The Swedish Institute Alumni Network-Liberia (SIANL) has held its third round of first-time voters’ symposium, leaving over 200 young would-bed voters inspired to participle in the October 10 presidential and legislative election later this year. 

Panelists who addressed the symposium told the first-time voters that the constitution of Liberia has given them the rights and power to make a sound decisions in the best interest of the country and their respective futures. They were told that they would live with the October 10 decision for the next six years, and must be smart to elect quality leaders. They were urged not to be carried away by fly-by-night philanthropists, people with mysterious and ill-gotten wealth, and those with stained records and a lack of integrity. 

At least 250 student representatives, mostly of voting age from several high schools in Congo Town and Paynesville gathered at the Jones Christian Academy (JCA) in Congo Town, to listen to panelists making presentations on their rights, roles, and responsibilities in this year’s elections. 

Panelists for the May 12 edition included Mr. Alex Devine, Executive Director of Youth for Change in Liberia, Atty. Bendu Kpoto, Legal Officer at the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia, Atty. Sagie F. Kamara of the National Bar Association and D. Kaihenneh Sengbeh, Head of Communication and Media of SIANL. The panelists addressed topics including young people voting in a Democratic Election, Prospects of Voting in a Democratic Election, Challenges of Young People Voting in a Democratic Election, and What Young People need to know while voting in a Democratic Election.

The central message from the panelists was a rallying call on the first-time voters to think twice, scrutinize candidates and vote wisely, urging them not to be induced by donations of food, T-shirts, and materials things, among others, which often characterize the country’s election dynamics.

SIANL’s symposia are targeting school-going adolescents who did not attain voting age in the 2017 general and presidential elections, but are now constitutionally capable of exercising their democratic franchise in the October 2023 polls. The series of symposia is the Network’s way of contributing to strengthening democracy and inclusive societies in Liberia.

“The third edition of the First-Time Voters Symposium was a success, SIANL’s Sam Samie Sumo stated after the event. ” The event was quite interactive and informative for our targeted audience. The participants were taught how to make informed decisions as first-time voters when selecting their leaders for the future. The panelists’ presentations explained the topic well for a better understanding of our audience. The presentation included practical examples demonstrating different dilemmas confronting first-time voters’ decision-making and suggesting better ways to make decisions when voting.” Sumo said keywords such as ‘be wise’, ‘corruption’, ‘accountability’, ‘better future’, ‘good governance’, ‘democracy’, and ‘honesty’ will remain with the audience and serve as reminders when they are making voter decisions.

Sponsored by the Swedish Institute as part of staying engaged with its alumni, the May 12, 2023 symposium was held under the theme: Young People Voting in a Democratic Election: Prospects and Challenges—What They Need to Know.  SIANL is a registered professional non-governmental and non-political institution, comprising Liberians who benefited from the Swedish Institute Scholarship for Global Professionals, studied at different Swedish universities, and resided in and out of Liberia.

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