The concern comes as the UN Security Council issued a report on Liberia in which it is considering a number of measures to be put into place far ahead of the big contest in October 2017.
More than twenty political parties are contesting the elections including the ruling Unity Party.
However, it is the first time in decades that the incumbent president (Madam Ellen Johnsn-Sirleaf) is not directly seeking a third term vote; instead, her Vice President Joseph N. Boaka, a career farmer and long member of the progressive is hoping to be elected as President.
The major opposition party in Liberia is headed by former soocer legend, George Weah of the Congress for Democratic (CDC), who is hoping for the opposition to form some sort of alliance to unseat the ruling party.
According to the UN report, a UN assessment team has held talks with a broad spectrum of stakeholders, including President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and members of her Cabinet; the leadership of the Senate and the House of Representatives; the Chief Justice and other Supreme Court Justices.
It also met with senior security officials, including the leadership of the army, police, immigration and corrections services; the national commissions responsible for elections, governance, human rights, law reform, small arms and anti-corruption; integrity institutions; the land task force; political parties; civil society, including women’s groups, traditional chiefs and elders, religious leaders, and media managers; representatives of the diplomatic and donor community; the United Nations country team; and UNMIL.
However, a senior UN diplomat has indicated that that the root causes of the country’s conflict remained unresolved and stressed the need for continued implementation of the national reconciliation roadmap.
Ambassador Per Thöresson of Sweden, who is Vice-Chair of the UN Peacebuilding Commission, believes a strong political leadership is required to fully address the issue of reconciliation in Liberia.
In the statement, the Swedish diplomat emphasized that “Strong political leadership is required to fully and comprehensively address reconciliation in Liberia,” adding “Building social cohesion requires addressing historical inequalities, unequal access to resources and power.”
He said the economic challenges brought by the Ebola outbreak exacerbate the problem in the country, and that 63 per cent of the country’s children were out of school, as well as residual peacebuilding tasks in 2017 required sustained international support.
Thöresson underscored that these and other factors should be kept in mind when considering the future of the UN presence in Liberia, especially given the upcoming electoral period.
Earlier, briefing the Security Council on the situation in Liberia, the United Nations peacekeeping chief underlined that the country remained stable and that since the security transition in June this year, there had been no incident serious enough to warrant an armed response from the UN mission in the country, known as UNMIL.
“However, sustaining the gains made will require continued and greater investment in the security services, as well as commensurate improvements in the justice and corrections sectors,” Hervé Ladsous, UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, told the 15-member council’s briefing on the work of the UN Mission in Liberia.
Mr. Ladsous further reported that the political environment in the West African country remained dominated by preparations for presidential and legislative elections, scheduled for October 2017, and that the next President’s inauguration in January 2018 would mark a historic milestone for Liberia’s democracy.
“What happens next year, therefore, will be critical: it will demonstrate whether the foundations of peace built since the conflict ended 13 years ago are strong enough to be sustained,” he said, underlining the need to ensure that measures are put in place now to deliver a free, fair, transparent and credible elections.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had outlined three possible options for the UNMIL’s future: withdrawing and establishing a successor mission; maintaining the status quo; or continuing its drawdown.
Emphasizing that Liberia should remain on the Council’s agenda through the installation of the next administration, he said it was essential to retain some capacity to respond should stability deteriorate.
In its last resolution on the situation in Liberia, the Security Council extended the mandate of the UNMIL until 31 December.