Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Holidays

International Institute for ICT Journalism

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Carter Center: DRC Presidential Election Results Lack Credibility

The Carter Center finds the provisional presidential election results announced by the Independent National Election Commission (CENI) on Dec. 9 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to lack credibility. CENI results point to the re-election of incumbent President Joseph Kabila with 49 percent of the vote followed by Etienne Tshisekedi with 32 percent and Vital Kamerhe with 7.7 percent. Voter turnout was 58 percent. Carter Center observers reported that the quality and integrity of the vote tabulation process has varied across the country, ranging from the proper application of procedures to serious irregularities, including the loss of nearly 2,000 polling station results in Kinshasa. Based on the detailed results released by CENI, it is also evident that multiple locations, notably several Katanga province constituencies, reported impossibly high rates of 99 to 100 percent voter turnout with all, or nearly all, votes going to incumbent President Joseph Kabila. These and other observations point to mismanagement of the results process and compromise the integrity of the presidential election. Candidates and parties have a limited time to submit any complaints to the Supreme Court, and tabulation for the legislative elections is ongoing. The problems observed in the tabulation and announced results are compounded by inadequate access for observers at multiple compilation centers around the country and no official access to the national results center in Kinshasa. The Carter Center is therefore unable to provide independent verification of the accuracy of the overall results or the degree to which they reflect the will of the Congolese people. Challenges in the results process were further evident in the CENI delays in announcing the results first for two days after the original date of Dec. 6 and then a second one-day delay to Dec. 9. Presidential candidates and the Congolese people are to be commended for waiting peacefully for the announcement of results, and the Center encourages all actors to maintain the same level of responsibility. It is also the responsibility of Congolese political actors and institutions to conduct their own examination of the election results and identify political solutions. The Carter Center is ready to assist in these processes if requested and appropriate. The Carter Center maintained 26 teams of international, impartial observers deployed in Kinshasa and the 10 provinces for the counting and tabulation. This assessment is based on direct observation during visits to 25 local results compilation centers (CLCRs) where tabulation of results was conducted and a preliminary examination of the published results. The Tabulation Process The electoral law[1] provides that immediately after counting, results forms are signed by all members of the polling station and witnesses, a copy of the results form is given to witnesses,[2] a copy of the results form is posted outside the polling station, and results forms and other election materials (ballot boxes, counted and unused ballots) are sent to the 169 CLCR. All materials are supposed to be collected and transported securely to the CLCR. Heads of polling centers were responsible for collecting and delivering all polling station material from their polling center including four sets of envelopes containing results by polling centers; one each for the CLCR, the national board of CENI, the provincial executive secretary of CENI (SEP), and the Supreme Court. Upon arrival at the CLCR, heads of polling centers present themselves to a reception desk to sign over all of their election materials. If all material was accounted for, the heads of polling centers were released of responsibility and sent home. Upon reception, the results envelope for the CLCR is sent to the collation desk, while the others are sent to archiving for later transmission to their final recipients. The results documents then pass through four desks where they are checked for consistency, the data entered on computers and compiled for transmission to the SEP and ultimately posted in front of the CLCR. At one stage, inconsistent documents may be reconstructed the basis of the counting form and polling station activity log by a team of three CENI members. After the compilation of results from all the constituencies under its responsibility, CLCRs transmit them to the SEP who consolidate for the province and send these to the CENI for publication of preliminary results.[3] General Findings Soon after election day, unofficial results started to circulate online and via SMS. Additional threatening messages were sent to members of domestic and international election observation missions. On Dec. 3, the minister of interior ordered the suspension of the emission and reception of SMS justified by the reportedly massive distribution of anonymous messages of intimidation, death threats, and calls for violence. This measure is an excessive attempt to deny freedom of expression; the authors of such messages could have been identified through regular channels of investigation. Other heavy handed responses were applied to media. The Superior Council of Audio Visual Communication suspended two broadcast networks without an official decision and one newspaper close to the opposition. In Mbuji Mayi, police closed broadcaster RLTV without cause. In comparison to the 2006 elections, the counting and tabulation procedures remained similar in their complexity which could have contributed to the uneven application across CLCRs and created opportunities for manipulation of results. As was the case five years ago, the logistical challenges of collecting, securing, and recording the results caused major difficulties for which CENI showed an insufficient level of preparation. CENI staff from voting centers and CLCRs were required to work extremely long hours for days at a time, often without adequate shelter, food, or water in trying and crowded physical conditions. In most of the cases observed, CLCRs were properly secured by police (military in some cases), however, in 15 percent of the cases their behavior could have influenced or intimidated CLCR personnel. In 15 percent of CLCRs observed, the reception and handling of sensitive election material did not follow the established procedures. Candidate witnesses were present in almost 90 percent of the cases but their physical position in the CLCR and access to information varied, disabling some from following all steps of compilation. Where problems with results paperwork necessitated a recount of ballot papers, witnesses were present in only a slim majority of cases observed. Archiving was reported to be disorganized in 25 percent of the cases and the results envelopes bound for the SEP, CENI, and the Supreme Court did not leave the CLCRs before the end of tabulation. Equipment to transmit electronic record of scanned individual polling station results forms to SEP and CENI was present in 73 percent of the cases but observers could not always confirm if they were functional or in consistent use. In many instances, heads of voting centers waited outside CLCRs for several hours and sometimes days with no organized provision of shelter, food, or water. Bulky items (mainly used and non used ballot papers and ballot boxes) were stockpiled outside of CLCRs, most of the time without care or protection from the weather. Even more importantly, bags of ballot papers and the envelopes containing results forms and other polling station paperwork were opened by heads of voting centers outside before they were officially received. After reception, the working conditions and storage provisions of