressed concern that the on-going war between the government and the LURD threatened the holding of a free, fair and credible elections in the country. Some of these groups, including the Civil Society Movement of Liberia and the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, have said that with the war the elections cannot be free and transparent.

The International Contact Group on Liberia, which met last month in New York, also acknowledged that due to the insecurity caused by the armed conflict, conditions for free, fair elections did not exist at the moment in Liberia.


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