In a statement on Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced new visa restrictions for individuals who are “undermining democracy” in Liberia ahead of the country’s elections in October. The statement came less than two weeks before Liberia’s upcoming presidential elections, to be held on October 10, 2023. The election is considered a toss-up between Liberia’s presidential incumbent, George Weah, and former Vice President and opposition party leader Joseph Boakai.
Blinken clarified the US stance on the Liberian election, saying,
[T]he United States will pursue visa restrictions for those believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining democracy in Liberia, including through manipulation or rigging of the electoral process; use of violence to prevent people from exercising their rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly; use of measures designed to prevent political parties, voters, civil society, or the media from disseminating their views; or engagement in any other activity designed to improperly influence the outcome of an election. Certain family members of such persons may also be subject to these restrictions. Persons who undermine democracy in Liberia—including in the lead-up to, during, and following Liberia’s 2023 elections—may be found ineligible for U.S. visas under this policy.
Blinken concluded his statement by clarifying that this policy is not meant to be directed towards the Liberian government, or the people as a whole, but rather “specific individuals” who mean harm to the democratic process.
The US is not the only foreign government to take a preemptive stance on Liberia’s elections. In August, the European Union announced its plans to send an “observation mission” to Liberia to monitor the democratic process through the course of the election.