CLCR varied. In some instances, bags of ballot papers were piled wherever floor space allowed, or spilled to the floor where they were stepped on by personnel because of lack of space. In more spacious centers, material was either stored in warehouses and piled in a more ordered manner or left outside, covered by tents and tarpaulins. Where a lack of organization in the storage of sensitive material prevailed, it was nearly impossible for CENI personnel to recover misplaced material. In multiple observed CLCR (e.g. Boma, Matadi, Bandundu, Mweka, and others) Carter Center observers found tabulation processes that they rated fair or good in 60 percent of cases. The overall assessment of other locations varied, with 40 percent rated poor based on an overall assessment of the application of procedures. Tabulated Results Lack Credibility The tabulation process in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi proved to be especially problematic. The lack of preparation evident in these two major cities resulted in serious irregularities and produced a tabulation process that lacks credibility. The generalized deficiencies described above prevailed in the extreme in both locations. Sensitive materials arrived by various means of transport, both official and private, were handled haphazardly, sometimes with bags and results envelopes opened, were stockpiled outside with insufficient or no protection from the elements (after a rain storm results forms were found hanging on sticks to dry), heads of polling centers were observed opening sealed envelopes with results forms and completing or altering paperwork in breach of procedure. Coupled with the general disorganization of these centers, a significant number of polling station results were lost. In Kinshasa, nearly 2,000 polling station results have been lost (representing as many as 350,000 voters) and hence will never be tallied. Another 1,000 polling station results have been lost elsewhere in the country (representing 500,000 voters). Also in Kinshasa, the uneven application of procedures led to heated debates on how to treat the unsigned results forms, often leading to partisan interpretation of procedures. In some instances, contested documents were said to have been transferred to the Supreme Court which at this stage remains impossible to confirm. CLCR staff sometimes appeared to be poorly trained with some staff reporting that colleagues had received no training. Furthermore, ineffective communication of procedural decisions made while the tabulation was ongoing resulted in important decisions being applied unequally, raising additional possibilities of manipulation of results, as neither CENI staff nor witnesses and observers could verify correct procedures. Physical and information access for observers and witnesses was inadequate and varied from day to day and among CENI staff at different CLCR stations resulting in a lack of transparency of the process. In some instances, senior CENI officials directly obstructed observation by Carter Center observers. For example, in Lubumbashi, Carter Center observers witnessed the president of a CLCR instructing his staff during their training not to give out any information to the observers. Similar instructions were given to CENI staff during tabulation in Kinshasa. According to the electoral law, each CLCR is to send its compiled result form to the SEP, who in turn sends compiled results for the province to CENI in Kinshasa for the announcement of a national result. It appears that only the compiled CLCR result forms have been sent to CENI, although the commission should receive its own envelope with an original copy of the polling station results. No comparison of physical results forms for verification of CLCR compilation at the national level could be observed and therefore assessed by the Center. Although formally requested from CENI, no official access was granted to Carter Center observer (or any others) to the national results center (CNT).[4] Thus, data transmission and management have been conducted in a nontransparent manner, eliminating a possible, and important, avenue to build confidence in the final election results, if observers and witnesses had been able to verify the handling of compiled results (CENI's organizing law contains a general transparency provision, the spirit of which should apply throughout the entire electoral process, even if specific arrangements are not specified in the electoral law).[5] The provisional results announced by CENI reveal multiple results that lack credibility. In Katanga province, two CLCR results are especially notable. The Mulemba Nkulu CLCR reports 99.46 percent voter turnout with 100 percent of votes, or 266,886 for Joseph Kabila, and fewer than 0.5 percent blank or null votes. All polling stations reported. Kabongo CLCR records similar high voter turnout with 227,885 votes for Kabila and only three votes for other candidates. A total of eight CLCR in Katanga report voter participation above 80 percent, far above the national average of 58 percent, and vote shares of 89 percent or higher for Kabila. Although the specific mechanism through which such vote totals may have been generated is unclear, numerous conditions cited in previous Carter Center reports may have been enabling factors, notably concerns about the credibility of the voter register and the potential multiple voting through abuse of the derogation votes and list of omitted voters, or through manipulation of vote totals at polling station or various stages of the tabulation. Thorough analysis with the records of domestic observers and candidate witnesses could yield more information. Review of locations with similar high percentage votes for Etienne Tshisekedi does not reveal the same coincidence of perfect collection of polling station results and extremely high voter turnout. Notably, although Tshisekedi scored very well in much of Kasai Occidental, 11 of 12 CLCR reported voter turnout below the national average, and in nine CLCR returns from Kasai Oriental where he received 90 percent of more of the vote, the rate of results collection and voter turnout were within reasonable variation of national rates. This assessment does not propose that the final order of candidates is necessarily different than announced by CENI, only that the results process is not credible. However, further analysis of preliminary results could reveal other important patterns and variations suggestive of a vote counting and tabulation that lacked uniform application to all Congolese voters. Additional analysis will be provided in future Carter Center reports. Background: The Carter Center international election observation mission has been in the DRC since Aug. 17, 2011, following an invitation from CENI. The mission was led by former President of Zambia Rupiah Bwezani Banda and Vice President of Carter Center Peace Programs Dr. John Stremlau, and is composed of 70 observers from 27 countries. The Center thanks CENI and all those Congolese who have welcomed Carter Center observers and given their time to meet with them. The Center's observation mission in the DRC is conducted in accordance with international standards for elections, and the observation mission was conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation and the Code of Conduct for International Observers that was adopted at the United Nations in 2005 and has been endorsed by 37 observation groups. #### "Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope." A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in more than 70 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; improving mental health care; and teaching farmers in developing nations to increase crop production. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Gambia Elections 2011 : Commonwealth Preliminary Statement On Presidential Election

