Liberia: Widespread Condemnation, Reactions Follow Bloody Day in District 15
Monrovia – Widespread condemnation has followed the latest violent turn of events in Montserrado County District 15 which is once shrouded in electoral violence after Ms. Telia Urey, one of the candidates in the disputed Representatives’ by-elections and her supporters came closed to meeting their deaths Saturday.
Report by Rodney D. Sieh, [email protected]
Ms. Telia Urey told a news conference Sunday that the bloody attack Saturday led to the damage of her bullet-proof Toyota Land Cruiser and injuries to she and several of her supporters who had gone to visit the headquarters of another candidate in the recently-held elections.
The incident she says has caused her to lose faith in the Liberia National Police. “We don’t feel safe to campaign in District #15 anymore because we don’t trust the Police. We will on Monday file our complaint with hard evidences to the National Elections commission telling them that we don’t feel safe in district #15 anymore. Before President Weah statement about the Urey’s we never had violence in district #15 but since he made those remarks about me telling his supporters to flogged me, we starting experiencing Violence.”
“Electoral violence in all its forms will not be tolerated, and individuals who disrupt the peace will face the full weight of the law.”– President George M. Weah
Lost Confidence in Police
For Ms. Urey, Saturday’s incident was unnecessary and could have been avoided if President Weah had not stirred up his base to go after her. “We can all recall that in June of 2019, President and Standard Bearer of the Coalition of Democratic Change, George Weah, announced publicly that “No Dillon or Urey will win elections in Liberia. He declared that this will not happen under his leadership – in fact over his dead body. He went further to say that he will flog that little girl, Telia. The only logical inference deducible from the ongoing acts of violence against Telia and supporters in District 15, given the sluggish and don’t care attitude of the government, is the fact that all efforts are being exerted by the President and his CDC to ensure that his threats against Telia Urey manifests.
Ms. Urey said the attack occurred in the presence of the police who sat idly and watched the attackers throw stones on the headquarters while the meeting was ongoing. In fact, she says, the attacks took place just a stone’s throw away from the Logan Town Police Depot of the LNP.
Mr. Momo Sambola, Vice Chairman of the All Liberian Party (ALP) was also wounded along with several other partisans and supporters.
The District 15 candidate averred: “It is this shame and attempt to subvert the Will of the Majority that has led to the orchestration of violence to intimidate, threaten and harass peaceful citizens whose only crime is to peacefully assemble and exercise their franchise. This is a clear case of electoral violence.”
This is the second time in recent weeks that violence has hit the district. On June 10, at least one person was injured and two others flogged following a political violence in run-up to the District No. 15 race. The incident in the Blamo Town community, Logan Town, reportedly left supporters of Ms. Urey’s team seriously injured.
The National Election Commission last week announced a re-run of the elections at six polling places in the district after an election dispute hearing in which Urey claimed and proved electoral fraud. The ruling CDC has said that the Elections Commission’s decision was influenced, hence, they’ll boycott the re-run.
On Sunday, Ms. Urey said she was visiting Kelvin Bayoh’s campaign team at their campaign office, which has been the late Representative Adolph Lawrence’s office since 2011 when they heard noise outside and then rocks on the roof, then through the windows.
Ms. Urey said because there was only one way out of the building, she and her supporters as well as those of Mr. Bayoh were trapped in the building. “We couldn’t get out because there was only one way out, which is where the attackers were.”
Ms. Urey says the police arrived after 20 minutes and did nothing- similar to what happened in June when she came under a similar attack from supporters of her rival, Abu Kamara. “We made rescue calls all over to no avail since they blocked the road. Besides the few men who were trying to defend us, we were stuck inside for over an hour and a half,” the candidate explained.
Ms. Urey said she and her team made several attempts to leave the office but it was just impossible, although she laments that the police were standing right there.
Attacker Entered Scene of Siege with a Knife
She explained that one of the attackers even got in 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.”
Ms. Urey said a man called Mr. Johnson made it inside after Senator Nyonblee Karnga(Liberty Party, Grand Bassa) who was trying to find out what was going on, asked she and her supporters to hold on while he tried to go out and get some help.
Ms. Urey said the Police 105 was outside at this point. “People asked 105 to bring his car down into the garage to evacuate me out of there but he refused. Mr. Johnson came in with his friend’s car and they built a shield around me for me to get in the car. My leg is injured. 15 other people are injured. 12 were taken to the hospital.”
