Liberia: Attack on Opposition in Ex-President’s Stronghold Resurrects Ethnic Strains
Monrovia – Late President Samuel Kanyon Doe’s mistreatment of certain ethnic groups, particularly the Gio and Mano in Nimba County, resulted in divisions and violence among indigenous populations, who until then had coexisted relatively peacefully. This triggered more than a decade of civil war, killing about 250,000 people and sending thousands more into exile.
General Thomas Quiwonkpa, from the Gio ethnic group, led the failed November 12, 1985 Invasion which sought to deposed Doe from power.
His capture and death heightened strains between Doe’s Krahn ethnic group and Quiwonkpa’s kinsfolks from Nimba and many blame Doe for turning Krahns against Gios and Manos.
Ironically, Quiwonkpa was one of the seventeen low-ranked army officers who staged the April 12, 1980 coup that ended decades of Americo-Liberian dominance.
On Thursday, strains of familiarity returned to Doe’s territory in the form of an attack against two prominent opposition figures in Mr. Alexander Cummings, leader of the Collaboration of Political Parties(CPP) and the Alternative National Congress(ANC) and Representative Yekeh Kolubah(ANC, District No. 10, Montserrado County).
‘Totally Disgraceful’, Doe Jr. Says
Cummings hails from Maryland County while Kolubah, a former warlord who has admitted fighting with Taylor’s NPFL from Gbarnga to Monrovia although, hails from Lofa County.
Following Thursday’s violent turn, fears of retaliation was ricocheting on social media with many suggesting that other counties could return the favor when members of the ruling party visit their counties.
One of those expressing fears was Samuel K. Doe, Jr. son of the former President who described the day of violence in Father’s Hometown as totally disgraceful, “the way my people are behaving In Grand Gedeh”.
Said Doe Jr.: “If you treat a lawmaker in such manner, you risk also getting your Lawmakers Antagonized if they go to other counties! Yes, agreed we Love our president, but why behave barbarically so that people see the Kind Loving People of Mama Gedeh as Hooligans!! This is not our Nature!! You guys wronged the Honorable man, regardless of our differences!!…we have a culture of being very kind and caring to our Guest!”
On various social media platforms Thursday, murmurs of returning the favor floated in the air.
The Council of Patriots, organizers of the June 7, 2019 protest condemned Thursday’s acts of violence which it says was carried out under the sponsorship of state officials, against members of the CPP.
In a statement Thursday, the COP called on the government of President George Weah to muster the courage to show leadership by condemning such actions and launch a full-scale investigation into the gravely disturbing matter. “The CoP believes that this is a calculated attempt ahead of the Special Senate Elections to intimidate the opposition through violent tactics. This will NOT work!,” the statement said.
“We have these small political stuffs, you know – we were not allowed to use the halls in Fishtown etc. But that’s politics. But to come to Grand Gedeh and to have rock throwing, threatening our lives. It’s just unacceptable. We have a constitutional right to be here, to express our points of view, we did so peacefully. And to have some Grand Gedeans – and I believe this was orchestrated, this was not spontaneous, to come and threaten us, it is just unacceptable.”– Mr. Alexander B. Cummings, Alternative National Congress, Collaboration of Political Parties
Violence ‘Threatens Peace’, Senator Says
In a poignant letter to the President Pro-Tempore of the Senate, Albert Chie, Senator Conmany Wesseh(UP, River Gee) lamented that the Senate must muster the courage and take the lead in establishing a lawful “order” for the Legislature, especially the Senate, to prevent the destruction of the 17 years of hard won peace in Liberia.
Said Senator Wesseh: “The orders should be swift actions of condemnation of an investigation into: 1. What happened today (29 July) in Zwedru – the attack on visiting opposition political leaders (Hon. Alexander B. Cummings, Chairman of the Collaborating Political Parties and former Presidential Candidate of the ANC and Hon. Yekeh Kolubah, Member of the House of Representatives) by apparent state organized and sponsored mob; and the deployment of the Armed Forces of Liberia to escort the peaceful leaders out of a town in their own country.”
Senator Wesseh said it was unfortunate that the army and police were not deployed, and the Superintendent and other County officials physically present, had to enforce the right of the leaders to conduct their lawful business in Zwedru.
Rather, he averred, it was for the leaders to be “escorted” out of Grand Gedeh County so that the mob would achieve their heinous and unlawful objective.