The Commonwealth was invited by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) of The Gambia to observe the 24 November Presidential Election. In response to this invitation, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Mr Kamalesh Sharma constituted a five person Commonwealth Expert Team (CET) supported by a professional staff team from the Commonwealth Secretariat. I am honoured to have been invited to Chair the Team which has been present in the country since 18 November 2011, following a pre-election assessment mission led by the Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General in October 2011. During four days of briefings, the Team met a number of stakeholders including the Chairman of the IEC, political party representatives, civil society groups, media, Commonwealth High Commissioners, the United Nations Development Programme, and international, regional and domestic observer groups. This statement is our preliminary assessment of the presidential elections which was held on 24 November 2011. It reflects largely our observations on the pre-election environment, the polling day itself and the post-election phase. Members of the Team were able to cover four of the five regions in the country on Election Day. We exchanged our findings with a number of other international and domestic observers, as well as members of the diplomatic community. These exchanges corroborated most of the impressions which we formed during the course of our observations. We will issue a Final Report containing our conclusions and recommendations on the entire process at a later stage and submit same to the Commonwealth Secretary-General, who will then transmit it to all the candidates and stakeholders. The Report will subsequently be released to all Commonwealth governments and to the public on the Commonwealth Secretariat website in the coming weeks. Key findings...The Pre-Election Environment The official campaign period was from 12 to 22 November. The Team arrived in Banjul on 18 November and had the opportunity to observe some campaign activities. The Team observed rallies of the ruling party, the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC), and that of a leading opposition party, the United Democratic Party (UDP). We commend political parties and the people of The Gambia for the peaceful manner in which the campaigns were generally held. We also commend the role of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) for regulating the campaign under the Code on Election Campaign Ethics Order (made under section 92(1) of the Elections Act), and ensuring airtime on state media for all parties. A number of interlocutors indicated to the Team that this had raised the visibility of the opposition during the brief campaign period. We do, however, have concerns on the following significant developments, which we felt resulted in an uneven playing field: The short campaign period All opposition parties we met complained that the 11 day official campaign period was too short. We raised this issue with the IEC which explained that this matter had been discussed during meetings of the Inter-Party Committee (IPC), a dialogue mechanism for political parties. According to the IEC, it had assured political parties that they could engage with voters even before the official start of campaign, and that it had informed and obtained the cooperation of the Inspector General of Police for political parties who wished to commence campaigns before the official start of 12 November. We note that all political parties commended the IEC for its increased openness and accessibility during this election and appreciate the good faith in which this assurance was given. We are however of the view that an extended campaign period would have been preferable, and would have contributed to levelling the playing field in this election. Campaign Environment During our briefing sessions, some stakeholders complained that the President's 'Meet the People' tour which took place in July 2011 amounted to campaigning and gave him an undue advantage in the lead up to the presidential election. In this regard we wish to reiterate the conclusion of the report of the Commonwealth Observer Group after the 2006 presidential election which said: "the timing of the President's 'Dialogue with the People' tour was unhelpful, because it had the effect of interfering with the election campaign and providing an undue advantage to the incumbent." We urge that this concern be accorded the seriousness it deserves in order to create a best possible competitive political environment. We note, however, that almost all interlocutors, including some members of the opposition parties, commented on the following improvements during the campaign period: • A conciliatory tone in the rhetoric of the ruling party's candidate in advocating for peaceful elections and refraining from speaking ill of the opposition. We note that the opposition reciprocated this gesture. • The improving role of the IEC and the state media in ensuring that, "for the first time", provisions were made for all political parties to have equal airtime on state television, thereby ensuring the visibility of all parties during the brief campaign period. Advantage of incumbency and use of public resources While we acknowledge the advantages that normally accrue to all incumbents, we observed that the ruling party's use of the state machinery during the campaign period amounted to a serious abuse of incumbency. In this regard, the Team is able to confirm that it witnessed: • The uniformed military personnel participating in the APRC rally held in Banjul on Saturday 19 November 2011. Also, it saw three military trucks transporting youths wearing the party colour and emblem of the APRC in Churchill's Town on 23 November 2011. • The private newspaper, the Observer, carried reports of public institutions, such as the Ministry of Petroleum, donating campaign T-shirts to the APRC. • We received similar reports of public officials openly campaigning for the ruling party; in particular, we found the involvement of governors and their offices in APRC campaigns worrisome. We therefore urge all parties to adhere to the letter and spirit of the Code on Election Campaign Ethics Order, which was violated in this case. A stronger effort should be made in future elections to improve the enforcement of the Code of Conduct, by having clearer enforcement procedures. This would help the IEC to assert its independence and authority. We note that unequal access to funding was evident throughout the campaign period and that there was not a level playing field for the campaign with the advantage of incumbency exploited by the APRC. Indeed, the APRC spent far greater sums of money than that of the two other political rivals put together and, in the absence of campaign spending provisions, the level of competitiveness expected was compromised. We note also that the IEC failed to enforce the Code of Conduct which provides sanctions for such abuses. Ultimately, political will is required to implement these recommendations, which mirror those in the 2006 Commonwealth Observer Group Report. The ruling party's increased victory would suggest that it has nothing to lose in levelling the playing field and in curbing the abuse of incumbency. Polling day The Election Day was peaceful and managed in accordance with the Constitution and Electoral Act 2009. The Team was impressed by the high turnout of voters on Election Day, especially the large numbers or women and young people. The enthusiasm shown by Gambians for the election demonstrated their desire to contribute to the development of democracy in the country. Most polling stations opened on time on or just after 7.00 am. Polling stations were generally well-laid out, and polling officials and party agents present appeared to discharge their duties effectively in areas where Team members observed. We noticed the active role of young people and women as polling officials and party agents. Team members also noted the discreet security presence in a large number of polling stations. There were no overt acts of intimidation during voting. The Gambia has a unique voting system - the use of metallic ballot drums fitted with internal bells which ring once a ballot token, a marble, is dropped into the drum. Voters appeared familiar with this system, and polling officials were often seen listening for the sound of the bell to ascertain that the voter had indeed voted, and to identify any incidents of multiple voting. The secrecy of the vote was guaranteed as ballot drums were placed behind dark screens away from voters, polling staff, party agents and observers. Transparent and broken windows of school classrooms where ballot boxes had been placed were covered with improvised opaque materials. The new voter register appeared robust and we came across few instances where voters with valid voter cards could not find their names on the register. We commend the IEC on its success in this regard. Closing, counting and the results process At 4.00pm when polls closed, Team members witnessed polling officials observing the closing procedures, such as the sealing of the mouth of the ballot drums, with diligence. The ballot drums were then transported to the designated counting centres across the country with adequate security and within view of polling agents and observers. The rules of counting were closely followed; presiding officers publicly announced ballot tokens supplied, those remaining as well as any invalid votes. The seals of the ballot drums were broken in full view of those present, emptied into a sieve, and the marbles arranged into special counting trays holding 200 to 500 marbles at a time. Each candidate's result was publicly announced and the trays holding their tokens shown around before the result was certified. After this, the results were collated and declared by the Assistant Returning Officer before being transmitted to the regional IEC office, and then to the IEC headquarters. The Team was impressed by the general atmosphere of transparency and in some cases, collegiality, within which the closing and counting processes were conducted. The Team also commends the swift announcement of results by the IEC on 25 November, the day after the election. In any electoral process, there will always be room for improvement. We make the following technical recommendations in this spirit: • Although the number of polling stations has been increased to 1302 for the presidential election, some polling stations in urban centres are still large and overcrowded with long queues. We recommend a further increase in polling stations. • Voters' lists need to be more legible with bigger and clearer photos. • A more effective way of managing queues must be devised and efforts should be made to post list of voters in their respective polling stations before polling day. • The current arrangement of transporting ballots drums to counting centres is susceptible to avoidable hazards. It would be much better for the votes to be counted and recorded at polling stations and results displayed accordingly before tallying at collation centres in constituencies. Conclusion During the Team's briefing sessions with a range of stakeholders involved in the political process, some interlocutors highlighted the ruling APRC's achievements in economic development, particularly in the provision of infrastructure and social amenities. In spite of these achievements, the Government of The Gambia has been appropriately criticised for its human rights record including harassment and arbitrary arrests of government critics. Some of these violations have been brought to the attention of the Commonwealth Secretariat and other Commonwealth organisations, and are also well documented. During its briefing sessions, stakeholders further highlighted a number of them to the Team which will be addressed in our Final Report. A number of stakeholders informed us that they were fearful of criticising the government. Others who did not, appeared by their actions to be wary. The impact of these incidents is further exacerbated by the dominance of the executive which has eclipsed the other arms of government, in conflict with the Commonwealth Latimer House Principles on the separation of powers between the executive, legislature and judiciary. The Team also wishes to underscore that all other stakeholders in the democratic process of The Gambia must be allowed to play a more active role in deepening democracy as part of their fundamental human rights: the opposition parties must be given the space to develop into a credible and visible alternative and in this regard they must live up to the people's expectations; civil society and media organisations must be granted the space to empower citizens in a responsible and constructive manner; and the people of The Gambia must continue to engage actively in the wider democratic process building on their participation in this election in order to further strengthen governance processes in the country. The results of this election show that the Government of The Gambia has the mandate of its people to embark on the necessary democratic reforms which will guarantee sustainable economic development. The Commonwealth stands ready to assist in such reforms.