Ms. Urey further explained that her driver who was in her car when the incident started had to flee as one of the attackers burst the back window. “One of the guys jumped through the window and attacked the driver but the driver pulled off, driving with one hand and fighting with the other and that’s how he got into the first crash. He(the driver) escaped the crash and like you saw in the video starts to speed faster to avoid being hurt and then makes the final crash.”
Violence Not Tolerated, President Says
President George Manneh Weah, in a statement Sunday said: “Electoral violence in all its forms will not be tolerated, and individuals who disrupt the peace will face the full weight of the law.”
The President mandated the Liberian national police and other security agencies to be proactive and bring to book anyone engage in violence, Ms. Urey on Sunday detailed at a news conference how she and her supporters almost lost their lives.
Mr. Alexander Cummings, leaders of the Alternative National Congress, said the people of District #15 have elected Urey as their Representative and it is unacceptable for a President to declare that no citizen will win election. “We will be peaceful in opposition against these threats, but they should be assure that we will stand for our rights.”
Mr. Cummings said the ANC stands shoulder to shoulder with Ms. Urey and said the ANC will not accept the irresponsibility on the part of the government. “I want to echo the call to our international partners that we will be responsible in opposition, but we will take responsibility of our country and will in a peaceful manner ensure that our democratic rights are protected.”
For his part, Mr. Benoni Urey, the current leader of the four-party coalition says he forgives everyone who perpetrated the violence against his daughter. “They will no force us to go down low as they are doing. All those including the President should remember they have children we should never go down that low.”
Senator Steve Zargo, leader of the opposition Liberty Party was grateful to all peace-loving Liberians who assisted in the rescue of those involved in the unprovoked attacks on Ms. Urey and her supporters.
Said Senator Zargo: “It was another bloody day in our country yesterday. The Blood of these victims cries out to Liberia and the world for action and Justice. Unfortunately, our government under the Leadership of George Weah is the promoter of the violence against peaceful citizens whose only crime is to exercise their franchise. The same process from which George Weah and his party has benefitted from to become Senator and now President today. Unfortunately, our country is being led by the most vindictive, divisive and egoistic character whose sense of success is the building of monuments and statutes of himself. Our President now promotes violence and chaos and takes pride in being a leader of some and not of all!
Ms. Macdella Cooper, a candidate in the Just-ended Montserrado County Senatorial Elections in a Twitter post, deplored recent violence in District No. 15 and urge the government to fully investigate and prosecute those responsible. “All political parties, especially their leaderships, have a responsibility to avoid inflammatory rhetoric and promote a peaceful political process.”
Criminal Court Concern
The condemnation comes as the National Patriotic Party of former Liberian President Charles Ghankay Taylor, in a statement said, Liberians should be mindful that electoral violence is now a serious Human Rights violation, punishable by the International Criminal Court.
The party the officials and members of the Executive Committee of the party which is a constituent party of the current ruling Coalition for Democratic Change, denounced in the strongest terms, all forms of violence increasing across the country, the most recent being perpetrated in the electoral District 15.
The party, in a statement Sunday urged Liberians to take steps to prevent the current wave of violence and restore sanity to our nation.
The NPP appealed to all Liberians to stop the violence, as it has the potential to reverse the country’s hard-earned democracy and scare those investors in and out of Liberia.
The NPP also calls on the government functionaries, to secure the peace and to launch an immediate investigation into this current wave of electoral violence and bring those perpetrators to justice so as to set the example that violence has no place in our nation.
The attack on Ms. Urey is drawing widespread condemnation. “This is sad reality in Liberia today. President George Weah, if you cannot lead our nation, you must resign,” said Mr. Benjamin Sanvee, former chair of the opposition Liberty Party tweeted Saturday.
Student activist Martin Kollie told FrontPageAfrica: “Our democracy was on trial under Doe and Taylor. It is now on retrial under ex-Soccer Star George M Weah. Things are falling apart so quick. Lawlessness is hitting the roof. Violence and Vandalism have become the new normal. The debris and scars of our dark past are fast evolving. Terror is back in the land. This is an incipient warning of a breakdown in governance and a crackdown on democracy. No rule and order. LNP has become a partisan police force. The judiciary is corrupt and toothless. The Legislature is rubber-stamped and houses a group of racketeers. Both branches are controlled and manipulated by a domineering and an inept Executive.”
