A week following the violent attack against peaceful protesters in front of the American Embassy in Monrovia on July 26, the Liberia National Police arrested seven persons in connection with the incident.
The individuals are members of the CDC- COP, a hardline auxiliary of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change.
They are being held for organizing a counter-protest that led to a “violent assault” against Christopher Walter Sisulu Sivili, a student protester who was beaten and tortured by the CDC-COP members. The assault was live streamed on Facebook.
The police action came just a day after President George Weah had ordered the Ministry of Justice and the entire national security apparatus to “immediately arrest all those involved in the violent incident on July 26, and ensure that they face the full weight of the law.”
However, the arrest was made seven days after the incident had happened despite video evidence showing that the violence was carried out by the CDC-COP, who had marched in counter-protest against their victim and his group — parading with a banner depicting a portrait of Weah and singing the slogan, “Weah is Fixing the State”.
Sivili, a student of the University of Liberia had joined his colleagues from the Student Unification Party (SUP) to protest alleged “bad governance” and its vices under the administration of President George Weah in front of the US Embassy in Monrovia before the unfortunate incident by CDC-COP happened.
Sivili was one of the unfortunate protesters who were unable to escape the brutality of the COP-CDC and when apprehended, he was pummeled with severe punches and slaps, as well as stripped nude while blood poured from his face.
The police Spokesman, Moses Carter, had earlier informed the nation that they were finding it difficult to launch a thorough investigation in the absence of a formal complaint by either party — SUP or CDC-COP — a strange reason that led to an accusation that the police was being sympathetic towards the counter-protesters action since they are members of the ruling party.
“In every case of such, you just have to have a complainant. So, either of the sides – whether the students or CDC-COP. We heard that injuries were on both sides,” Carter said then in defense of the police action to not arrest or investigate the July 26 violence.
“The side of the SUP and that of the CDC-COP. So, whatever the case is, we are urging them to avail themselves; especially the victims or any of the parties in question can avail themselves to us. So that we can extract statements from them and be able to identify the perpetrators,” Carter said.
Carter's accusation was made before Weah’s mandate — which has now led to the arrest of the CDC-COP executive members without any complaint being filed by the victim or his group.
Those arrested were Kendrick S. Pelenah, 30, Joshua S. Karr, 28, Pukar Roberts, 36, Ben B. Togba h, 25, Foday N. Massaquoi, 23, Aaron K. Chea, 26, and Abdurahman Barrie — all of whom are top-level members of the CDC-COP.
“The Police have also launched a manhunt for the remaining individuals and will shortly solicit the assistance of the public by releasing the names and photographs of the wanted persons,” LNP said in a statement.
Earlier, diplomatic missions in Liberia including the United Nations, the European Union, and the embassies of the UK and the USA denounced the July 26 violence — and joined the public calling perpetrators and instigators of the political violence to be “brought to justice.”
In a joint statement, they called for a prompt and thorough investigation by the police, at the same time, welcoming the swift condemnation by political, governmental, and civil society actors of the violent acts which occurred, and “we encourage all political leaders to act firmly in preventing and eliminating political intolerance and violence."
“Liberia has a record of free, fair, and transparent elections over the last two decades, making this country an example of stability and democracy in the region. Violence is not the right way to resolve disputes. Political differences should be resolved by dialogue.”
“We, therefore, encourage all actors to act responsibly and embrace the principles of tolerance, democracy, and constitutionalism for an inclusive, transparent, and peaceful election process in Liberia 2022-2023, “ the statement said.
The President while denouncing the violence on August 1, which was intended to calm tension, veered away from the passive condemnations from his party and the Minister of information by striking a conciliatory tone, as he questioned the rationale of those who support him but yet engage in violence when he is supposed to be a man of peace.
Violence, Weah said, is unacceptable; as such, he had stressed in all his public engagements the need to maintain the hard-earned peace that the country now enjoys.
“This is a cause for which I have lent personal sacrifice — as an ambassador of peace. You cannot support a man of peace by being violent,” Weah said. “I also want to stress, as the founding father of the Congress for Democratic Change, now [part of] the Coalition for Democratic Change, that we do not have any CDC-COP within our organization. When you come to join us, you become a CDC partisan of peace, democracy, and development.”
However, Weah’s denial of the CDC-COP’s existence is surprising, given the fact that the group has been known to the party for two years. The CDC-COP joined the ruling party in September 2020 and was welcomed by the party’s chairman, Molubah Morlu.
Since then, the group, led by its chairman, Ben Belive Togba, has had party support and has returned that favor by actively supporting the President's agenda and replying to his critics. As a result, the President’s decision to disown the group has been described by his critics as a total smoke screen designed to “portray him as a man of peace, which is not true.”
Meanwhile, police have informed the public that it is still conducting a professional standards probe of its officers that were in charge of security for the July 26 celebration.