Le Centre Carter déploie une mission d’observation électorale en Côte d’Ivoire

Le Centre Carter a officiellement lancé une mission internationale d’observation électorale en Côte d’Ivoire, pour suivre les préparatifs et le déroulement des élections législatives prévues le 11 décembre 2011. Cette mission répond à une invitation de la Commission Electorale Indépendante. «La tenue des élections législatives représente une étape essentielle pour le renouvellement du mandat du parlement en Côte d’Ivoire,» a déclaré l’ancien Président américain Jimmy Carter. «Le Centre Carter soutient un processus électoral pacifique et ouvert permettant de poser les bases de la réconciliation nationale et de la stabilité.» Le Centre Carter a déployé 18 observateurs de moyen terme pour suivre les préparatifs électoraux. Ils seront rejoints par des observateurs de court terme, à l’approche du scrutin. Les observateurs et l’équipe cadre basée à Abidjan – un groupe de 22 experts électoraux au total représentant 16 pays différents – rencontrent les responsables de l’administration électorale, les partis politiques et les candidats, les représentants de la société civile, y compris les groupes d’observateurs nationaux, les autres missions d’observation internationale, ainsi que d’autres parties prenantes au processus électoral. La mission évalue l’administration électorale et les préparatifs du scrutin, l’environnement de la campagne électorale, les opérations de vote et de dépouillement, la consolidation des résultats et la période post-électorale. La mission évaluera le processus électoral par rapport à la Constitution et au Code électoral, ainsi qu’aux engagements régionaux et internationaux de la Côte d’Ivoire. Le Centre Carter conduit ses activités conformément à la Déclaration de Principes pour l’Observation Internationale d’Elections, adoptée aux Nations Unies en 2005 et endossée par 37 groupes d’observation internationale. Le Centre publiera des déclarations publiques sur le processus électoral, disponibles sur son site internet : Le Centre Carter est présent en Côte d’Ivoire depuis 2008. Le Centre a observé le processus d’identification et de recensement électoral, le contentieux de la liste électorale provisoire et les élections présidentielles de 2010. La mission du Centre Carter en Côte d’Ivoire est appuyée par un bureau à Abidjan, dirigé par Mme Sabina Vigani. #### « Faire progresser la Paix. Combattre les Maladies. Construire l'Espoir ». Organisation non gouvernementale à but non lucratif, le Centre Carter a aidé à améliorer les conditions de vie des populations dans plus de 70 pays, par la résolution de conflits, en promouvant la démocratie, les droits de l'homme et les opportunités économiques, par laprévention de maladies, en améliorant les soins de santé mentale, en formant des agriculteurs à l'accroissement de la production des récoltes dans les pays en développement. Le Centre Carter a été fondé en 1982 par l'ancien Président des États-Unis Jimmy Carter et son épouse Rosalynn en partenariat avec l'Université Emory, dans l'objectif de faire progresser la paix et la santé à travers le monde.

The Carter Center Launches Election Observation Mission to Côte d’Ivoire

Following an invitation from the Independent Electoral Commission, The Carter Center has launched an international election observation mission to Côte d’Ivoire to monitor preparations and the conduct of legislative elections anticipated on Dec. 11. “These elections are an essential step to renew the mandate of the parliament in Côte d’Ivoire,” former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said. “The Carter Center urges a peaceful and open electoral process, laying the ground for national reconciliation and stability.” The Carter Center deployed 18 medium-term observers to monitor electoral preparations. A group of short-term observers will be deployed shortly before election day. The observers and the Abidjan-based core team– a group of 22 election experts representing 16 countries – are meeting with election officials; political parties and candidates; civil society representatives, including domestic observers groups; other international election observation missions; and other relevant stakeholders. The mission is monitoring the election administration and preparations, the campaign period, voting and counting operations, tabulation of results, and the post-election period. The Carter Center will assess Côte d'Ivoire's electoral process against the Constitution and the electoral law, commitments made in the Ouagadougou Peace Accords, other agreements, and regional and international commitments. The Center conducts its election observation activities in accordance with the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation, which was adopted at the United Nations in 2005 and has been endorsed by 37 election observation groups. The Center will release public statements on the electoral process, available on its website: The Carter Center has been present in Côte d’Ivoire since 2008. The Center monitored the identification and voter registration process, the verification of the provisional voter list, and the 2010 presidential elections. The Carter Center mission in Côte d’Ivoire is supported by an office in Abidjan, led by Sabina Vigani. #### "Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope." A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in more than 70 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; improving mental health care; and teaching farmers in developing nations to increase crop production. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide. Please visit to learn more about The Carter Center.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Opposition boycott of polls dominates Liberia Media


On the eve of Liberia second run elections, most newspaper lead with the news on Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) boycott of the elections, The New Republic main front page story reads "No Turning Back – CDC Insists On Staying Away From Runoff" The Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) has dug in the heels and tacitly taken a'' no turning back posture'' not to participate in the runoff elections for reasons shrouded in failure of stakeholders to consider its grievances and concerns. Ordinary Liberians, envoys of foreign missions accredited to Liberia, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and many others have been encouraging the CDC to relinquish its demands and return to the status quo but to no avail as the party has made it clear it would only participate if its demands were met; something many see as being too swallow. Cllr. Winston Tubman who was invited to Abuja by the Chairman of ECOWAS, Nigerian president Good luck Jonathan, told the nation Saturday that the party's position was irreversible, stressing '' the CDC will never reward fraud by taking part in the runoff election. If he the party does, according to him, it will be tantamount to granting legitimacy to what he described '' a corrupt history. Mr. Winston Tubman, the CDC'S standard- bearer has called on Liberians to give up their franchise; their rights to vote.

In the same vein, CDC standard bearer Tubman on why his party is boycotting run- off elections was the lead of Front Page. The paper wrote: I have just returned from Abuja on the invitation of the Nigerian President and Chairman of ECOWAS. I am grateful to him for the seriousness with which he continues to treat the current Liberian electoral situation. I believe we had a frank exchange of views. The contact between us continues. As we approach Nov-8-2011, the bulk of the CDC's complaints of voting irregularities that marred the Oct-11-2011 ballot remain unaddressed. After the resignation of Mr. James Fromayan, the flawed infrastructure remains intact at the national elections commissions, NEC. In our last press statement we said that the removal of Mr. Fromayan was an important first step in the process toward transparency, does resolve all the significant issues. With barely four days to Nov-8, we officially inform the Liberian people and the world that the CDC cannot participant in the Nov-8 ballot.  We call on all CDCians, well-wishers and Liberian to stay away from the polls on Nov-8. Any government coming out of the Nov-8 process will be one without a national mandate to govern and will not be recognized by the CDC.

Following the trend of boycott stories, the Heritage lead with "ECOWAS: CDC's Statement to Boycott- Run-Off Election Unfortunate". In this story the Heritage reports that The ECOWAS Commission says its attention has been drawn to an undated press statement titled ''CDC Final positions on the holding of elections on Nov-8-2011'' and issued on 4 Nov-2011 by Ambassador Winston Tubman, standard bearer of the congress for Democratic Change(CDC), in the aftermath of a meeting held a day earlier in Abuja with Goodluck Jonathan, president of Nigeria and chairman of the ECOWAS Authority. In the statement, Ambassador Tubman informs about the withdrawal of CDC from the 8-nov-2011 presidential run-off election and calls on CDC followers and Liberians in general to stay away from the poll, citing  unaddressed CDC complaints about voting irregularities in  the course of the first round of the  election that took place on 11-oct- 2011. The ECOWAS Commission regards this statement as unfortunate, as it is intended to undermine the election and the democratic process that Liberians are striving hard to consolidate. It also goes against the grain of the discussions that Ambassador Tubman held with the Chairman of the Authority. In that meeting, the chairman advised the CDC leadership against boycotting the reminder of the electoral process, and impressed upon them that it was too late in the day, and quit against the relevant ECOWAS Protocols, for the CDC to demand changes that would require a consensual constitutional process of amending relevant electoral laws.

Subsequently, the chairman strongly urged Ambassador Tubman and all Liberians to endeavor to fully participate in the run-off in order to ensure a credible outcome and assist in the consolidation of democratic culture in the country.

According to the Heritage, writing the under headline "Ellen, Tubman Clash", the paper indicated that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has accused the standard- bearer of the opposition Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), Cllr.Winston Tubman of violating the Constitution by calling on CDC partisans to boycott Tuesday's president run-off polls.

