Friday 6 December 2019

Liberia poll campaigning under way

Liberian opposition vice-presidential candidate and former soccer star George Weah (AP)
Liberian opposition vice-presidential candidate and former soccer star George Weah (AP)

Campaigning is under way for Senate elections in Liberia, another sign that Ebola is loosening its deadly grip on the West African country even as it hits the capital of neighbouring Sierra Leone with increasing force.

Senate candidate Robert Sirleaf, son of president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, expressed delight at how many supporters turned out at a recent campaign rally.

"They told me that there would only be 50 people but I see four or five thousand people," he said. "That gives me spirit."

Police last week said gatherings were still banned, including on beaches, but political rallies are exempt from the ban.

The Senate election was supposed to have been held on October 16 but that was when hundreds of new Ebola cases were being reported each week. The vote was delayed for two months.

The rate of infection nationally is now fewer than 100 cases a week, and the green light remains on for the December 16 vote.

Polling places are supposed to provide buckets of chlorinated water for hand-washing and a clean pen for each voter to fill out his or her ballot.

Some Liberians are concerned that it might still be too soon for electioneering.

"Even if Liberia was declared free of Ebola today, there would still be no need to... celebrate until Guinea and Sierra Leone are also declared free," said Jerry Filika, 19, underscoring that the deadly disease can easily cross borders.

There have been 15,351 reported Ebola cases in the current outbreak - by far the world's worst - with 5,459 reported deaths, the World Health Organisation said on Friday. Hardest hit have been Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Authorities have warned that cases could still surge again in Liberia, as they are in neighbouring Sierra Leone, which yesterday reported 83 confirmed cases in just one day including 31 in the capital Freetown.

Timothy Boama, a 22-year-old newspaper seller in Liberia's capital Monrovia, said that while most people are abiding by a general ban on gatherings in public places, the election rallies send a mixed message.

PA Media

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