Liberia: Old Road in Turmoil


— Thugs allegedly backed by CDC Youth League keep residents in constant panic

For four days, the Old Road Community, especially in the Chugbor and Gaye Town areas, faced a lot of lawlessness and disorder, with thugs harassing peaceful citizens, looting businesses, and disrupting normal activities.

For the Saturday episode, chaos broke out when officials and members of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) Youth League were reportedly parading, in a war-like manner, to a nearby voter registration center to obtain their voter cards, but their presence evoked panic among marketeers and residents, who ran helter skelter while trying to escape sight of the invading machetes wielding “thugs.”

The CDCians were led by the Youth League Chairman, Emmanuel Mulbah Johnson, popularly known as “Neto.”

Marketers’ bags were snatched, money and other valuables stolen, and goods destroyed. The residents of Montserrado district #10’s largest ‘community’ were again under attack, and it has been so for days. 

They have known no peace since the voter registration exercise began last Monday, and no one seems to care. The police have not been able to contain the violence that has engulfed the area, not until the thugs willingly retreated.

The frequent presence of officers of the Police Support Unit of the LNP has not been able to restore order. The thugs had an hour-long tussle with LNP officers, who frequently retreated to the community's VP Road to strategize and regroup. Several shots of tear gas were fired as the police were bombarded by rocks and other dangerous objects.

The hands behind these acts of lawlessness are yet to be identified, but many residents suspect that the current district representative, Yekeh Kolubah, and Commerce Inspector, Josephine Davies, a stalwart of the CDC who is craving the district seat, are involved. Davies is backed by the ruling party’s youth league, where she is a high-ranking officer.

This came on the heels of another incident on Friday, March 24, when several persons reportedly sustained injuries while escaping thugs’ invasion. Tires were burned as rival groups tried to scare away the others. 

This happened after simmering reports that CDCians had reportedly converged on the Old Road to attack the home of Kolubah, who had allegedly prevented them from carrying out voters trucking in his district.

Kolubah, a staunch critic of the ruling party, had complained earlier that people he said were ‘agent provocateurs’ of the CDC, had planned to attack his residence.

However, a few days before the Friday chaos, it had been alleged that the ruling CDC was transporting people into the district with the aim to register to vote against Kolubah and in favor of Davies, who has since expressed her desire to contest for the Montserrado District #10 seat in upcoming October 10, 22023,legislative elections.

“The CDC people can bring ‘gronna’ men to disturb us. They have been harassing us for the past few days and this is not called for,” said Marmonee Peters, a market woman. “If da Yekeh business (if it is because of Yekeh), then they can wait for the election to move [remove] him from there.”

“We are tired of being harassed and intimidated by people who are supposed to be protecting us. This is unfair, and President Weah needs to show leadership. This is the fourth time we are being chased, our goods looted, and our money stolen, and the government is pretending like nothing is happening,” Emmanuel Cooper, a university student who has a forex exchange business, told the Daily Observer

Many residents shared the same sentiments as Cooper, who feels that they are being caught in the middle of a political battle that they themselves did not instigate. “We got no fish to fry in their politics. We want to go about our normal business. Politics is not benefiting most of us here so there is no need for us to be suffering,” he said. “Let them carry their political battle elsewhere, preferably on Capitol Hill because that’s where political tussles are supposed to take place.” 

However, the man at the center of Saturday’s chaos, Johnson, said at a press conference that what disrupted normal activities was not a parade, nor a rally, it was a walk to one of the centers to ensure “we observed our democratic rights”.

“A cross-section of young people in district 10 has agreed with the youth league after we thought it was important because we have done it not just in District 10; we have done it in Districts 14, 7, 15, and 16, and now I am in Grand Cape Mount,” Johnson said.

He said the exercise is not just unique to district 10. “Regularly we move to and we encourage people to register so the young people and other executive members came to the party headquarters to receive me to take us to the center to register and we were told that the lawmaker, Yekeh Kolubah, had pre-arranged some violent people with machetes.”

While leading his men out, Johnson was stopped at Total Gas Station by the police and instructed to dissolve the group to avoid a clash with a rival group. But he disobeyed the police order.

He then accused the police of being irresponsible in that his group was stopped and later “bombarded” with teargas. He accused a senior police officer only known by his code number, 112, of being an anti-regime element.

“We never cared that we were focused on going to the center to register so we expected the police to behave in a very responsible role, in our minds. We thought the police were very irresponsible to deploy teargas on young people who went to exercise their democratic rights.

“There is an agent in the police that bears title ‘112’; that element is there to undermine the potency of the police and the police must be made to understand there is an agent in the police. We strongly condemn that behavior.”

“We don't consider Yekeh in that environment; we see him as a lawmaker as he is, so he was not the focus. The police were under the instructions of Yekeh Kolubah, specifically 102, was under the instruction of Yekeh Kolubah.” 

The lawmaker had earlier complained to the LNP about people he referred to as “agent provocateurs of the CDC”, who he said had attacked him with petrol bombs.

He said these agent provocateurs keep attacking him physically but the LNP is sitting idly by and allowing them to carry out mayhem against his person; but he will no longer sit by and allow thugs to attack him.

The LNP could not officially speak on the issue when contacted Sunday evening, but Police Spokesman, Moses Carter, told the Daily Observer that there will be a press conference today to address the constant Old Road unrest.