 The presidential run-off is between the ruling Unity Party (UP) and the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC). The presidential run-off election is triggered by the failure of any of the 16 presidential candidates who participated in the Oct-11 presidential and legislative elections to win an absolute majority (50% plus 1) of the total valid votes cast as enshrined in the Liberian constitution. According to the constriction, which is regarded as the organic law of the country, if no candidate obtains an a absolute majority (50% plus 1) of the total votes cast in the  presidential race, them a run-off is necessary.


In Profile also contribute to boycott dominating the Liberia media on the eve of the second run presidential elections with " Face Off " headline, the paper reports that the runoff presidential election in Liberia is expected to take place tomorrow November 8th, amidst a deadlock that has kept a participating opposition party-CDC threatening to boycott the process. CDC refrained from allowing its vice standard Bearer George Oppong Weah participate in a runoff debate with UP Vice presidential Candidate Joseph Nyumah Boakia on Thursday, Nov-3rd in  Monrovia, something observers said was a slap in the face of the process.

'' The political spirit we enjoyed during the first round of legislative and presidential elections has diminished  because the exercise has become a one team show,'' a disappointed Liberian told the IN Profile Daily Friday evening in central Monrovia.  Fanatics of UP have been heard claiming that CDC is afraid of defeat to get into the race, but critics have argued that if the ruling UP was in the opposition camp it would insist in the same form and manner especially when there are grounds to hold and put forth preconditions before taking part in the process.





The Independent also reports that "America Not Happy With CDC" the paper said according to a US Government, '' as evidenced by international and domestic observers, the October-11 first- round presidential and legislative polls were fair, free and transparent. We are supportive of moving forward with the Nov-8 election as called for by the National Election Commission (NEC). Participation in elections is a fundamental part of democracy. We commend all Liberians for their peaceful participation in the elections, and encourage all Liberians to exercise their political voice and vote on Nov-8,'' the statement noted.

Accordingly, the US government has commended leadership of ECOWAS for their important contributions coupled with the role of UNMIL in promoting security during the electoral period as well as working with all sides to protect the integrity of Liberia's democracy.

The US government including the international community has reiterated their commitment to sent observers again to monitor the election process as resorting to violence is unacceptable.


In spite of the boycott, Front page is quoting the ruling Unity Party candidate and president asking voters 'GO OUT AND VOTE'.  The standard bearer of the ruling Unity Party, UP President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has called on all eligible voters in Grand Bassa County to turn out and vote in the November 8 Run-off elections.

''we want to say to you, Nov-8, your constitutional right is to go out and vote, that's the one thing you have in your constitution. Nobody can take that one from you because when you get behind that screen, that's just you and your God and your conscience; and you go and vote the way how you want to vote. Don't let somebody deny you that one,'' President Sirleaf urged the Bassa people to vote for a better Liberia and the future of their children. She expressed gratitude for the support given her by the Liberty Party strongman Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskin. President Sirleaf said, we are going to continue to work for the democracy that so many have suffered for and we are going to continue to build institutions as political parties. Cllr. Brumskine and I have talked about that, we want to make sure liberty party retains itself, that liberty party grows in strength, that liberty party is prepared to compete in other elections.'' Speaking to citizens of grand bassa at the fair ground in Buchanan during a last minute campaign, president Sirleaf reminded them that Liberia is for all Liberians irrespective of their political affiliation.

Cllr.Brumskin urged his  supporters to  commit themselves in ensuring that president sirleaf is  reelected by  turning out to  vote come Tuesday Nov-8,2011. After the first round as you know I met with president sirleaf and I committed that I would support her in the second round. I did not stop there, I came to Grand Bassa County on Wednesday, went on the radio, spoke to all of the bassa people, met with liberty partisans and I said to you this is not our time, this is the time of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf,'' he said.

The Daily Observer lead with news on the preparations for the runoff " Run-Off Set for Tomorrow" it reports that despite a boycott planned by the opposition Congress for Democratic Change CDC, the national election commission has vowed to go forward with a run-off tomorrow to determine the country's next president.

CDC standard bearer Winston Tubman announced the boycott on, immediately sparking a strong reaction from incumbent president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of the Unity Party.

Last Saturday, at a press conference at CDC headquarters in Monrovia, Tubman responded by accusing Johnson-Sirleaf of trying to intimidate him and of violating his right to free speech. '' There is nothing in our laws that compels Liberians to vote or not to vote, and to call upon them to vote or not to  vote is  no violation at all—it is an expression of my free speech Constitutionally guaranteed''. He added that the president's statement ''makes people feel that an effort is being made to silence me, to intimidate me, to make me afraid to speak what I believe needs to be said.

Assessing the conduct of upcoming second run presidential elections, The News lead with : ''No Plan To Disrupt Election'' The paper indicated that Congress for Democratic Change CDC standard bearer Cllr. Winston Tubman has trashed newspapers report that partisan of the CDC have planned to disrupt Tuesday's presidential run-off. There are media reports that CDC loyalists have planned to prevent people from voting on Tuesday by throwing stones at voters who would turn out.

The CDC has said it would not participate in the run-off election and has called on all its partisans and supporters stay away from the process. But Cllr. Tubman in an interview on Sunday said he is not aware of any plan to prevent people from voting on tomorrow. He explained that there is no plan bye the CDC to disrupt people of their legitimate rights to vote. '' I have no intention to call on my supporters to go and interfere with the right of people because when we start to do that, violence would be provoked and we don't want violence,'' he said.

We conclude our review for today with The News which lead with "ECOWAS Will Recognize Runoff Results If…………" The news said the Economic Community of West African States ECOWAS has reiterated that it will recognize the verdict of the Liberian people arising from the 8 November presidential run-off election provided, ''the preparations and conduct of the second round of the presidential election are adjudged by the competent authorities and endorsed by credible observers to be in accordance with the electoral laws of Liberia.''

The ECOWAS position statement on the pending run-off election was contained in a release from Abuja, Nigeria following reports that the opposition Congress for Democratic change CDC of Ambassador Winston Tubman had maintained its threat to boycott Tuesday's poll. In view of the CDC's continuous boycott threat, the ECOWAS Commission said it deeply regrets the retrogressive tone of Ambassador Winston Tubman's statement, which seeks to disrupt the concluding phase of the 2011 presidential election. The commission has however said it has launched a final appeal to the CDC, and all Liberia stakeholders, not to miss '' this historic opportunity of consolidating democracy and peace in the country, and to actively participate in the 8 November poll.''

This daily news review is compiled by African Elections Project (AEP) Media Monitoring Center at LMC, Monrovia, Liberia.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Liberia Elections : Second Run Likely As Nec Announces First Batch of Results

Early provisional results from National Elections Commission(NEC) today 13th October 2011 puts ruling Unity Party (UP) candidate -President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in the lead with 44.5% and while the main opposition party Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) candidate Winston Tubman at 26.6%.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Liberians Defy Rains to Vote in General Elections

Thousands of Liberians are bracing showers and rains across the country this morning to vote in a closely contested general elections. As early as 6:00 am this morning long queues had started forming ahead of polls opening at 8:00am with some voters having spent the night at polling stations.

Despite the heavy rains being reported in Montserrado, Bomi and Lofa, voters are not detered and are still in queues waiting to exercise their franchise

At the Vision Academy polling station on 1st Street Jallah Town in Monrovia, queues started forming as early as 4am. According to Inspector Thomas Cooper of the Liberia National Police (LNP), stationed at that polling precinct, "most people got out early to avoid a rush later as they think it will rain in the afternoon" he added that there are political party polling agents in all the polling centers under his watch and the voting process is well organized by the National Elections Commission (NEC). He says the security personnel will vote after everyone has left the queue.

