Liberia: COVID-19, Election Monitoring Platform Cautions against Negative Vices for Potential Conflict Leading to December 8 Polls
Monrovia – The COVID-19, Election Monitoring, Violent Prevention Situation Room (CEMViP-SR) has warned Liberians to do away with vices that could cause conflict and embrace civil and peaceful activities ahead of the December 8, special senatorial elections and national referendum.
CEMViP-SR otherwise known as the Situation Room, is a government –backed platform set up to monitor, track and report on critical issues relating to COVID-19 and the Special Senatorial Elections that have implications for violence.
CEMViP-SR advances appropriated recommendations to relevant stakeholders in government and civil society for positive response action.
In its third press statement delivered on Friday by the Peace Ambassador of Liberia, the Reverend Dr. William R. Tolbert III, CEMViP-SR warned that “writings of civil disobedience, protests, violence and rioting are all over the walls”, adding, “let’s consciously erase these writings from the walls by being civil and peaceful in our actions, dialogue to promote peace, communicate clearly and actively listen and listen to; and remember Liberia is all we have in common as a people.”
The Situation Room called on political parties and candidates to put the interest of the Liberian people above personal gains to sustain the peace and create opportunity for resilience against any shocks of unpreparedness, and not struggle for personal interest and gains.
Influx of Refugees
In the wake of the escalating tensions over the Ivorian election, huge number of refugees have crossed over to Liberia via the border in Nimba and Grand Gedeh.
As a result of the influx, a joint fact-finding mission of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Liberia Refugee, Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC), headed by Internal Affairs Minister Varney Sirleaf, is currently touring Nimba and other border counties to assess the refugee situation and explore means for intervention.
The Situation room said, while it applauds the government and partners for this real-time intervention, it would like to caution government to institute measures to ensure that the presence of the refugees will not negatively impact the pending senatorial elections and cause concerns to adversely affect the outcome of the election and undermine the peace and security of Liberia.
Rise In COVID-19 Cases Worrisome
As of October 26, 2020, the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL) and the Ministry of Health have reported a record increase in the number of confirmed cases to 21 persons.
According to the Platform, the increase of confirmed cases from 1,393 to 1,416 shows a 6.6 percent increase in total case fatalities, with Montserrado County, as the seat of national Government remaining the epic center of the outbreak.
The sharp increase of new confirmed cases of the disease, the monitoring group noted, is alarming and worrisome, and it validates concerns raised by the Ministry of Health that majority of the population have relaxed the wearing of nose masks and the observance of other key health protocols in preventing the spread of the virus.
In its recommendations, it called on the government to reinforce the observance of the health protocols related to the prevention and control of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially ensuring that citizens and residents of Liberia wear nose masks in public places including supermarkets, stores, market places and at all public gatherings, amongst others.
The group’s call comes amid the flagrant disregard of these safety measures put in place by the Government through the Ministry of health and NPHIL by a large segment of the population.
Candidates from both the ruling party and the opposition blog in the upcoming senatorial elections are often seeing holding mask-less mass gatherings with no social distancing.
‘Waves of Mysterious Death’
Touching on other wide range of issues, the Situation Room also expressed concern over the “wave of mysterious death which is causing panic and fears in the minds of citizens and residents”.
In Monrovia, the mysterious deaths of four auditors of the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) and the Internal Audit Agency (IAA) left residents in shock, and with many unanswered questions.
Government has since conducted autopsies and the report, which have been turned over to the Minister of Justice, is yet to be released to the public.
Also on October 30, a journalist, Chris David, who worked at a local radio station in Gbarnga, Bong County, was found dead with gunshot wounds. The discovery of the journalist’s body led residents of the area including motorcyclists to stage a peaceful protest in demand of justice.
Government has since launched an investigation and two persons have been arrested in connection with the journalist’s death.
The group lauded the government for authorizing the autopsies on the bodies to establish actual cause of death and to launch an investigation in to the murder of journalist David to bring the perpetrator(s) to justice.
On the pending special senatorial elections and referendum, the Situation Room warned that there are daunting concerns of political tensions linked to the use of public facilities by candidates for rallies, and voter trucking.
The platform documented that on October 28, 2020, violent clash took place between supporters of two top senatorial candidates in Bong County, Senator Henry Yallah and Deputy Speaker Prince Moye.
According to the monitoring group, the clash occurred in the LPMC Community in Gbarnga, Bong County over a venue for political activities.
The act, the group says threatened the peace and security of the citizens and residents.
The group also condemned the act of violence in Bomi County between supporters of two heavy weight senatorial candidates, Representative Edwin M. Snowe and former House Speaker Alex Tyler, which led to the injuries of seven persons currently undergoing treatment at the Tubmanburg Hospital.
According to report, the violence started when Rep. Snowe and his supporters were attacked by the rival camp.
“We would like to condemn this act of violence and call for civility in the practice of democratic rights at all levels,” the Platform said.
Writing further, the Situation Room, in a passionate plead said, “On the overall, we urge the different political parties to adopt civil and peaceful behaviors for their supporters to follow, to realize that this special senatorial election must be civil election- it must be an election that results in healing rather than division, that brings about love and respect than hate; that focuses on critical issues rather than on personalities; – all because Liberia has suffered too long to reach this far with peace; and so we must all do well to ensure peace is sustained; social cohesion is achieved through national reconciliation.”