Emergence of country devil renews tension in Normor, Gbarpolu County, ahead of senatorial election
The Daily Observer has reliably learnt that the leading senatorial candidate in Gbarpolu, Madam Botoe Kanneh, has been kidnapped to an unknown location. The incident comes following reports on Monday, December 14, of the release of a ‘country devil’ in Normor Datando town, electoral district number three, Gbarpolu County, which has renewed electoral tensions ahead of the midterm senatorial election, scheduled for Tuesday, December 15, 2020.
As the result of electoral tension that started on December 8, when local authorities, of Normor seized ballot boxes, preventing people in the town from voting, the National Election (NEC) rescheduled the election in the town, while announcing results from other counties.
It is not yet clear why a ‘country devil’, a common traditional character amongst some tribes in Liberia, is being introduced by locals of Normor, particularly during this electoral process in that county. However, a source told the Daily Observer that, because the residents observed an influx of aliens ahead of the elections, including individuals from Sierra Leone bearing Liberian voter registration cards, that was why certain youth of the town seized the ballot boxes and placed them in the care of the Paramount Chief, McGill Wleh. Since then, reports say, NEC polling staff assigned to the area have not had access to the ballot boxes or the polling stations where they are supposed to work. Now that the country devil has been released into the town, it remains to be seen whether the election will hold or be further postponed.
Despite the purported law-enforcement purpose for which the ‘country devil’ has emerged, neither the town authorities, including the Paramount Chief Wleh and the National Police and Liberian Immigration offiers posted there, have informed Madam Kanneh and other opposition candidates about the what is really going on in the town.
‘Country Devil’ practice also known as the Poro and Sande society exists among nine tribes of the 15 tribal groups in Liberia.
Speaking to the Daily Observer via mobile telephone interview Monday afternoon before she was kidnapped, senatorial candidate Botoe Kanneh, who is currently in the lead among the nine candidates contesting the election in the county, complained that she and her supporters were forcefully removed from the Normor Datando, due to Country Devil activity.
She said that though the election is scheduled for Tuesday, December 15, she might likely not participate.
“I was run out of the place by the country devil. They told me to leave the area. I was informed that the devil was out to come and kill me,” she said.
She said that the incident occurred when she was in Normor Datando yesterday, talking with the local magistrate about electoral fraud.
Madam Kanneh said the election might not be free and fair because the local authorities have decided to put the country devil out during the conduct of the election.
It can recalled that on Sunday, December 13, 2020, there was a renewed electoral tension in Normor when two Candidates attempted to enter the town ahead of the Tuesday schedule. The CPP Candidate Sam K. Zinnah and Madam Kanneh, an Independent Candidate and their supporters were stopped by Liberia Immigration Services (LIS) officers from entering the town.
Supporters of both Zinnah and Kanneh were seen or heard demanding access to the town on grounds that the CDC candidate, Hon. Alfred G. Koiwood, had his team in Normor holding secret meetings while at the same time denying other candidates access to the town. One of the aggrieved supporters of Candidate Botoe Kanneh named several persons from the Camp of Hon. Koiwood that were already in Normor.
Nomor Datando is believed to have more than 2,000 registered voters which, Zinnah says, is crucial enough to potentially steal the election from Madam Kanneh, who is currently the leading candidate in the election with 4,722 votes. Zinnah has already pledged his support to help Kanneh finish the race.
“It happened in Normor, where the polling center is located. We were denied entrance yesterday because the security claimed that we were candidates. But I noticed that the decision was not right because they were allowing the candidate of the Congress for Democratic (CDC) entrance in to the town,” she told the Daily Observer.
According to her, she left Normor to stay in a nearby town as the result of the restriction from the state security.
“But we later learnt that the ballot box at the polling center in Normor was tampered with. The name of CDC candidate, from information gathered, has been marked on the ballot box,” she alleged, adding that where the ballot boxes are where is where the CDC candidate slept.
“Somebody told me that the election that is going on is no use to me because the election has been marked with the CDC candidate’s name,” she added.
She said that that the local magistrate was engaged about the situation and, while sitting, people said that you are sititing here and said that my brother was harrassed by the people.
We learnt that people were given money to stuff bollots. The ampont was about L$60,000.
Kanneh also said that her brother has been accused of stuffing bollots. “The first time the paramount chief seized the ballot boxes,” she said. “It is not possible for me, because that they are putting the devil to come out and the police are doing nothing about the situation.”
According to her brother is been held hostage by the police that he been holding on to election boxes.
She said that people will be putting the deveil out tomorrow while the election is being conducted.
When contacted, internal Affaitrs Minister, Varney Sirleaf confirmed that, indeed, traditional people were using the devil to intimidate the citizens, but it is something that is being put under control.
“It is unfortunate that local authorities can use Country Devil in an election but this is something that is been put under control.
He said that his office has spoken with the local authorities not to use the country devil to intimidate peaceful citizens during elections. The Internal Affairs Ministry, he noted, has condermed the action of the local authorities and called on them not to use the devil to keep people away from the election.
“We have even speken with the NEC that the devil activities will no longer be heard and that there is going to be a free and fair election conducted,” the Minister said.