Battle Ground/Flash Point Lofa: Whatever the Outcome, We Pray that Peace Prevails

Developments in Lofa surrounding the senatorial scheduled by-elections continue to claim national attention.  Fresh reports coming the way of this newspaper say that there has been one reported incident of violence in which a vehicle belonging to Representative Yekeh Kolubah, who hails from Lofa County, was attacked and damaged.

According to Representative Kolubah who, on Monday, June 27, spoke on a local radio station, Kool FM 91.9, said his vehicle was attacked in Foya by individuals acting on orders of Representative Thomas Fallah. 

Representative Kolubah had been on the campaign trail on that day which he maintained was their last day for campaigning as sanctioned by the National Elections Commission (NEC).

The previous day, according to him, was allotted to the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) for campaigning and there were no reported incidents of violence until the attack on his convoy which resulted in damage to his vehicles.

Fortunately, according to eyewitness reports, the representative did not respond to the provocations as grave as they may have been. Disturbing to most eyewitnesses, according to a supporter of the Unity Party (UP), was the presence of Representative Thomas Fallah with Police in tow but who did not raise a finger during the violent attack on Representative Kolubah’s convoy. 

This newspaper has forever, virtually, been sounding a warning against electoral violence and calling on security authorities, especially the Police to be vigilant and non-selective in their approach to law enforcement.

This is because the public has been, over a prolonged period, complaining about the Police whose conduct and partisan approach to law enforcement have been clearly noticeable. The violent assault in Logan Town on All Liberian Party (ALP) candidate Telia Urey in 2019 by CDC supporters during the District 15 Representative by-elections is a case in point.

In recorded videos, the Police, dressed in riot gear and with guns, were seen standing in plain sight doing nothing during the violent assault on the offices of Ms. Urey. Her vehicle was damaged beyond repair.

Other instances included the violent attacks by CDC supporters on opposition candidates during the senatorial by-elections in Grand Cape Mount and Gbarpolu Counties. And this is why the election in Lofa and its outcomes will prove instructive. Should the electoral and vote count process be marred by violence, fraud, or perceived as such, then that will spell trouble. And no one but “Allah” the Beneficent and all Merciful,  can tell where it will all stop once set into motion.

Lest it be forgotten, Lofa had long since become a conflict flashpoint growing out of the standoff between traditional Zoes and the Government of Liberia over the seating of Brownie Samukai as Senator of Lofa.

The standoff which resulted in the closure of the bridge linking Bong to Lofa County succeeded in bringing vehicle movement in that county to a virtual halt.  This by-election in Lofa and its outcome will prove crucial in determining the possible trajectory of whatever dangers that may be looming in 2023.

It should help in no small way to provide guidance on the way to go. For example, the GoL should by now be taking steps to ensure the integrity, credibility, and competence of the NEC and more importantly, the integrity of the electoral process and its Board of Commissioners. But it (GoL) has not, to public dismay, censured Madame Davidetta Brown Lansanah since she was indicted by the Liberia Anti-Corruption for fraud. Other NEC Commissioners, especially Floyd Sayor, are known to have integrity issues as well.

Only recently, the Supreme Court of Liberia delivered a scathing indictment of the NEC Board of Commissioners, excluding Commissioner Boakai Dukuly, for failing to properly scrutinize and recognize the unconstitutionality of the Exit Clause Section 8.5.2 in the purported original CPP Framework document barring the participation of the UP candidate.

But the Supreme Court’s decision, like a thunderous bolt of lightning, struck down the opinion of the NEC Board of Commissioners. It declared Section 8.2.5 of the purported CPP original Framework document unconstitutional, severely censured the NEC Board of Commissioners, reversed its decision declaring it void ab initio, and ordered the NEC to place the name of the UP candidate on the roster of qualified candidates.

Currently, there are predictions of a massive win for the UP candidate, Galakpai Kortimai against that of key challenger Joseph K. Jallah who according to local media reports is alleged to be a surrogate candidate of the CDC.   And all sides appear to be going all out to ensure a win for their favored candidate. Sources say that President Weah and other top officials including Monrovia City Mayor, Jefferson Koijee are expected to arrive in Lofa today. And so are ALP political leader Benoni Urey, UP political leader and former VP Joseph Boakai, and Senator Darius Dillon, amongst others, the latter being in support of the UP candidate.

Although campaigning would have been over, yet their presence alone, according to a CDC stalwart, can serve to inspire hope and spur voters to cast their ballots in favor of their candidate.  According to a number of persons spoken to, the alleged CDC favorite, Mr. Joseph K. Jallah would have been in pole position to win the vote given his impressive performance in past elections.

However, according to analysts, the fact that he is allegedly associated with or widely believed to be the hidden face of the CDC, this is likely to weigh heavily against him owing to widespread public distaste for the CDC.

But the results, and how the CDC would react to a possible loss, could prove telling of what may lie in store for the 2023 polls.   At this point, it remains yet unclear whether or not all hell is going to break loose as feared, in case of a massive win predicted for the UP which could likely trigger a violent reaction from CDC supporters. 

It is clearly within the realm of possibility, in view of a crowded playing field, that the CDC could secure a place in a possible runoff and thereafter clinch a narrow victory from the jaws of certain defeat. 

Whatever the outcome, we pray that PEACE will PREVAIL.