Liberia: ‘Silence Sends Wrong Signal’ – Catholic Diocese on Lack of Response from Govt, Church in Attack on Opposition in Grand Gedeh
Monrovia – The Catholic Diocese of Cape Palmas, whose pastoral and administrative jurisdiction cover the five counties of the southeast of Liberia, has expressed grave concerns about the incident of intimidation and threats of violence by some residents of Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County against a political grouping of Liberians exercising its constitutional rights to free movement and peaceful assembly, which occurred on July 30, 2020.
In a statement issued in Monrovia Friday, the Cape Palmas Diocese described the attacks as a gross violation of the fundamental rights to free movement and peaceful assembly goes against the principle of political tolerance and peaceful co-existence despite differences of political association and ideology. “We have seen that when we become politically intolerant, we invite ourselves to breakdown and destroy, and undermine the foundations of Liberia’s peace, stability and development,” the statement said.
Liberians woke up early Thursday morning to reports that 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) came under attack while on their way back from Maryland County where they had traveled to celebrate the 173rd Independence anniversary of Africa’s oldest republic.
In the face of these presenting threats to our collective peace and security, silence, including from the Church or State, offers the wrong signal to the perpetrators that their actions are acceptable, and makes us collectively complicit. “Hence, we feel compelled to speak out against this danger, and urge the political leaders of the country, and those blessed with the authority to uphold, protect, and preserve the law, to do so without fear or favor.”Bishop Andrew Karnley, The Diocese of Cape Palmas
The Diocese’s statement signed by Bishop Andrew Jagaye Karnley, said the response was necessary due to Liberia’s tragic history that it is democratically unhealthy and portends danger to the peace and stability of the country.
Said the Diocese: “It also violates the fundamental rights of the members of the Alternative National Congress (ANC) and other collaborating opposition parties to free movement and peaceful assembly as enshrined in Chapter 3, Article 17 of the 1986 Constitution of the Republic Liberia which states, “All persons, at all times, in an orderly and peaceful manner, shall have the right to assemble and consult upon the common good, to instruct their representatives, to petition the Government or other functionaries for the redress of grievances and to associate fully with others or refuse to associate in political parties, trade unions and other organizqtions.“
Chapter 3; Article 13 (a) also states that, “Every person lawfully within the Republic shall have the right to move freely throughout Liberia, to reside in any part thereof and to leave there from subject however to the safeguarding of public security, public order, public health or morals or the rights and freedoms of others. “
In the face of these presenting threats to our collective peace and security, the Diocese said, silence, including from the Church or State, offers the wrong signal to the perpetrators that their actions are acceptable, and makes us collectively complicit. “Hence, we feel compelled to speak out against this danger, and urge the political leaders of the country, and those blessed with the authority to uphold, protect, and preserve the law, to do so without fear or favor. We cannot fail within this regard because failure to preserve the law, and protect all citizens irrespective of differences in tribe, gender or political association, is actually an invitation to the breakdown of the society and the return to lawlessness.”
The statement said while the Liberian Constitution guarantees the freedom of expression (Chapter 3, Article 15 a) as a fundamental right of all Liberians, it is also a matter of concern that utterances emanating from some members of the opposition, functionaries of government and members of the ruling party fall short of respect for others, do not in any way contribute to constructive exchange of ideas for the good health of the nation and the wellbeing of the people, nor does it represent the quality of examples to be emulated. “These uncivil utterances and inflammatory remarks have the propensity of creating tension and chaos that will undermine the peace and stability prevailing in Liberia today. We must commit to doing better.”
The Diocese is appealing to all members of the opposition, supporters of the ruling party, government functionaries as well as ordinary Liberians to be more civil and polite in their utterances and respect our fundamental freedoms that are enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia. “We commend the joint security in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County for its timely intervention to provide security protection for members of the opposition who were being physically threatened, wrongfully intimidated, and rights violated.”
The statemen also called on the Government of the Republic of Liberia to investigate and report its findings on the dangerous incident Thursday against members of the opposition (ANC/CPP), and take the necessary remedial actions, within the law, to ensure a recurrence never happens anywhere in our country. Such actions will provide the necessary reassurance to all Liberians, foreign residents and international investors that Liberia is peaceful, and intends to remain so.
The statement added: “The just and proper response of the government will remind all that abuses of the law will not go unpunished as the government will act, as it should, in keeping with its constitutional responsibility, to safeguard and protect the fundamental rights of all Liberians, as well as all those residing within our borders. Finally, we call on all Catholics, and all men and women of goodwill residing in the southeast of Liberia to commend this region to the Lord in prayer for its peace, stability and development.”
The statement comes as the George Weah administration has so far failed to issue a response to the riot against the opposition lawmaker although activities on social media by two members of his administration is triggering concerns from the opposition community that the attacks may have the backing of the administration.
Deputy Information Minister Eugene Fahngon posted on Facebook Thursday: “Racoon Supposed to Know Le Stick to Clean His Butt on… Go and Try Palm Tree Again, Ehn You say Da You alone Crazy?”
Also, Presidential aide Sekou Kalasco Damaro changed his profile photo to that of former President Samuel Kanyon Doe, who hailed from Grand Gedeh County. Damaro defended the post insinuating that changing his photograph to the former president’s is not a crime.
The Inter-Religious Council which has also been criticised for its silence in burning issues in the country, has also not yet commented on Thursday’s violence in Grand Gedeh.