.... At the heart of this unsettling spectacle lies a deep-rooted problem: the blurring of lines between political rivalry and responsible citizenship. While political competition is intrinsic to a functioning democracy, it must be conducted with a sense of ethical responsibility and respect for the values that underpin a harmonious society.
A few days ago at a media gathering, the Information Minister, Ledgerhood Julius Ronnie, called the Daily Observer managing director aside to alert him ahead of a pending rejoinder from the Government to a recent editorial in which the newspaper cited numerous acts of violence and scare tactics meted against members of the political opposition, by professed ruling party loyalists.
Introducing his concerns, the Minister tried to explain that investigations into the alleged attacks against opposition politicians by alleged ruling party loyalists were inconclusive because the alleged victims or witnesses from the alleged incidents refused to give statements to law enforcement as part of the investigations.
From his tone of voice and body language, the Minister seemed very convinced that the Daily Observer had been unfair to the ruling party in its assessments.
The Observer managing director welcomed the Minister’s comments and assured him that the rejoinder would be published when received. We are still waiting for it.
However, barely 48 hours following that conversation, social media was flooded with images of supporters of the ruling party, the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), toting a casket covered with photos of Unity Party (UP) standard bearer and former Vice President of Liberia, Joseph N. Boakai. What’s even more despicable is that the group was allowed to enter the premises of the CDC headquarters with the casket.
The imagery shocked many Liberians, including some who professed allegiance to the ruling party. Some called it a display of profound disrespect and moral bankruptcy.
Even Bomi County Senator Edwin M. Snowe, a very good friend of the CDC standard bearer and President of Liberia, George Manneh Weah, released a statement condemning those who created and executed such a morbid scene.
We also take note of the statement released by the Weah-Taylor 2023 Campaign Committee, signed by its chairman Lenn Eugene Nagbe, “[deploring] the action of some of its over-exuberant supporters…” The statement from the CDC campaign committee denouncing the act spoke on behalf of the committee itself, as a technical group responsible for all messaging, to show that they do not approve of the casket act within the context of the party’s campaign.
Such actions do not only merely reflect poorly on the mindset of the President’s supporters as the blatant use of a casket, which is a symbol of mourning and grief, casts a shadow over the nation’s collective character.
Yet, from the massive outrage on social media against the ruling party and those who carried out the act, it is clear that this was a transgression that transcended party or political affiliations. Liberians of all walks of life were truly offended by this.
While the government has yet to issue an official statement denouncing the act, there are reports that the President expressed his disapproval of the act in a church service the following day.
That being said, at the heart of this unsettling spectacle lies a deep-rooted problem: the blurring of lines between political rivalry and responsible citizenship. While political competition is intrinsic to a functioning democracy, it must be conducted with a sense of ethical responsibility and respect for the values that underpin a harmonious society.
Can Information Minister Rennie defend the President’s official silence to yet another act of aggression (not necessarily physical) against an opposition politician? This reflects badly not only on the ruling party, but on the Weah administration itself. Here, we see yet another episode in a trend of similar and often more violent acts against opposition politicians over the past five years. And every time these things happen — with the evidence live-streamed on social media — the police claim that they have no witnesses to aid in the investigation.
Given the poor public perception of and trust in the Liberia National Police (LNP) and its dismal record of solved murders, who wants to risk being the subject of reprisal attacks for going on record as a witness to political violence? Until the police can guarantee the safety of witnesses, there will likely be none to aid investigations.
Liberia, like any diverse society, relies on a sense of shared purpose and identity to overcome challenges and progress as a nation. The August 5 incident risks deepening divisions along political lines and exacerbating tensions that hinder collective efforts when the sanctity of public office demands a certain level of decorum and responsibility.
The presidency in particular holds a position of immense influence and authority, representing the aspirations and dreams of an entire nation. This is why the incident raises questions about the President's role in promoting responsible behavior among his supporters and Liberians at large.
President Weah must, therefore, take responsibility for the actions of his supporters, as they reflect directly on his leadership and the values he represents. As a head of state, George Weah is President for all Liberians, not just the Coalition for Democratic Change. It is incumbent upon him to take concrete steps to ensure that such actions are not repeated in the future while fostering an environment of respect and unity.
Any failure to do so would signals a tacit endorsement of such conduct, which is a calculated and deliberate attempt to dehumanize, and delegitimize a political opponent. It is also undermines the essence of the democratic process, which thrives on the exchange of ideas, open discourse, and the peaceful coexistence of differing viewpoints.
Democracy is a system that demands respect for all, regardless of ideological differences. While it is natural for political opponents to engage in robust debates and ‘exuberant’ disagreements, crossing the line as it happened on August 5, creates a toxic atmosphere that stifles genuine conversation and impedes progress.
It shifts the focus away from substantive issues and instead directs attention towards petty theatrics that serve no constructive purpose.