In a statement Thursday, the Liberia National Police said it was heavily involved in restoring order, along with joint security forces, including the Armed Forces of Liberia. “The Joint Security responded swiftly and formed a barricade which prevented protesters from inflicting wounds and intimidating officials of the ANC and Hon. Yekeh Kolubah, the LNP said. “As tensions grew, the Armed Forces of Liberia were very instrumental in working along with the Joint Security to ensure that calm returns to the City of Zwedru, Grand Gedeh. The Joint Security along with the Armed Forces of Liberia worked very hard in creating a corridor for the safe departure of the ANC political leader and his Entourage.”
Senator Wesseh also expressed concerns that in his own county, River Gee, the opposition figures were denied access to a government facility. “Two days earlier, the unconfirmed and therefore indefinite Acting Mayor of Fishtown denied the same visiting opposition leaders the use of the City Hall, a publicly funded building, for their lawful meeting.”
Additionally, Senator Wesseh added, a few days earlier, the Superintendent of Maryland County declared to an errant crowd of CDCians that the Army and Police are for them to use anyhow, anywhere and anytime for any purpose.
In his pleading to the Senate Pro Temp, Senator Wesseh said: “All these developments are a call to armed violence again and a threat to peace in our country. For the sake of those of us like George Manneh Weah and many innumerable Liberians who spent 14 years ( Dec 1989 to August 2003) searching for that peace and those of our mainly West African brothers and sisters (ECOMOG and ECOMIL) and the internationals (UNOMIL and UNMIL) who laid down their lives for Liberia to live, and the more than 250000 deaths, we the Legislature are duty bound to prevent the return to that ugly, shameful and ignominious past. The Senate must begin acting now to safe our Country.”
Cummings vs. Farley: He Said; He Said
As tension mounts in the aftermath of Thursday’s violent resurgence, the CPP chairman Cummings believes the entire incident was orchestrated by the count’s leadership.
Speaking to reporters shortly after the incident, the CPP leader said while it is understandable that small political stuffs do occur from time to time, the attack Thursday crossed the line and was clearly orchestrated. “We have these small political stuffs, you know – we were not allowed to use the halls in Fishtown etc. But that’s politics. But to come to Grand Gedeh and to have rock throwing, threatening our lives. It’s just unacceptable. We have a constitutional right to be here, to express our points of view, we did so peacefully. And to have some Grand Gedeans – and I believe this was orchestrated, this was not spontaneous, to come and threaten us, it is just unacceptable. This is not the Liberia we all want to live in, we all are striving for, we all trying to improve.”
The incident occurred during the early morning hours of Thursday, before the B-2 Guest House in Zwedru.
Representative Kolubah, who is a strong critic of President George Manneh Weah, had traveled with Mr. Cummings to the Southeast for the July 26 173rd Independence Anniversary.
Mr. Cummings said such behavior is not acceptable and will not be tolerated lying down. “We will not tolerate this kind of behavior in our country, it is completely unacceptable. That we cannot come to a county, spend a night, have meetings and move on. This was orchestrated – and every Liberian need to know that the CPP, we are going to stand resolute, we are going to stand firm. In this December elections. We are going to put up the best candidates and we are going to support those candidates so we can change the direction of the country. We will not tolerate this sort of behavior and any attempts to revert the votes of the Liberian people, we will fight.”
The ANC and CPP leader said he and his team were passing through the county after spending the Independence Day celebration in his hometown, Maryland County, and were on their way to Nimba and then Monrovia when they were interrupted. “We are very disappointed by what happened this morning. You know, we traveled to Sinoe, we made a stop, Grand Kru, we made a stop. We spent some time in Maryland, my home county, we also spent some time in River Gee – and we had none of these incidents.”
Mr. Cummings explained that several meetings were planned in the morning with the CPP leadership in Zwedru. “We were trying to have our meeting this morning with the leadership of the CPP. So, we met, and we just had a meeting with them. And that was part of the plan, part of the strategy, was to have this conversation – and we were determined to do that. We had planned to leave late morning, early afternoon and now we will begin that process to continue our journey into Nimba and then ultimately back to Monrovia.”
“It’s unfortunate that he (Cummings) will say that as a political leader of an institution. For Hon. Cummings to say I came forcibly asking him out of the county-that is not true. It was something that was suggested by the Deputy Police commander in the county in the presence of Hon. Cummings. Hon. Cummings even asked me, but what’s your suggestion? And I told him that based upon the advice of the Joint Security; I think that this is something that we should go by”.– Mr. Kai Farley, Superintendent, Grand Gedeh County
Superintendent Farley disagreed
Speaking to FrontPageAfrica late Thursday, the county administrator said both Mr. Cummings and Rep. Kolubah surreptitiously entered into the county without the consent of the local authorities and security apparatus and failed to notify his office, and security actors about their arrival in line with what leaders of other political parties normally do whenever they pay a visit to Grand Gedeh.
