Sirleaf's peace appeal as Liberia votes

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

Outgoing Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf called for peace as Liberians voted for her successor Tuesday.

The president, in a statement, said Liberians should cast their ballot with respect for one another, despite their political differences.

She told her compatriots to vote with their conscience to ensure the best candidate won.

Liberians were Tuesday voting for a new president and 73 members of the national legislature.

“It is an historic day for our nation, and for the consolidation of Liberia’s young democracy,” President Sirleaf said.

Oldest democracy

“For the first time in three generations, we will be transferring Presidential authority, democratically, and peacefully, from one elected leader to another,” she added in a televised addressed to the nation.

Mrs Sirleaf, who came to power in 2006 in the first post-war elections in Africa’s oldest democracy, is barred from running after serving two six-year terms as per the constitution.

But her ruling United Party’s candidate is her Vice-President Joseph Boakai.

Nonetheless the Liberian leader urged her compatriot to choose the candidates they considered the best.

“Remember that you are an empowered people, the future of the country is in your hands. No one is entitled to your vote –not because of party, ethnicity, religion or tribal affiliation,” she said.

“Your loyalty is to your family, your children, and your children’s children, and their children. Vote for the persons you believe will make Liberia a better place.”

Mrs Sirleaf, Africa’s first ever elected woman president, also urged the contending parties to respect the outcome of the election as declared by the National Electoral Commission. She noted that in the event of grievances, an established system for accountability and transparency was in place to address them.

Former wife

She called on Liberians to reflect on how far the country had come, as a nation, and as a people, from a society destroyed by conflict and war, to one of the most vibrant democracies in West Africa.

Dozens of local and international observation missions, including the regional bloc Ecowas, the African Union, the European Union, and the US-based National Democratic Institute, were monitoring the election.

The run up to the poll was characterised by tension, amidst allegations of planned vote rigging by the incumbent.

Mr Boakai faces 19 other contenders for the top seat. But his main challenger is long time opposition leader George Opong Weah of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC).

Mr Weah's running mate is a former wife of the jailed former Liberian president Charles Taylor, Ms Jewel Howard Taylor.

The controversial choice of running mate occasioned a sustained speculation that Taylor had been influencing the polls from his British jail cell.

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