John Toe 21, who queued since 4am and the first voter at the precinct says "I am here to be part of the history, where Liberians are free to change our leader using our thumb instead of the gun. I voted for CDC because I want Ellen out."

Mercy Mulbah 37, who was in the queue in the same precinct says she will vote for the Unity Party of President Sirleaf "why change a good thing? Am here to give my full support to the president in appreciation of the peace we are enjoying in Liberia."

At the University of Liberia polling center the story is not different as people started queuing long before the polls opened.

According to Willametta Telleoyan the Polling Officer at New Jerusalem Church polling center. They have enough voting materials for all the registered voters in their polling center and believes no one will be denied to exercise their franchise.

NEC officials were present and ready for the voting process. Most polling centers had officials of political parties present as well as Liberia National Police providing security.

About 1.8 eligible voters are expected to vote at 1,780 polling precincts across 19 electoral magistrates, to elect a president out of 16 presidential candidates with their running mates. In addition, there are 99 senatorial candidates contesting for 15 seats , while there are 793 candidates contesting for 73 seats in the House of Representatives.

Full results for the presidential candidates are expected to be announced on October 26, 2011 according to the National Election Commission (NEC) Chairman, James Fromayan.


The Elections Coordinating Committee, (ECC) Initial Statement on Liberia 2011 General Elections

Press Statement

Monrovia October 11, 2011-The Elections Coordinating Committee, (ECC) has commended the level of enthusiasm and spirit that characterize the ongoing general elections in Liberia.

ECC observed that despite heavy rains on the morning of elections, turnout is encouraging and the process is orderly and peaceful.

The group noticed that polls opened on time and materials were available at polling centers visited.

The Elections observation body also commends political party representatives, local and international observers for making their presence felt at polling centers.

According to the ECC, security presence remains visible and the level of priority accorded people with special conditions such as the disable, elderly and pregnant women is commendable.

ECC intimated that the level of cooperation from all parties in the process including voters demonstrates a strong commitment to ensuring that the general aspirations of citizens are  guaranteed through the outcome of the elections.

The group however notes there are few challenges that, if not addressed, could undermine the gains made so far in ensuring a credible and transparent process.

ECC observed some cases of congested polling places and dark voting rooms which could compromise the secret ballot system.

The ECC also notes that the slow pace in the conduct of the polls is hampering the processing of voters thus leading to long queues.

In some cases, the ECC said, some party agents were disallowed on grounds they did not have party identification cards and in other cases the voting rooms were too small to accommodate large number of party agents. The ECC said these situations could discourage many voters from continuing the process.

Meanwhile the ECC calls on the NEC to ensure that corrective measures are taken to address the issues of slow pace at poling centers.

The ECC on the other hand encourages voters to remain patient and remain in the queues until the end of voting.

ECC is a consortium of over thirty civil society organizations with support from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI).

The ECC seeks to promote free, fair and credible elections in Liberia.


 Oscar Bloh


Friday, October 7, 2011

Did Nobel Committee Award Liberia's Sirleaf to Help Her Win Reelection?

For all the good in this year's Nobel Peace Prize trio of recipients -- its affirmation of the growing global leadership of woman, its acknowledgment that neither peace nor democracy comes without their full support and participation, its deeply convincing suggestion that the efforts of peace in 2010 may have been due more to women than men -- the name Ellen Johnson Sirleaf seemed to draw mostly sighs from the academics and journalists who cover West Africa. "Most common complaint of Johnson Sirleaf in Liberia is she spends all her time pleasing the West and not enough building things at home," reported journalist Elizabeth Dickinson. Yale professor Chris Blattman wrote on his blog, "I can't shake the feeling that she spent more time getting feted internationally, and running a U.S. book tour, than [on] the big issues at home."

Sirleaf, the president of Liberia since 2006, is not exactly a controversial figure, but she's not the Dalai Lama either, and her inclusion among today's three Nobel Peace Prize winners might have as much to do with Liberia's domestic and international politics as about the transforming role of female leadership in the developing world. "Shocked response in Monrovia to Johnson Sirleaf's Nobel prize, there are serious misgivings about Ma Ellen in Liberia," UK Independent report Daniel Howden
tweeted from the Liberian capital, noting Sirleaf's "murky" record during that country's bloody civil war and reporting "thousands of opposition supporters" rallying against the prize. A local told him, "[The International] Community put fine flowers atop the grave but there are dead bones underneath."

The prize, of course, has gone to less-than-saintly characters before: Mikhail Gorbachev, Yasser Arafat, Nelson Mandela, and Henry Kissinger, to name just a few of the leaders who achieved acts of great peace as well as great violence. But does Sirleaf really fit on this list? She did help bring Liberia out of war, her 2005 election saw the highest rate of female participation ever recorded in Africa, and she's made
slow but real work at rebuilding her country, one of West Africa's great hopes before war tore it apart. Still, there have been a number of peace-builders in Liberia. Blattman, considering whether Sirlead has been "a force for peace," answered with a tepid, "Yes and no, but mostly yes." University of Massachusetts professor Michael Keating wrote, "It was actually Leymah Gbowee, a co-recipient of this year's Peace Prize, who did all the heavy lifting of peacebuilding while Charles Taylor was still in power." So why not limit the prize to Gbowee, a prominent activist whose efforts to end Liberia's civil war were chronicled in the film Pray the Devil Back to Hell? Why add Sirleaf?

Well, Sirleaf is up for re-election. In four days. And her prospects are
looking awfully shaky. In Liberia and in the West, there seems to be a growing consensus that the Nobel committee was not unaware of this timing. "I want her to win the election so I'm glad but the timing is strange," a Liberian government official told Howden. "Happy for Sirleaf, but the Nobel comes *4 days* before the election??" asked Todd Moss of the Center for Global Development. Monrovia-based American venture capitalist Matt Jones tweeted, "Sirleaf's Nobel feeds hugely in2 the conspiracy that her 2005 election & 2011 re-election r determined by foreign gov'ts."

Conspiracy theories aside, it's natural to wonder if the Nobel committee was hoping to play some role in the election. Not to fix the results, exactly, but to throw their weight behind their preferred candidate in an effort to remind Liberians why they elected Sirleaf in 2005. It would be a bit reminiscent of their 2009 recipient, Barack Obama, a decision that was widely viewed as more about nudging him toward certain policies than about rewarding past behavior.

Even if Liberia had national polling, it would be unreliable and incomplete. But election-watchers tend to describe Sirleaf's reelection as uncertain. And her loss could have serious ramifications for the country and the region. Her leading opponent is Harvard-educated lawyer William Tubman, whose real electoral support comes from his running mate, George Weah. A football star who came close to winning in 2005, Weah answered then-criticism about his fitness for the job by, in the years since, enrolling at Florida's DeVry University.

But the real concern is not for the lackluster Tubman or running mate Weah, the Sarah Palin of Liberia. It's for a less prominent candidate named Prince Johnson, a former warlord who has left a long and bloody trail across Liberia. Johnson has close ties to fellow warlord Charles Taylor, who is responsible for much of West Africa's worst violence. Taylor is currently on trial at The Hague for war crimes, but that hasn't sapped
his alarming popularity back home in Liberia. Alpha Sesay, who monitored the trial for the Open Society Justice Initiative, told's Robbie Corey-Boulet that Taylor's verdict "could go either way."

