Liberia: Violence Should Never Beget Violence – Be It Opposition Or Ruling Party

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AMERICAN CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER, Dr. Martin Luther King, renowned for his nonviolence stance, said in a speech in 1963: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction … The chain reaction of evil – hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.”

OVER THE PAST few years, the term violence has been loosely used in Liberia for selfish reasons and interests, depending on which side of the coin it is tossed.

IN NOVEMBER 2011, the presidential election was thrown into deadly chaos after at least two people were shot, one fatally, during volatile scenes outside the headquarters of the then opposition Congress for Democratic Change, making allegations of foul play and election irregularities.

AT THE TIME, supporters of the  CDC candidate, Winston Tubman, clashed with police near his beachfront offices. Armed police responded with live rounds and teargas, killing at least one person. Tubman and his running mate, the former footballer George Weah, were trapped inside the building suffused with teargas for much of the day. “We are not only sad, we are very disappointed,” Weah said. “We were holding a peaceful rally and live bullets were used. To see people being killed is shocking. We are here trapped and unarmed and they keep shooting teargas. This is wrong.”

MORE THAN A YEAR after winning the Presidency in 2017, Mr. Weah, now President and his Coalition for Democratic Change came under fire in the aftermath of a special by-elections on November 17, 2018.

VIOLENCE BROKE OUT between some supporters of candidates in the District 13 by-election when supporters of the various party representatives had gathered in their numbers to officially close their campaigns ahead of the polls. That situation left four persons, three males and one female injured.

ONE OF THE CANDIDATES, Cornelius Kruah escaped death while campaigning, along with supporters of the four collaborating parties as well as Grand Bassa County Senator Nyonblee Karngar Lawrence.

SENATOR LAWRENCE would later explain: “While at the campaign rally of Cornelia today, in district 13 Montserrado County,  I watched Jefferson Koijee the City Mayor of Monrovia and a group of uniformed men walking through the crowd with and severely wounded many people. They also destroyed campaign equipment and disrupted the entire rally. I was rescued by community dwellers, and placed in a home for two hours, with all the iron bars locked. My vehicle and that of my team was escorted by men of the community on a back road to Diggsville to get away. This was a very shocking and ugly scene! We condemn this act of brutality, and will fight for justice to be done. My prayers for all those who got wounded, wish you all speedy recovery, And My appreciation to the community dwellers who rescued me and others today. To God be the Glory!  So many lives depend on what we do.”

IF VIOLENCE IS BAD for the party in power, it must also be bad for those aspiring to lead and trumpeting themselves as alternative to the current realities.

IN AUGUST 2019, the District No. 15 By-elections to fill the void left after the death of Rep. Adolph Lawrence also took a violent turn.

FOLLOWING THE VOTING, the four-party – All Liberian Party(ALP), Alternative National Congress(ANC), Liberty Party(LP) and Unity Party(UP) coalition candidate, Telia Urey came under attack by supporters of the ruling party’s candidate Abu Kamara. “They completely damaged the roof of the building. At the end, they even brought gas to burn the place down. When I smelled the gas, I didn’t think we were going to make it,” Ms. Urey explained following the incident.

TELIA UREY COULD have died that day. She and many of her supporters escaped a scene which drew widespread condemnation from Liberians and international stakeholders.

IN FACT, the Opposition Collaborating Parties sounded an alarm for International Community Investigate what it described as “wave of national terror being imposed by our President”

THE CPP called on the international community to investigate the acts of deliberate violence against peaceful citizens during the ongoing District #15 by-elections and bring all perpetrators to justice.

JUST LAST MONTH, Montserrado Senator Abraham Darius Dillon was a target for stone-throwing youths as he joined a group of anti-rape marchers, the group headed for the Capitol. The incident turned nasty as violent erupted during what was initially a peaceful protest on Tuesday, August 25.

PRIOR TO THAT incident, Senator Dillon came under another attack in the ruling party stronghold of Claratown, where he had gone to launch the Friends of Dillon campaign.

THE SENATOR AND HIS ENTOURAGE, thronged by scores of supporters were suddenly faced with a barrage of stone throwing from what Mr. Dillon believes were supporters of the ruling party. “Regina Sokan Teah is an official of the Executive, a former CDC Lawmaker. She knew that the recent call by Pres. George Weah to his followers to desist from violence was a mere talk,” the Senator told FrontPageAfrica.

THE VIOLENT TONE continued yet again on Sunday, only this time, it was the opposition entangled in a mess of its own.

IN THE Nimba County primary for the opposition CPP, held in Sanniquellie, the winner of the contest between former Superintendent Edith Gongloe-Weh and Taa Wongbe is expected to join the rest of the field that includes the incumbent Thomas Grupee, former senator Saye-Tayor Adolphus Dolo, former superintendent David Dorr Cooper, and former Representative Garrison Yealue and Representative Jeremiah Koung on December 8.

SIGNS OF POSSIBLE DISRUPTION of the process and perhaps commotion among member parties became glaring 12 hours ahead of the initial voting time as the All Liberian Party (ALP) headed by businessman Benoni Urey suspended all members of its Nimba County leadership.

