MONROVIA – As the upcoming elections draw nearer, tension is mounting within the country, exacerbated by heightened concerns and vocal claims from various political figures, most notably the opposition Unity Party who continue to hint stiff reaction to their anticipated manipulation of the elections.
By Lennart Dodoo, [email protected]
It started with the biggest ally of the opposition Unity Party candidate, Sen. Prince Johnson of vote-rich Nimba County, who threatened a people’s revolt, likening it to the Arab Spring, should the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) attempt to manipulate the election results.
Sen. Johnson has not provided reasons for his suspicion of vote-rigging. He merely alludes to members of the CDC making statements like, “They’ll take it.”
Sen. Johnson’s confidence in the Unity Party’s victory in the election partially stems from a huge relentless turnout of supporters for its campaign launch on September 17, despite the heavy divulge that left parts of Monrovia flooded that day.
Sen. Johnson is a former warlord turned politician and a pastor.
In a sharp reaction, the ECOWAS Commission in Liberia issued a statement reminding all political leaders and actors of the Farmington River Declaration which they signed and committed to a peaceful process. The Regional body admonished political actors to refrain from making inflammatory comments that could incite followers and derail the electoral process.
However, over the weekend, the standard bearer of the Unity Party, Joseph Boakai, warned it would be the end of Liberia if the ruling CDC steals the election.
“…that’s why you need to protect it. If they think they’ll steal this election, you will not allow it because if they do it, that’s the end of this country,” said the 78-year-old former Vice President on his campaign trail.
There have been several social media reactions since these comments. Pictures of Pastor Joshua Milton Blayhi, a former fierce rebel general commonly known as ‘General Butt Naked’ wearing a robe with the inscription ‘Rescue Soldier’ on the back while on the breast of the robe the inscription “Don’t Try It”.
General Butt Naked’s photo on social media has drawn a lot of public concern, particularly due to his dark past – the heinous crimes he committed during the war. He is on record for confessing to eating human organs during the civil war.
During the civil conflict, Blahyi assumed leadership of a unit comprised mainly of child soldiers, referred to as the Naked Base Commandos. Their operations primarily centered around the Monrovia area. Remarkably, this unit, which included Blahyi himself, often disregarded conventional clothing, wearing only shoes and amulets. This peculiar choice earned Blahyi the alias ‘General Butt Naked.’ Blahyi asserted that this practice bestowed upon him and his soldiers a supposed immunity to bullets. Throughout the conflict, Blahyi’s forces committed numerous heinous acts, including cannibalism and human sacrifice.
In later accounts, Blahyi alleged that he had received a vision from a malevolent entity during the conflict. In this vision, the malevolent entity conveyed to him that he would become “a formidable warrior” and advised him to engage in human sacrifice and cannibalism to augment his power. Reflecting on the horrifying actions he and his soldiers perpetrated against innocent civilians during the conflict, Blahyi admitted in an interview, “At times, I would lurk beneath the water where children were playing, diving below to seize one, carrying them underwater and ending their lives. Sometimes, I engineered accidents, while other times, I simply took their lives.”
Additionally, Blahyi administered psychoactive drugs to his soldiers in an effort to heighten their alertness and compliance with his commands. In a chilling recollection, he recounted that whenever the Naked Base Commandos captured a town, “I was compelled to perform a human sacrifice. They would present me with a living child, whom I would slaughter, extracting their heart to consume.”
Upping the Ante
A female political activist who preferred anonymity for security reasons told FrontPageAfrica, “We all want a peaceful and credible election, but when people like Prince Johnson, Butt Naked start issuing threats, then there is a cause for concern. These people have a history in this country. There are people who are still living with the trauma from the atrocities these people committed. Their victims are still alive and the Unity Party needs to put this under control.”
FrontPageAfrica has also seen other posts from supporters of the Unity Party have also been upping the ante on social media. Anthony V. Kesselly posted to Facebook: “If you think the patriotic warnings from JNB or PYJ are mere bluff, smoke your kush and try anything funny. We will see who born dog”.
Mike B. Jabateh who affiliates with the Unity Party also wrote on Facebook, “It’s time to wake up. We will not allow President Weah ex-girlfriend to rig the October 10 election. Wear your military and political jacket.”
Mr. Philipbert Brown, Publisher of the Hot Pepper Newspaper wrote on Facebook, “We live to bear witness how ECOWAS and the West twice over-turned the presidential elections in favor of the Unity Party EJS & JNB. Did George Weah start a civil war?
Cyril Allen Cautions PYJ
At the same time, in a recorded message, Chief Cyril Allen of the ruling CDC called on Senator Johnson to refrain from making intimidating statements and beating war drums. He cautioned the Nimba County Senator not to plot to destroy the peace the country is currently enjoying for his personal “desire and ego”.
“I’m certain that the people of Nimba do not make such callous and reckless statements that are made by him,” Allen said.
He added, “We want to make it clear to Senator Prince Johnson that he’s no lord and master in this country. No one is intimidated by his sentimental and threatening statements. He cannot threaten a legitimate national government.”
Not Guns and War, But People’s Power
Speaking to Voice of America, Senator Johnson clarified that he was not alluding to an armed rebellion but rather emphasizing the exercise of people’s power. He stated, “I mentioned that any attempt to rig the elections would encounter resistance from the people of Liberia. The Constitution of the Republic of Liberia, Article One, states that all power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are instituted by their authority for their benefit and happiness. If their benefits are in jeopardy, their future is at risk, and the government becomes oppressive and dictatorial, leading to issues such as massive corruption, extrajudicial killings, drug trafficking, and the use of Liberia as a drug trafficking hub, then the people have the right to hold those responsible accountable when elections are rigged. The people’s power can be harnessed in such situations. I did not mention firearms, nor did I advocate for war.”
Senator Johnson accused the CDC of violating the Farmington Declaration and claimed that his statement was a warning aimed at the CDC, which he alleged has vowed to secure victory in the presidential election at any cost, including rigging it.
“They have always said, and it’s an open secret in Liberia. The CDCians have said the UP (Unity Party) spent 12 years in government, they did nothing for the country. They have only spent six years and they have done so much. And so, whether the UP wins or not, they will take it by force. They are planning to rig. So, I don’t know how they will do it. [Whether] they are using their influence and cash violence on the Election Commission. I don’t know but they have openly said they will rig.”
‘No Return to Rebel Checkpoint’ – Pres. Weah
Meanwhile, Pres. Weah has reacted to allegations of potential vote-rigging in the forthcoming election. During a thanksgiving service held for him upon his return from the UN General Assembly, Pres. Weah said, he is willing to step aside should he lose the election.
However, he warned that the country would not return to days where rebel checkpoints were erected, while at the same time cautioning his political counterparts to desist from threatening war.
President Weah emphasized his government’s commitment to democratic principles, assuring Liberians that the nation was on the path to prosperity despite past challenges.
President Weah stated, “To all distinguished citizens, those who can hear my voice, I want to acknowledge the glory of God and assure you that in our country, there will be no return to a rebel checkpoint.”
“We are moving forward towards prosperity, acknowledging Liberia’s past difficulties while remaining steadfast in our belief in democratic values. Our nation will continue to thrive in peace,” President Weah added.
He urged Liberians to actively work for peace, emphasizing its crucial role in national development. He also encouraged the public to ignore provocative statements from certain individuals, emphasizing that Liberians were committed to working in a peaceful environment and avoiding a return to civil conflict.