Said Supt. Farley: “It’s unfortunate that he (Cummings) will say that as a political leader of an institution. For Hon. Cummings to say I came forcibly asking him out of the county-that is not true. It was something that was suggested by the Deputy Police commander in the county in the presence of Hon. Cummings. Hon. Cummings even asked me, but what’s your suggestion? And I told him that based upon the advice of the Joint Security; I think that this is something that we should go by”.
Supt. Farley disclosed that though he was not notified earlier, the stay of Mr. Cummings, Rep. Kolubah and others from both the Alternative National Congress (ANC) and the CPP in the county was revealed to him by one of the authorities of the Liberia National Police (LNP) in the county.
He claimed to have been busy with providing preventive messages against the spread of Coronavirus outside Zwedru when the CPP officials arrived in Grand Gedeh.
“The first thing is that Honorable Cummings coming to Grand Gedeh County-the county authorities and the security apparatus were not aware. I don’t know the hour they really came because I came in the county around 4:00 to 5:00 in the morning hours”.
“I got a call from the Deputy Police Zwedru commander in the county telling me that Honorable Yekeh Kolubah and honorable Cummings were in Zwedru. I told him that I was just coming and needed to take a rest. I followed the information and it was proven that they were there but, nobody called me; and I was not aware of them coming like what other political parties’ leaders do”.
Supt. Farley continued: “Between 8;15AM the Deputy Police Commander called me again and said the guest house where Honorable Cummings and Yekeh Kolubah were staying, there were crowd around the guest house asking Hon. Yekeh Kolubah to leave. And I told him, ok, I will take bath and reach there”.
Upon his arrival, Supt. Farley disclosed that a formal discussion later ensued between the CPP Chairman, Rep. Kolubah and members of the Joint Security Force.
Supt. Farley narrated that following the suggestion from the Deputy Police Commander and his subsequent endorsement for Mr. Cummings and other to leave the county for their own safety, Rep. Kolubah allegedly objected and forcibly made his way out of the fence of the guest house with some officials of the ANC.
Like Rep. Kolubah, Superintendent Farley is also a former warlord with the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL), a rebel group during the Liberian civil war, responsible for seized and looted Liberia’s fourth largest rubber plantation in the Sinoe county as well as killing several innocent Liberians.
Prior to his appointment in 2018 by president George Weah, Farley served as member of the National Legislature from Grand Gedeh’s District 3 (now changed to 2) between 2006 and 2011.
Regrets from Grand Gedeh Caucus
The ripple effect of Thursday’s incident is drawing condemnation from prominent Grand Gedeans in leadership of the legislature.
Members of the Grand Gedeh County Legislative Caucus have condemned Thursday’s incident in the county during which a group of Young people claiming to be partisans of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change attacked Representative Yekeh Kolubah (ANC-District #10 Montserrado County) and Mr. Alexander the chairman of the opposition Collaborating Political Parties(CPP).
Addressing a news conference hours after Thursday’s rioting, the Caucus, represented by Representative Zoe Pennue(CDC, District #1); Alex Grant(CDC, District #3); George S. Boley(UPP, District #2) and Senator Alphonso Gaye (UP), termed the incident as embarrassing and unfortunate to the County, one that has painted a negative picture of the peace loving people of Grand Gedeh County.
Representative Grant, Chairman of the county legislative caucus, said the incident has brought unnecessary negativity to the county. “The Grand Gedeh County legislative Caucus hereby condemns in the strongest terms the attack on Mr. Alexander Cummings, Representative Yekeh Kolubah, and the entire delegation,” Grant averred.
The Caucus has also called for the arrest and investigation of those who perpetrated the violence and promised not to sit and allow any group or persons to use the county to undermine the current peace being enjoyed by Liberians.
The caucus also reaffirmed their commitment to uphold the rule of law in the county and by extension the Republic of Liberia. “From what we are gathering is that the situation was a spontaneous incident that started this morning.”
“The diction of the caucus is clear, that this situation is embarrassing, shameful, unfortunate, and disgraceful. We regret the action that it has to happen in Grand Gedeh. We are a people of hospitality. Thus, to become disgruntle is surprising and a dream to us. We sincerely regret the incident.”
As the nation’s Joint Security apparatus announced that it had launched an investigation into the matter, many are hoping that this latest probe would not end up in the dustbin as others have. But more importantly political observers say, shades of divisions and ethnic wrangles, if not checkmated could derail the progress Liberia has made since the end of the civil war. All this as the nation is bracing for a Senatorial Midterm elections with enormous implications to Liberia’s immediate and foreseeable political survival.