By Ese Awhotu with agency report
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres yesterday announced he is sending former Nigerian leader Olusegun Obasanjo to support Liberia in the first peaceful transfer of power from one democratically-elected leader to another in more than 70 years.
This is even as he welcomed the peaceful conduct of the second round of the presidential election in Liberia, and “The Secretary-General hopes that the will of the Liberian electorate will be respected and that a seamless transfer power will take place within constitutional timelines,” his spokesperson said in a statement.
Guterres has requested Mr. Obasanjo, who is a member of the Secretary-General’s High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation, to travel to the capital, Monrovia, from 28 to 30 December.
Liberians yesterday voted in a second round of elections, deciding between Vice-President Joseph Boakai and George Weah, a politician and former soccer star.
The first round of elections in the west African country was held in October. A runoff was originally scheduled for November, but was delayed due to allegations of voter irregularities by a third candidate.
Speaking at the UN General Assembly in September, outgoing President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – the first woman elected as head of an African country – said that the polls would signal an “irreversible course” towards democracy in the country.
Sirleaf took office in 2006, ending a civil war that erupted under the leadership of her predecessor, Charles Taylor.
Obasanjo is one of 18 global leaders, senior officials and experts on the high-level board created earlier this year to advise the Secretary-General on mediation and back those efforts around the world.
The former President of Nigeria was involved in mediation efforts in Angola, Burundi, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa, among others.
According to the UN News Centre press statement posted on its website, the high-level board is part of the Secretary-General’s pledge for the UN to embark on a “surge in diplomacy for peace.”
The idea, according to Tarja Halonen, former President of Finland and also a high-level board member, is to prevent wars by “hybrid peace-building.”
Ms. Halonen spoke to UN News during the board’s first meeting last month.