by Olatunji Saliu
Among the throngs of citizens brimming with optimism who gathered at a school premises in Gardnersville, a town in the Greater Monrovia district of Liberia to make their voices heard in the country’s general elections on Tuesday, 19-year-old Robert Jallah stood out as the embodiment of youthful enthusiasm.
With the sun casting a warm glow over the school’s courtyard, Jallah clutched his voter registration card tightly in his hand.
“I feel like I am truly part of shaping Liberia’s future today,” he said with a bright smile and infectious optimism in an interview with Xinhua. As he stood in line with his fellow citizens, he could not help but engage in spirited conversations with those around him.
For the young Liberian, this was a day he had eagerly awaited for months. Like many others in his age group across the West African country, he had watched his parents and two older siblings participate in past elections, but this was his first opportunity to cast a vote, and he was not taking it lightly.
“I am happy to be part of this process. This particular election is historic,” he said gleefully.
Liberians turned out en masse at polling centers across the country on Tuesday to elect a new president from among 20 candidates and members of the National Assembly.
More than 2.4 million Liberians were expected to vote during the election process, according to the National Elections Commission, which has the responsibility of overseeing the conduct of elections in all 15 counties of the country.
Incumbent President George Weah is seeking reelection, while former Vice President Joseph Boakai, leading the opposition, is challenging him.
Liberians have been expressing their desire for change in their living conditions and improvements in various sectors, such as healthcare, education and infrastructure. The election was seen as an opportunity to bring about the transformation and development they longed for.
Still recovering from a devastating civil war that ended in 2003, the country has made significant progress in recent years, with the election representing another milestone on the path to stability and prosperity.
As citizens filled the polling stations across the country to vote, it was evident that they had national renewal in mind. And the palpable desire for a brighter, rewarding future for themselves and their children was glaring.
The optimism was not limited to a single generation; it spanned the entire spectrum of voters. Older citizens who had witnessed Liberia’s trials and tribulations over the years, young professionals striving for economic opportunities, and students like Jallah yearning for a nation where their dreams could take flight were standing united in their commitment to rebuilding Liberia.
“We have been through so much in our history,” said John Yakes, a 71-year-old taxi driver who drove from Monrovia, where he works, to his hometown in Bong County in the country’s north-central part.
“But today, we have a chance to turn the page and start anew,” he said, with his voice carrying the weight of Liberia’s turbulent past.
Christine Bawah, a 45-year-old healthcare worker and mother of three, told Xinhua that her expectations are high following the elections. These include the provision of job opportunities for the youth and prosperity in all areas.
Bawah said she has “seen the ups and downs of this country” and hoped for the winner of the election to bring about the development and peace that Liberians yearn for.
“I am voting today for my children’s future. I want them to grow up in a Liberia that is peaceful and prosperous,” she added.