The Farmington Declaration is more than a piece of paper

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Africa’s culture and history is often passed on through oral tradition, with spoken words arguably more valuable than written words. An African proverb says that: “When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground.” This perspectives series challenges political leaders to reflect on their commitment to the 2023 Revised Farmington declaration. Political leaders should understand that the words they use during the election campaign period should first filter through the key principles of the Farmington Declaration. This time, the commitment to work for peaceful elections should not only be signed but should also be followed through spoken words and actions.


❖ The 2023 Revised Farmington River Declaration is a pledge to work for peaceful elections, applicable to all electoral stakeholders with political candidates and supporters as the most important custodians.
❖ The Farmington River Declaration is uniquely home grown and was first rolled out to maintain peace in the 2017 Presidential and Legislative elections.
❖ The declaration is a good will instrument that is not legally binding. However, those found in breach of the pledge can be sanctioned by the NEC in line with other relevant electoral laws.

The declaration symbolizes the evolution of Liberia’s commitment to the holding of democratic elections that will result in a peaceful transition to power. The ECOWAS Protocol on Good Governance and Democracy says that every accession to power must be made through free, fair and transparent election. The Farmington River Declaration is the result of Liberia’s commitments made within the international community. Article 11, 12 and 13 of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG) elaborates on the need for member states to develop the necessary legislative and policy frameworks to establish and strengthen a culture of democracy and peace.

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Discussions on the importance of the Revised Farmington River Declaration have so far focused on its relation to the upcoming 10 October 2023 elections and this approach ignores the history and symbolism of the declaration. The declaration originates from the 2017 Presidential and Legislative Elections in Liberia. It was inspired by a growing need to promote peaceful elections in Liberia. At that time, the declaration was signed by 20 out of 22 contesting political parties. If the number of signatures received were to be taken as an indicator of peace, one could say that the elections would have been very peaceful. Yet disputes over the election outcomes took an unfortunate turn as the UN Secretary-General’s High Level Advisory Board on Mediation led by the former President of Nigeria, HE Olusegun Obasanjo had to broker peace between the standard bearer of the Unity Party (UP), HE Joseph Boakai and his counterpart from the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), HE George Weah even before the result of the December 26 Run-Off Election was announced.

History often repeats itself and based on the heated start of campaigns, the actions of persons acting in the name of their political parties signals weak regard for the pledge they have made by signing the declaration. As the country gears up for the 10 October 2023 Presidential and Legislative Elections, the National Elections Commission (NEC) has presented an enhanced and comprehensive declaration designed to deliver a non-violent electoral process. It is on record that on 4 April 2023, leaders from 25 out of 26 registered political parties signed the 2023 enhanced edition of Farmington River Declaration at the Farmington Hotel in Margibi County. The same declaration was signed by the Independent Aspirants (now candidates) on 21 July 2023. Political party standard bearers were also afforded the opportunity to affix their signatures as a symbolic gesture to work for peaceful elections during a one-day forum organized by the NEC, UN Liberia and the ECOWAS Commission on 2 August 2023.

What should be amplified now?

  1. The different arms of government from the national to local level must proactively support the declaration as it does help to achieve and consolidate national peace, stability, healthy and organized political competition on a greater scale.
  2. Stakeholders must work with NEC and political actors to raise public awareness on the contents of declaration especially amongst party supporters to understand the commitments that political leaders have made.
  3. Political actors/aspirants must encourage their supporters to act in the best interest of the country by upholding peace.
  4. The elections security arm must increase awareness, monitoring and promotion of continuous dialogue at the candidate and community level to ensure that the declaration becomes a reality with tangible results for the individual citizens to enjoy all their other rights including the right to an electoral process that reflects the “true will and intention of the voter.”

As the campaign period builds towards election day, more needs to be done to ensure that the Farmington Declaration reaches its full potential. The Declaration should be taken as more than words on a piece of paper for publicity, but rather a living document. Political candidates should take ownership of the Farmington River Declaration as a home-grown instrument that has the potential to influence similar commitments across Africa.

About USAID Support to EISA-IEOM to Liberia: The USAID-funded EISA International Election Observation Mission (EISA-IEOM) Activity seeks to enhance the integrity of the 2023 Liberia Presidential and Legislative elections through the deployment of an independent international election observer mission (EOM) to monitor, assess and report on all phases of the electoral process in accordance with international and regional benchmarks. The IEOM is implemented in close coordination with the financial support of USAID/Liberia and will complement the efforts of other electoral stakeholders.