Day By Day

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Elections in Liberia

George Weah, He Play Football

Liberia is having its first national elections since the end of its fourteen-year civil war. Among the favorites in the campaign for President is international soccer star, George Weah. Reuters reports:
MONROVIA, Oct 8 (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of supporters of Liberian presidential hopeful George Weah brought Monrovia to a standstill on Saturday as the millionaire soccer star held a final campaign rally before Liberia's first post-war elections.

The presidential and parliamentary polls on Tuesday are meant to draw a line under a 14-year civil war in Liberia -- one of the most brutal conflicts ever seen in Africa -- which killed a quarter of a million people and ended with a 2003 peace deal.

Wearing white T-shirts and bandanas bearing Weah's name or image, huge crowds of fans of the former AC Milan striker flooded roads on the edge of the capital as they marched from his home in a Monrovia suburb to his party headquarters.

In the crush, a 45-year-old man died from heat exhaustion and four more people were treated in hospital, witnesses said.

"George! George! He play football! He play football!," chanted one group of young men, running in formation.

Read it here.

Just a couple of years ago those same kids would have been carrying AK-47s and killing each other. Progress comes slowly, but it comes.

High Hopes

Enthusiasm for the elections is running high. Reuters reports:

Thousands of Liberians voted enthusiastically on Tuesday in elections they hope will build a better future for a West African country laid waste by one of the continent's most brutal civil wars.

At polling stations set up in churches, schools, public buildings and even rural huts and tents, crowds of voters lined up to take part in the first presidential and parliamentary polls held since the 14-year war ended in 2003.

Out of 22 presidential hopefuls that include former warlords and wealthy lawyers, former AC Milan striker and millionaire soccer star George Weah and former World Bank economist Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf are seen as the frontrunners.

Many Liberians were voting for the first time and saw the polls as an historic opportunity to leave behind a cycle of violence in Africa's oldest independent republic, founded by freed slaves from America in 1847.

Hours before voting centres opened under the watchful eye of blue-bereted United Nations peacekeepers, people had gathered outside. Some slept the night there, while in up-country rural areas, others faced long walks over mud-choked roads to vote.

"We will get a leader who will help us to go to school and who will give our parents work," said 19-year old student Willie Moore, who voted at a church in Monrovia.
Read it here.

And of course Jimmee's there. He says he's "quite satisfied".

Former President Jimmy Carter hailed Liberians' dedication to nonviolence and democratic ideals Monday, a day before this West African nation's first presidential election since a 14-year civil war ended.

"We see the intense commitment of the Liberian people to have an honest, fair, open and safe election," said Carter, heading a team of dozens of election observers from his center and the National Democratic Institute, another U.S. group.

With campaigning finished late Sunday, Carter told reporters that he was "quite satisfied" with the run-up to Tuesday's balloting.

[emphasis mine]

Read it here.

Is he "satisfied" with this?

Reuters reports:

Monrovia - Reports of ritual killings in Liberia, in which human parts are offered as sacrifices to gain power or success, have increased in the run-up to the nation's first post-war elections on Tuesday, U.N. officials say. In areas of rural Liberia, the tradition of ''Gboyo'' is an age-old practice in which believers offer up body parts such as genital organs to seek success in political or military careers or in other pursuits.
Read it here.

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