Liberia: Pres. Weah’s Media Confidante Warns of Chaos

Philipbert Browne


—- “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see the confusion that’s coming,” Philipbert Browne says.

Philipbert Browne, a newspaper publisher and a confidante of President George Weah, has warned of a chaotic outcome of the October 10 polls.

Browne, whose warning of a potential “bloodbath” attracted huge criticism on Facebook, has told the Daily Observer that his prediction was based on his belief that neither Weah nor his primary rival, Joseph Boakai, would accept defeat in the upcoming presidential election.

Even though Browne did not back up his claims with evidence, he firmly believed that there would be “blood on the streets of Monrovia” and called on Liberians to prepare for any eventuality.

“If NEC [the electoral body] rules in CDC’s favor, do you think the Unity Party will accept the result? If NEC rules in the Unity Party’s favor, do you think CDC will accept the result?

“Everything I’ve said from day one, if you look on my [Facebook] page, since two years ago, I have been talking about this election, that it will be chaotic and blood will be on the streets and people should get ready for it by saving and buying dry goods. As simple as that,” Browne told the Daily Observer in a phone interview. 

The Daily Observer had called Browne to get clarity on his social media ‘warnings,’ which had received widespread condemnation. Many even construed his posts as inciting violence and “beating a war drum”. 

However, as a former Deputy Defense Minister during Ex-President Charles Taylor’s administration, Browne believes his foresight of the threat of chaos during this election is real and inevitable.

“There will be chaos,” he said. “No one will accept the election results — Not CDC, not the Unity Party. So no one is going to accept it. And what do you think is going to be? There’s going to be protest after protest after protest. And what do you think protests will lead to?”

Brown’s comments to the Daily Observer came after he had taken to Facebook yesterday to claim that the aftermath of the election would result in a bloodbath and that people should take all necessary precautions and prepare measures to avoid being caught off guard.

In a follow-up post, he noted that “to be forewarned is to be forearmed” and that “soon” Liberians would not be able to come out of their homes freely.

The government has not yet responded specifically to Brown’s alarming posts. 

Moses Carter, spokesperson for the Liberia National Police, told the Daily Observer that the Minister of Justice's statement to the press on October 2, “was very clear.” 

“We don’t want to limit our response to just one person because, if we do so, it might seem like those other persons who made those threats are people who are immune to being invited by the police,” Carter explained. 

“Because if Philipbert Browne is saying this, he should be invited by the police.  The police are using what we call ‘constructive means of dealing with issues’, as a way of protecting the peace of the state.

 “As much as such utterances … do not culminate in undermining the peace and security of the state, once it does, certainly, we will take appropriate action, as the Minister said. The Minister was very clear. Liberians have the right to assemble, go about their normal business, wear their partisan regalia but, whatever you say or do that will lead to the undermining of the peace and security of the state, automatically the joint security will take appropriate action.”

However, ordinary Liberians, especially members of the political opposition, have taken Browne to task for his posts and accused him of “beating the war drum.” Some commenters even warned that his family would be first if such a grim prediction of his came to pass. 

Browne insists that his aim is not to incite violence or war, but to urge people to “face the reality”. 

“I mean, let all of us not play dumb, because what I see people trying to do, they play dumb, [saying] “Oh the man is inciting people; the man wants to bring war.

“Nobody wants to bring war. That is the reality. And so we must understand it. Once you get the sense to face reality, the better prepared you are,” he said. “I’m just saying to people, why, when the Americans put their warnings out to their citizens, why don't Liberians say anything?”

Brown, being aware that his statement runs afoul of the Farmington Peace Accord, which frowns on language that promotes violence or undermines the credibility of the electoral process, insists that he speaks from an informed position. “If other people are not in the position to know that there will be chaos, then sorry for them,” he said. “But you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see the confusion that’s coming.”

“I’m in a position to know that there will be chaos. So after I vote, I stay home while they announce the results. If there’s a second round, I go and vote, I come back and stay home. If I’m not going to be in the street, I must have food, I must have medication, I must have water in my house. Simple information, [which] I’m sharing with everybody.

“Last time, my house was the place where everybody was coming to shop. This time nobody’s coming to my house [for food] shopping. As simple as that,” Browne told the Daily Observer.