Next week's vote could lead to a runoff in November. If that happens, and if Taylor wins his trial and comes home to throw his considerable popularity behind Johnson, Liberia could see a return to the days of
child soldiers and chaos. That's probably not an especially likely outcome, but neither is it unforeseeable. Even if Sirleaf lost to Tubman, the instability and resentments that comes with so many African political transitions could provide an opening for Johnson, Taylor, or another Taylor-backed warlord to seize power. Probably the best way to ensure continued peace in Liberia, even if not exactly prosperity, would be for Sirleaf to win a second term.

This thinking informs much of the Western world's involvement in the politics of Sub-Saharan Africa. Rwandan President Paul Kagame has an abysmal human rights record that seems to get worse all the time, for example, but the U.S. and other Western powers continue to back him because, as diplomatic officials say privately, urging a political transition would too dangerously risk another division along sectarian lines that could lead to renewed war. Isn't that the lesser of two evils? Maybe, maybe not -- that's one of the questions that makes great power diplomacy in the developing world, and in Africa in particular, so difficult. But it would be an odd game for the Nobel committee to be playing.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Technology to play a key role in the coverage of Liberia 2011 General Elections

As Liberians go to the polls on 11 October 2011 to select a new president, members of senate and house of representatives, African Election Project (AEP) is providing leadership in the use of information and communication technologies(ICT) to cover this landmark elections under its Liberia Incidence Monitoring Platform" project

The ICT based incidence Monitoring platform will monitor  incidents of violence, irregularities and human rights abuses, spanning the period of pre-elections, during elections and post elections, thereby contributing to building peace and entrenching democracy in Liberia. Also the project is designed to facilitate the work of journalists and citizen journalists by actively using ICT tools in disseminating election information and knowledge thereby stimulating a vibrant online and offline dialogue between the media and civil society through forums on elections issues with the ultimate objective of promoting free and fair elections in Liberia.

Liberia's upcoming election has largely been viewed as a test of the willingness of Liberians to fully commit to democracy and the deepening of good governance in the country after the end of a 14 year civil war which ended in 2003.


According to African Elections Project Director, Jerry Sam, "the use of ICT during this election coverage will bring about transparency in the whole electoral process, ensure the timely release of electoral news to citizens residing in Liberia and in the Diaspora, issue alerts to the relevant institutions to prevent potential incidence of violence and to ensure credibility in the final outcome of the elections." 


He added that, a modern fully equipped Call Centre is in place to enable citizens report elections violence incident in additions to SMS reporting system via short-code 2011. In order to coordinate information transmission from elections observers throughout the country, a group of field officers have been deployed to play this role. The project will also make use of social media tools such as twitter, facebook  and youtube to reach out to online audience. Other tools to be deployed include cutting-edge call center software and a news database software which are designed to keep track of the elections activities as it happens.


African Elections Project in Liberian which covered the recently held Liberia referendum is   coordinated by the International Institute of ICT Journalist (Penplusbytes) with strategic and financial support from Humanity United ( working hand in hand with key partners including ushahidi Liberia and Liberia Media Centre (LMC)




Editor's note

African Elections Project (AEP)  @africanelection

AEP was established in 2008 to cover elections using Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) across the continent. AEP have successfully covered elections in Botswana, Namibia, Ghana, Guinea, Cote d'Ivoire, Mauritania, Mozambique, Malawi, Togo and Niger.


Humanity United  @HUtweets

Humanity United is a philanthropic organization committed to building peace and advancing human freedom. We lead, support, and collaborate with a broad network of efforts, ideas, and organizations that share our vision of a world free of conflict and injustice.


Friday, September 30, 2011

“Demonstrate Tolerance By Reinstating Ambrose Nmah“

The Executive Director of the Liberia Media Center says President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf must resist the temptation and demonstrate greater tolerance to dissenting opinions by re-instating Ambrose Nmah in the wake of ELBC coverage of the campaign rally of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC).
Mr. Lawrence Randall said circumstances surrounding Nmah's suspension were worrying signs that gains made by ELBC in the last few months could be reversed.
While praising the Sirleaf administration for securing and protecting the space for tolerant debates and dialogue, he believes this latest action could undermine the gains made by her administration in fostering freedom of the press.
"This government has seen welcomed improvements in the global world press freedom ranking and Media Sustainability Index and allowing itself to be drawn into this situation could hurt Liberia's growing standing as a tolerant society", Mr. Randall noted.
Mr. Randall said, while the LMC is totally against the use of the media for trading of insults, rumours and allegations of mutual recrimination by political parties, it was prudent for the President to have exercise tolerance in this situation.
He said though the President reserves the right to hire, fire and suspend public officials as deemed fit, the Ambrose Nmah, Ledgerhood Rennie leadership at ELBC have made an impressive mark in their short tenure and this should have been considered when the decision was being made.
Mr. Randall speaking ahead of the launch of the 2011 Elections Media Monitoring report, said ELBC has been successfully transformed into a non-partisan professional outfit that provides the platform for unbiased news and information dissemination.
With ELBC topping the fourth Media Quality Barometer ranking system and performing outstandingly in the yet to be released Elections Media Monitoring Report, it was difficult to understand while the authorities would take such an unpopular decision at a very crucial period, the LMC boss said.
"The decision is not only troubling but undermines ELBC growing reputation as a credible and reliable platform for news and information dissemination especially given the manner and circumstances leading to the suspension" he said.
Mr. Randall encouraged the office of the President to move swiftly in restoring Mr. Nmah to his post as the time and opportunity was still not lost.
Lawrence Randall
Executive Director
Liberia Media Center
1st Street, Sinkor, Jallah Town Rd

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Liberia Elections 2011 : “Because Accountability Matters

