Violence Begets Violence, A Caution to Liberia

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IN THE PAST few weeks, Liberia has seen a number of election-related violence threatening the peace and security Liberia has been enjoying since the end of the civil war.

NOT SINCE the November 7, 2011 run-off incident which led to the death of one person has Liberia seen such a hateful display of rival supporters going at each other’s throats.

THE LATEST, an attack on District No. 15 candidate Telia Urey and her supporters Saturday could have ended in tragedy.

ACCORDING TO MS. Urey, attackers not only damaged her vehicle but also threatened to waste gasoline in the building they had been entrapped in by supporters of her rival, Mr. Abu Kamara.

“The attackers, according to Ms. Urey, entered the building with a knife and almost stabbed her. “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.”

IN AN OFFICIAL COMPLAINT to the Board of Commissioners of the National Elections Commission Monday, Ms. Urey cautioned that electoral conflict, violence, and threats like what took place Saturday, has the propensity to breakdown the electoral process and threaten the peace and stability in the country. “I am asking that this body takes action to protect our democracy and ensure that our elections are conducted in a free and fair manner,” Ms. Urey said.

MS. UREY SAID twelve of her campaign staffers and supporters in Logan Town were forced to flee their homes to seek refuge in hidden areas due to harassment and threats being made to them and their families by supporters of Abu Kamara. These cases have increased daily and has become alarming.

MS. UREY recalled a similar incident on July 27th, when her headquarters was attacked by supporters of Abu Kamara. “This came as a result of Kamara’s camp not following the route the Magistrate instructed them to follow for the closing rallies. After a meeting on July 26th, it was agreed how we would control movement to avoid conflicts. To our utmost surprise, CDC disregarded the agreement and lawlessly took over our route, leaving us stuck at our headquarters in fear of confrontation. While being barricaded by police, CDCians began stoning our Headquarters. These attacks were carried out for over 6 hours, leaving over 25 of our supporters injured on that day (Pictures and videos attached). Some of these victims were in very critical condition. Our headquarters was also destructed.”

THEN ON SATURDAY, it was de ja vu. Ms. Urey had gone to visit a Bishop at Kingdom Embassy Church and after leaving the meeting, she says she was followed by a group of men loyal to Abu Kamara. “Speaking through megaphones, they began abusing us and making negative and provocative statements- that I am a stranger to Logan Town and not welcome in that community or anywhere in Logan Town. The harassers  followed us and then begun throwing rocks and objects at us, forcing us to leave the community.”

MS. UREY SAID while in a meeting at Kelvin Bayoh’s residence, one of the contestants in the ongoing Dist. 15 By-election on Saturday, August 19th, she and her supporters came under attack again.

SAID MS. UREY: “The building in which we were meeting was heavily vandalized and were held locked up in it for 2 hours. In that period, I was almost stabbed and perpetrators spilled gas around the building in an attempt to burn it down. As a result of their violent actions, I sustained several injuries. Mr. Momo Sambola, Vice Chairman of the All Liberian Party (ALP) was also wounded along with several other partisans and supporters. With the help of a resident, we were able to flee. This attack was a direct assassination attempt. In an attempt to evacuate, my vehicle was also attacked and severely damaged by these people. The attacks were so prevalent that scores of our people were again wounded. I have attached videos and pictures to this letter.”

LIBERIA HAS GONE THROUGH a brutal civil war and is yet to fully recover from the effects of that war. The recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation has not been implemented and scores of those who maimed, killed and forced many into exile are still roaming around Liberia and other parts of the world without facing justice.

THE END RESULT? A recurring circle of impunity that is allowing killers and looters of Liberia’s resources to walk free, sending a message to perpetrators of today, that they can do anything and get away with it.

IN THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW, it is said that violence begets violence. The passage depicts Saint Peter drawing a sword to defend against the arrest of Jesus but being told to sheath his weapon: “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.”

IN ESSENCE, one violent behavior promotes other violent behavior, in return.

ALL IT TOOK WAS one small move or one wrong turn for things to go awry Saturday. It could have been a real tragedy if, in one striking moment, that building where Ms. Urey was entrapped had been set ablaze.

THIS IS TRAGIC and has no room in today’s Liberia. 

WHILE WE WELCOME President George Manneh Weah’s condemnation of the incident Saturday, we feel strongly that the President Must take a step further by removing himself from personalizing campaigns with hateful rhetoric. 

WE AGREE WITH Ms. Urey that the President’s vow that an Urey will never win any elections under his watch, paved the way for what eventually fell apart last Saturday.

THE WEAH-LED government must put its act together and realize the seriousness of the violent tone the country now find itself. Liberia is today grappling with a major threat to its democracy and democratic processes. As Ms. Urey told the board of governors at NEC Monday: :”The level of electoral violence, instilling of fear, and harassment has made it impossible for residents of the district to freely associate with us, express themselves, and canvass for us around the district.”

WHERE WE GO FROM HERE is anybody’s guess but we can begin to take stock of all the wrong turns that got us here and ensure that such ugly violence never again shows its face in Liberia again.

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