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Speaker Events - Friday, March 18, 2011

Løj: Elections "Test Case" for Liberia

Ellen Margrethe Løj, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the UN Mission in Liberia, said at an IPI event on March 18th that the fall elections in Liberia "would be a test case for the Liberians’ willingness to continue on the road to sustainable peace and development."

"These elections have to be run 100 percent by the Liberians themselves, and in accordance with the Liberian constitution," she said, though "not without support from the international community."

She warned that the elections—and Liberia's stability—could be compromised by the fraught situation in Côte d'Ivoire. The crisis there has also created a refugee emergency in Liberia.

"Ivorians are fleeing to Liberia, and we have now over 90,000 refugees in a very limited area bordering Côte d'Ivoire," she said. “We are now getting reports about tension building between the host communities and the refugees."

In addition, she said, "there are a lot of weapons around in Côte d'Ivoire," and many of them are ending up in Liberia.

According to the UN High Commission for Refugees, the UN mission has stepped up its military and police presence along the 700-kilometer-long border. Agence France-Presse reported that hundreds of mercenaries from Liberia have crossed the border into Côte d’Ivoire and are committing atrocities there.

"We need all the focus we can have on finding a political solution in Côte d'Ivoire, she said. "We need that for the people of Côte d’Ivoire, but we need it for the whole West African region."

Ms. Løj noted that historically crises in West Africa quickly spill over into neighboring countries. "We should do everything in our power to avoid that happening again," she said.

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