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Reflections Of A Voter
Thursday 10th November 2011

The streets of Monrovia were bustling at 6:30 that morning. Though Monrovians are early risers, this was unusual for a holiday morning. But of course this was an unusual holiday - October 11, 2011, Election Day. 

Light rain began to fall as I drove toward town, hoping to be one of the first in the queue to cast my ballot. I wondered if the bad weather would keep voters from the polls. But if the voting centers I passed were any indication, rain or not, people seemed determined to exercise their franchise as there were several long lines already formed. In fact, I later learned that some voters began queuing as early as 4 A.M. 

I arrived at my precinct at about 6:55, and with the help of a poll worker found my polling site. There were already nearly 50 people ahead of me waiting patiently for the clock to strike 8 A.M. for voting to start. What struck me immediately was the camaraderie among the voters. There seemed to be a united purpose, a common cause, and a burning desire to vote in the interest of taking Liberia forward. Partisan divide seemed a foreign concept among voters in this queue.
There was a young man in the line with a campaign wrist band promoting one of the candidates, a clear violation of the rules of the game. Per Liberia’s Election Law, campaigning must cease 24 hours before polls open. Rather than exposing this violator, people alerted him and advised him to remove the wrist band, which he quietly did. Even the rain did not dampen the mood here as we stood patiently awaiting our time to vote.

More than two hours after I arrived, I voted, and even today, two weeks later, it’s difficult to put into words my feelings in the minutes and hours after I exercised my franchise. This was only my second time voting in the land of my birth. In 1985 I stood in line for more than five hours to vote in an election whose results were widely believed to be rigged. I was in exile during the 1997 and 2005 Elections.

I often say that I don’t think there’s a single Liberian who did not lose someone during the war. Take me – I lost my father, my smart younger brother, my grandmother, and yes, Cecelia. She was the sister I promised to come back for but who was never found when friends and family came looking. 

I always wondered if I would ever see a Liberia where people were free to exercise their franchise, to speak openly, and where press freedom was the order of the day. Just years back, this seemed impossible. But here I am today, not yet 50, though slowly approaching that mark, and I live in a Liberia where the government of the day can be openly challenged, and where all Liberians have a chance to determine the future of the country through the ballot box. 

So when I cast my vote on October 11, it was not just for a president or a legislator. It was in honor of the hundreds of thousands of Liberians who lost their lives in the war – my father, brother, sister, friends; it was in honor of people who fought for this right; it was in honor of journalists and others who died for this right; it was in honor of my late mother who loved this country so dearly and never got the chance to exercise this right. Above all, my vote was for Liberia’s future. I voted to reject violence, I voted for freedom, I voted to create opportunities for today’s younger generation and tomorrow’s leaders. I VOTED FOR LIBERIA.

 

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