THE LIBERTY PARTY (LP), THE UNITY PARTY (UP) AND THE ALP all failed to meet up with the deadline for the submission of its delegates listings to the CPP Secretariat for the facilitation of the process. According to the suspension letter, the ALP said the partisans were suspended due to their failure as a leadership to support the party’s interest and continuously bringing the party to public disrepute. The ALP national leadership also announced that there will be a comprehensive investigative restructuring exercise that will facilitate the reconfirming of the Nimba County’s branch to the vision, loyalty and goals of party.

ON SUNDAY, the primary process took an unexpected turn leading to the injury of a woman who was rushed to the G. W. Harly Hospital in Sanniquellie. Wongbe managed to escape but his vehicle got damaged in the process.

AHEAD OF THE December 8, 2020 Senatorial Midterm elections, concerns about the violent tone of the political situation in Liberia is increasing by the day.

SADLY, THE VERY opposition which was quick to condemn and whine to the international community when the shoe was on the other foot of their interest, have already taken the posture of turning a blind eye and allowing what happened Sunday to go unnoticed.

SENATOR LAWRENCE, who experienced first-hand attack last year, and a strong advocate within the CPP for more women inclusion, trumpeted Gongloe, who contested the seat twice as a sure bet to win. “Edith we have done a lot together and will win this time together! Congrats on the VPS victory and The Liberty Party is in Nimba with the mandate to ensure the LP primary victory. Thanks to the chair of the advisory committee Mussa Bility for heading the Liberty Party Team. We remain the most mature and party of integrity. CPP Strong! Democratic process!.”

THE SENATOR’S ENDORSEMENT was supported by Ms. Telia Urey, daughter of businessman Benoni Urey, and most recently, chair of the opposition alliance. “Congratulations to this amazing woman! I am so, so proud of you! You’re so courageous! We are with you to the end Edith Gongloe Weh.”

MR. ALEXANDER B. CUMMINGS, head of the collaboration disagrees. In a statement on his Facebook page Monday, Mr. Alexander Cummings, head of the four-party collaboration was emphatic that the process was flawed. Said Cummings: “The situation in Nimba yesterday was truly disheartening. We, as the CPP, cannot claim to be different and act the same. Violence is never the solution and will not be the solution in the CPP. We cannot conduct ourselves in such a manner and expect to win the confidence of the Liberian people. We must do things differently, and as I consistently say and quote, “we can’t keep doing the same things and expect different results.” What happened in Nimba reflects exactly that – doing the same old things the same old ways and expecting different results.”

AS POLITICAL LEADER of the ANC and current Chair of the CPP, Mr. Cummings said it is unacceptable to have had an executive of the ANC or any constituent party badly injured as a result of the violence. “Taa Wongbe also incurred damage to his vehicle during the process. Everyone deserved to be given a chance to participate in the primary process in a safe, free, and fair environment. That did not happen.

THE RHETORIC OF POLITICS and alarming trend of violence spells danger for Liberia’s post-war survival.

THIS IS WHY in the aftermath of a brutal civil war, international stakeholders, imposed sanctions on prominent figures of the civil war-era in a bid to serve as a deterrent.

IN 2006, the United Nations Security Council voted to end sanctions and end an arms embargo on Liberia, citing the West African country’s successful stabilization more than a decade after a 14-year civil war that killed nearly 250,000 people. 

AT THE TIME, U.S. Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations David Pressman welcomed the move, saying the targeted sanctions on key individuals, the arms embargo and a ban on the export of Liberian timber and rough diamonds had contributed to Liberia’s stability. “Liberia continues to consolidate its progress and the Security Council has determined that the criteria for lifting the sanctions have been met, allowing us to fully terminate the (sanctions) regime,” he said.
 THE US HOWEVER wanted to see Liberia continue to strengthen its security agencies to ensure better arms flow monitoring and border patrols.

SADLY, LIBERIA has failed to address the issue of impunity and as a result repeated incidents of violence continue to linger.

IRONICALLY, SENATOR Dillon, who has experienced attacks of his own from the ruling party, recently threatened that the administration of President Weah will cease to continue onto its constitutional term of six years, should the December 8 Senatorial election results be tampered with.

SPEAKING RECENTLY, in an interview on a local radio station, Senator Dillon said he is not worried by the huge money and bags of rice the ruling party is dishing out across Montserrado and other counties, but warned that any attempt by the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) to rig the election will be extremely disastrous. “Trust me, I am not joking about it. If this government rigs the election results in their favor, the Presidency of Weah and by extension the entire government will come to an end before 2023,” he warned.

BEGATING VIOLENCE with violence is not a right approach for a post-war nation, lingering in a recurring circle of uncertainty.

THE CPP AND THE OPPOSITION cannot with a straight face condemn acts of violence allegedly carried out by the ruling party supporters while endorsing acts of violence relating to a primary process of its own.

MORE IMPORTANTLY, the CPP cannot allow any electoral process to be eclipsed by dark clouds and acts of violence if it wants to be taken as a serious political alternative.

IF VIOLENCE IS BAD for the party in power, it must also be bad for those aspiring to lead and trumpeting themselves as alternative to the current realities.

DR. KING WAS RIGHT. “As you press on for justice, be sure to move with dignity and discipline, using only the weapon of love. Let no man pull you so low as to hate him. Always avoid violence. If you succumb to the temptation of using violence in your struggle, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and your chief legacy to the future will be an endless reign of meaningless chaos.”

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