"Because Accountability Matters" is the outcome of the media monitoring component of the "Strengthened Media for Transparent Elections" project. The overall objective of the project is to support independent media coverage of the 2011 Elections. It further seeks to initiate new directions for the Liberian media in the coverage of the electoral and political processes that accord higher priority to electoral accountability, issue focused campaigns and application of ethical principles. It is being facilitated with capacity building initiatives and advocacy on electoral accountability, issue-focused election reporting and monitoring of electoral coverage by the media. It also includes the use of ICTs (new media technologies especially) in monitoring and reporting of elections. The project has also enabled LMC to provide equipment support for more than 300 Liberian journalists and about 35 community radio stations.
"Strengthened Media for Transparent Elections" was conceived against the background of the social responsibility and watch dog functions of the media through which it is expected to entrench the ideals of openness and accountability in the political and electioneering processes.
The program is jointly supported by USAID, through a grant to IREX USA; UNESCO; Denmark based International Media Support and the Africa Elections Project in Accra, Ghana.
The report aims to highlight media performance in the coverage of news, events and debates during the 2011 Liberian Elections. It is designed to stimulate performance and to provide a platform for debate on the findings.
This publication therefore encapsulates one month of monitoring in August 2011 and provides summaries of areas requiring improvement by various media outlets. The report represents the first in a series, which continues till December 2011 and would culminate into the production of a comprehensive documentation on the media role during the 2011 electoral cycle.
LMC hopes the assessment will achieve the intended purpose of encouraging the media to provide appropriate professional response and add value to collective efforts for free, fair and transparent elections devoid of violence. The report is however based on the monitoring of the radio and newspapers during the period. The second report to be release in October will feature television monitoring results.
While the project reviews all published dailies to document incidents of ethical transgression, only 11 newspapers and seven radio stations are closely monitored using sets of pre-set questionnaire or coding sheets. This report covers these institutions though reference is also made to some institutions outside the rigorous assessment process, especially as it pertains to grave ethical transgressions.
The newspapers were selected on the basis of their regularity prior to the monitoring.  As a result, most of the papers selected are dailies. Seven radio stations were selected on the basis of their programming, reach, and relative consistency on the air.
For radio, a total of 63 hours of radio time were recorded and evaluated, using a code frame that contained 141 semi-structured questions for radio and 154 semi-structured questions for newspaper. The report focused on a number of indicators ranging from coverage of issues, parties and candidates, space and airtime distribution and distribution of advertisement. A reflection of the coverage across the various county and sources that generated the news was also assessed. Media biases, content quality, partisan reporting, gender and conflict sensitive reporting were amongst the indicators assessed.
Processing of the data begins with monitors, who report their daily code frames to a supervisor, who in turn forward his report to the Project Consultant. The Consultant verifies the coding of each newspaper and radio station before the data is entered in the computer –based data processing system. The computer generated results are then placed within an analysis chart and quantitative reports are generated together with qualitative analysis generated separately by monitors.
The Chart below shows the percentage of issues that were reported as news by the radio stations during the period
In general, the outcome of the monitoring exercise indicates the Liberian media's robust engagement with the electoral processes as citizens prepare for the first election to be conducted by post-war democratically elected government.
A major indication of this was the amount of space and time allotted by the newspapers and radio stations to the coverage of the pre-election referendum that was then pending. Although, it meant that other developmental issues were relegated to the background, it nonetheless showed that the media was paying a deserved attention to a process whose outcome might have significant effect on the actual elections. In this regard, the court actions that have followed the result of the referendum could be seen as vindicating the stance of the media on this particular issue.
The result also shows that during the period under review, the media focused on the National Electoral Commission (NEC), being the all-important umpire whose deeds or misdeeds could have profound effect on the credibility of the elections. Understandably, NEC featured very well in the referendum related stories as it was also its responsibility to conduct it. In all instances during the monitoring exercise, NEC and the referendum got prominent mention in terms of placement of the stories. For example, in the case of the newspapers, 48% of elections related stories dealing with the activities of NEC and the referendum appeared as front page lead or sub leads. Among the highlighted issues in the stories were the registration process, opinions of the political parties and candidates whether the referendum was desirable or not with some actually advocating the boycott of the process.
Similarly, 36.1% of the 129 monitored programs of the radio stations centered on the referendum. These were in the form of open discussions of issues relating to the referendum such as the sensitization campaigns and the views of the opposition political parties. The observed weakness is the poor attention to gender in the referendum and election related stories as only two stations, UNMIL and Truth FM, featured gender related debates.
More welcoming however is the prominent featuring of news from the campaign rallies (20%) and news specific to the political parties (15.6%) by the radio stations which would suggest on face value, that the radio stations intended to help the electorates with the information that could aid their choice of Parties and candidates. Unfortunately, this intent might not have been fully realized as the news and programs were poor in content when it comes to the agenda and policies of the political parties. It should be worrisome that less than 2% of the issues covered dealt with health, business and development policies.
The monitoring report also indicates that the radio stations have succeeded more than the newspapers, in engendering public participation in the political discourse. Many callers and participants in various radio programs have been quite vocal and eloquent on questioning candidates on the issues of concern to them. Overall, the coverage of issues by the broadcast media was much better as influenced by the audience contribution. Although the newspapers do not have such advantage, the creative use of the new and social media could be a way of increasing their engagement with the public on the electioneering.
Another noticeable feature of the report is the skewed coverage of the political parties with the data gathered from the monitoring period showing that the newspapers generally seem to build stories around four of the over twenty nine registered political parties contending for power.  If this trend continues, the underreported parties might allege that they are being marginalized by the media.  The four parties that have been given favorable coverage are the ruling Unity Party, the CDC, the LP and NDC. Meanwhile the nature of the stories reported by the media on the leading parties also raises some questions. For example, whereas over 50% of the news stories on CDC centered on internal political wrangling especially as emanating from the party's convention, the ruling Unity Party received more favorable coverage of its progress, programs, events and activities.
For a country divided into counties populated by diverse peoples, attention to diversity is an important focus of the monitoring exercise. Here the newspapers did not put up an impressive performance to the extent that about 86% of newspapers election related stories originated from Montserrado. In contrast, Nimba County with almost half a million people out of the 3.5 million Liberian population had less than 7% mention. Other Counties even fared worse.
The newspapers might feel justified not only because they are based in Monrovia, the capital but also because the Montserrado as a whole county has the largest population compared with others. But the newspapers should have put into consideration that fact that the forthcoming elections are national in character; across all the counties, the president, the senators and the representatives will be voted for and elected.
Overall, the radio reports fared only marginally better than the newspapers as they too had 83.6% of stories coming from Montserrado, the seat of government. Bong and Nimba Counties followed with 2.8% and 2.5% respectively. However the radio stations covered more counties. ELBC reports covered nine of the fifteen counties; Truth FM, eight; UNMIL Radio, seven; LWDR, four and Radio Veritas, SKY FM and LUX FM three counties each.
The diversity performance was better in giving space and voice to non-political actors whose objective opinions help in shaping issue-focused campaigns. Both the newspapers and radio stations featured significantly the civil society, foreign missions and youth as well as women groups.
The effect of advertising on the reporting of the elections was another area of importance examined by the monitoring to determine if it accounted for favorable and non-favorable coverage of the political parties. UP had 88% of political party adverts in "The News" newspaper and received favorable coverage with a story on the president's presence at a campaign rally sensationally titled "Ellen Rocks" in the August 8 edition. CDC did not have ads in the newspaper. On July 28 it ran a story titled "Tubman a failed UN Diplomat" that was more opinionated than factual.
Finally, on a more positive note, the fact of government ownership seems not to have affected ELBC during the period in question. It had more balanced stories than the private stations. Forty two of its 65 elections news stories fell into the balanced category whereas the privately owned Sky FM had 19; Radio Veritas, 17; Truth FM, 15; LWDR, 6 and Lux FM, 7. UNMIL had just two balanced election news stories, with no balanced reports as most of their stories were not applicable.
As seen from the findings, the media faces huge challenges running into a crucial two weeks period especially on account of recent performance from some media organizations. The temptation to report issues along partisan lines will also exist but mustering the professional will and judgment to resist these temptations and stay above the fray will contribute immensely in determining the peaceful outcome of the electoral process. To achieve this goal, journalists must remain non-partisan even if they are in the employ of media owners with partisan agenda. Ensuring that news and information dissemination remain conflict sensitive is an obligation not an option and journalists should be reminded that this obligation is inextricably linked with a violent free and peaceful elections. As polling day looms, the media is encouraged to provide a balanced perspective on the candidates' platform, track record and performance. Giving equal space and airtime in a commercially driven period can be challenging but media owners should seek to promote diversity and undue monopolization of their outlet by any single political party.  The media must unite to promote peace through reporting the process in an unbiased and transparent manner.
Supported by USAID through IREX, UNESCO and International Media Support.