“All political parties, especially their leaderships, have a responsibility to avoid inflammatory rhetoric and promote a peaceful political process.”– Macdella Cooper, Candidate, Just-ended Montserrado County Senatorial Elections
Opposition Won’t Cower in Fear
The recent wave of violence has prompted the four-party coalition to plead with the international community for protection.
The parties said the National Elections Commission and international partners should support the consolidation of democracy by speaking out now and bringing international observers to observe the elections due to the extent to which violence is becoming consuming and addictive. “We hope all relevant committees of the national legislature would call for a full inquiry and summon the relevant institutions/agencies of government to provide proper explanations for their actions against peaceful citizens.”
The parties also urged the international community to urgently investigate these acts of deliberate violence against peaceful citizens and bring all perpetrators to Justice. “We call on the International Criminal Court to take seize of this matter, conduct the proper investigations and ensure justice for victims. We call on the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the United Nations, The African Union and the Economic Commission of West African States (ECOWAS) to act and act with utmost urgency. Liberia is rapidly descending into chaos, violence and lawlessness.”
The Collaboration of Political Parties say they will not cower in fear to this wave of national terror being imposed by our President. “We will resist it with peaceful actions and in the words of former US First Lady, “where they go low, we will go high”. We remain cognizant of the years of conflicts our country and its people has endured and we remain committed to providing an alternative leadership with peace and unity as our core values. We call on all citizens and our supporters to remain peaceful. Liberia is our common denominator and we must not allow this President and ruling party to take us back to the days of old.”
Amid the fears, the Liberia National Police in a statement Saturday says it too condemned in the strongest term violence which broke out in District 15. “The LNP views such action as counterproductive to the peace and stability of the state. The contingent of Police who firstly, responded to the scene was unable to arrest violent actors. When reinforcements arrived, the alleged perpetrators had absconded,” the statement said.
“The ANC stands shoulder to shoulder with Ms. Urey will not accept the irresponsibility on the part of the government. “I want to echo the call to our international partners that we will be responsible in opposition, but we will take responsibility of our country and will in a peaceful manner ensure that our democratic rights are protected.”– Mr. Alexander Cummings, Alternative National Congress
CDC Eyeing Path to Peaceful Outcome
In view of this, the LNP says it has launched an investigation into the violence. “Members of the public, especially residents of District #15 are urged to assist with any useful information including videos and pictorials to ensure that those responsible are made to face the full weight of the law. The Public can be assured that violent actors in today’s violence will be made to face the full weight of the law.”
Ms. Urey’s version contradicts that of the ruling CDC party chair Mulbah Morlu who said in a Facebook post Saturday that Ms. Urey was playing a victim. “The Ureys provocative action to relocate their party office to almost the doorpost of Abu, explains the violence; as residents advised they remain at their original office, they hauled rocks in a pickup and began stoning Kamara’s yard. The Ureys must stop playing victim after throwing stones,” Mr. Morlu averred.
On Sunday, the CDC was more somber, declaring through its Executive Committee, that it condemns in the strongest possible term recent acts of violence, warning that such acts of violence are a threat to the peace, democracy and the economy of the country. Violence has no place in our politics, irrespective of the scale and tone of our political differences. “We call on partisans of the Coalition for Democratic Change and of the four collaborating political parties to refrain from violence, whether in District 15 or in future elections. The Committee enjoins upon all partisans of political parties the obligation to renounce violence and show restraint even when provoked by political counterparts.”
The Executive Committee also thanked Mr. Morlu for reaching out to candidate Telia Urey to convey to her the party’s condemnation of violence, express regrets for the unfortunate situation she encountered, provide assurances of its support for speedy and impartial investigation, and hold discussion on the path toward peaceful elections and civil political dialogue. The Committee hails the National Chairman’s show of leadership as necessary to calm existing tension and to show that political rivalry in Liberian politics does not and should never mean polity enmity.
The EC has mandated Mr. Morlu to broaden and sustain these engagements with national leaders of the four collaborating political parties to construct a path to peaceful national political dialogue among parties, with the aim of reducing the prevailing level of vitriol in public statements emanating from leaders of all parties.