It seems all of Liberia is paying close attention to the campaign for the Oct. 11 presidential and legislative elections. But Sekou Camara is one exception. That is because when Camara, a member of Liberia’s Mandingo Muslim ethnic group, went to register to vote back in January, officials with the National Elections Commission (NEC) accused him of being Guinean based on the spelling of his surname. Liberians typically spell the name “Kamara”.
“Immediately when I completed spelling my name they told me that I was from Guinea since in fact my last name begins with ‘C’ and the Liberian Kamara begins with ‘K’,” Camara, who lives in central Liberia’s Bong County, recalled recently. Though he lived in Guinea for part of Liberia’s devastating 14-year civil conflict, which ended in 2003, he said he never became naturalised there and thus retains his Liberian citizenship. “I am a Liberian and not a citizen of Guinea,” he said.
The Electoral Reform Law of 2004 empowered officials in this West African country to take measures to facilitate the registration of voters who were displaced by the war. However, the language of the law indicates that these measures were limited to the 2005 elections.
Under the 2010 voter registration regulations, Liberian voters can present an array of documents, including a passport, a birth certificate or an old voter card, when registering. If these documents are unavailable, alternate steps include enlisting the sworn testimony of two other registered voters or a Liberian traditional leader.
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