The grounds of the New Georgia road and Estate were a scene of chaos around 4 p.m. yesterday when partisans of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), headed by its Youth League chair Jefferson Koijee and partisans of the opposition alliance comprising Unity Party (UP), Liberty Party (LP) and the Alternative National Congress (ANC) clashed, leaving several injured and at least two reported dead.
The situation occurred while the two sides were simultaneously conducting their political rallies, anticipating the pending by-election, scheduled for Tuesday November 20, 2018. According to eyewitnesses, the situation became tense, which led to opposing sides throwing stones and physical attacks.
The CDC was campaigning for its candidate John J. Weah, while UP, LP and ANC jointly campaigned for their endorsed candidate, Cornelia Kruah-Togba. The two candidates are among the four leading candidates that are likely to win the by-election in District #13, Montserrado County. Another candidate, Edward Flomo, also considered a staunch member of the CDC, is contesting as in independent candidate.
Several people however sustained injuries with two deaths reported so far. One of the injured persons told the Daily Observer that Koijee, who is also the current Mayor of Monrovia, along with his militants was also using pepper-spray.
While these figures are yet to be confirmed, both sides have made scathing accusations against each other, with social media rife with multiple versions of what happened. This situation led to the deployment of officers of the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) within the New Georgia area.
In a statement issued on Sunday, November 18, 2018 under the signature of acting communications director, Prince Dunbar, NEC cautioned all political parties and their supporters to conduct their political activities in a peaceful manner within the confines of the Constitution, the electoral laws, regulations and guidelines to ensure that the political campaign period ends peacefully.
The National Elections Commission (NEC) has well-established guidelines on the expected conduct of political campaigns and rallies.
Among these guidelines, NEC states:
- Political Parties shall not carry and /or display arms and offensive weapons at political and related activities and gatherings;
- Political Parties shall not engage, recruit or deploy any individual (s) for the purpose of violence, intimidation or harassment.
- Political Parties shall, in good faith coordinate their campaign activities in such a way that no two Political Parties shall hold public meetings or rallies at the same venue and/or locality on the same day, if such meetings or rallies are likely to be at venues so close to each other that a possibility of conflict arises.
- Where dates, venues and timing for any of the above activities conflict, representatives of the affected Political Parties shall, in collaboration with the local authorities, meet in a cordial manner to resolve issues without resorting to violence.
The Daily Observer sent messages to the CDC youth chairman Jefferson Koijee and Cornelia Kruah-Togba about whether either party officially informed the NEC about their campaign rally arrangements. Neither party responded to our inquires.
However Dunbar from NEC confirmed to the Observer that each candidate (or their campaign team) was supposed to submit to the NEC their plan of action including date and venue of their rally. However, according to him, “no one officially informed the NEC” about their rally plans for Saturday, Nov. 17.
In her personal statement posted via a Facebook Live video, however, Krua-Togba said her campaign team officially informed NEC of their planned rally. Dunbar said he could not confirm this and said the pending investigation would bring to light the real facts.
According to the NEC statement, the Commission is collaborating with State Security to ascertain full details about the violence in the Gardnesville area in district # 13, Montserrado County.
The NEC strongly warned all political parties and their supporters that it will not hesitate to take action in keeping with the laws of Liberia to punish any political party or political supporter engaging in acts of violence during the conduct of the By-Election in district #13.
Candidate Cornelia Kruah-Togba in a statement issued after the clash said they gathered peacefully to climax her campaign for the upcoming by-election, but met their unfortunate attack by CDC, thereby leaving some of her campaigners injured.
“We were also cognizant of the possibility of other candidates climaxing their campaigns and, as per NEC’s permission, we agreed to use different fields in the District to assemble. Sadly, it turned to a bloodbath where many of my supporters were brutally wounded with matchetes, stones, sticks and other weapons and pepper-sprayed by supporters of the ruling party, the CDC,” Mrs. Kruah-Togba said.
According to candidate Kruah-Togba, the CDC group was led by its youth chair, Mr. Koijee. She said the CDC supporters left their assembly point in Iron Factory and marched into New Georgia.
Mrs. Kruah-Togba said she, along with the Liberty Party’s Political Leader, Senator Nyonblee Karnga Lawrence, had to be whisked to safety immediately following the attack, describing it as is a violation of their constitutional rights and the elections laws.
“This is worrisome because it is proving now that the elections will most likely be rigged by the ruling party (CDC) in favor of its candidate as they now seem intent on violently taking over the leadership of our District. The attack on us today is a clear case of electoral violence meant to intimidate and instill fear in our supporters,” she said.
Mrs. Kruah-Togba said “My heart goes out to those who were wounded and hurt by this brutality and assault. We are highly disappointed by today’s events. I saw firsthand the brutality against peaceful citizens and partisans of the trapartite opposition alliance led by officials of government and senior members of the ruling party.”
“My life and that of my family as well as the lives of members of my campaign team and supporters are at risk,” she said. “I have left my home tonight and relocated to a safe location due to the attacks on my life and threats of burning my house tonight. I am also very deeply saddened by reports of the death of two of our supporters who were stabbed today, amongst many others.”
She further called on the government of Liberia to launch an immediate investigation into these reports and ensure that the perpetrators are brought to book.
“We cannot reverse the gains we have made as a nation and fall back into the abyss of lawlessness and violence. To my supporters, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your immense show of support today and throughout this process,” Mrs. Kruah-Togba said.
Mulbah K. Morlu, chairman of the ruling party, Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) on his social media page under the title: Cornelia Kruah-Togbah, “The lying face of UP’s failed campaign in D-13!” Said Unity Party’s candidate in D-13, apparently the least in the race, is all over the place crying ‘Wolf, wolf’; she’s a dangerous liar & blackmailer.
Chairman Morlu said “And, frankly It’s shameful that she’ll stoop this low & lie 100% about everything in a recorded video, shedding fake tears, crocodile tears.
“The CDC rejects these cheap lies & can think of no other reason for their peddling, except that the UP weakling is striving to construct a self-consolation narrative after her defeat on Tuesday. We clarify that her assertions against the CDC & its officials are all false & misleading; the Chairman of the Youth League, Mr. Koijee, did not brutalize anyone, nor was he wielding a machete as falsely claimed by this UP agent-provocateur, disguised as a party candidate,” Morlu said.
Chairman Morlu said Mayor Koijee’s great leadership shown in the district upheld the rule of law; amongst other things, restraining partisans from retaliating when several CDCeans were violently attacked with knives in different locations by thugs dressed in UP T-Shirts.