Elections-related violence in Liberia escalated to its most vicious level yet, with reports of arson and shooting at the home of Grand Cape Mount County District #1 Representative, Bob Sheriff, while the convoy of Simeon Boima Taylor, the senatorial candidate of the Collaborating Political Parties in Grand Cape Mount County, was set ablaze the over the weekend.
“On the evening hours of December 5, 2020, the CPP candidate in Grand Cape Mount County, Mr. Simeon Boima Taylor along with members of the campaign team, including Hon. Bob Sheriff, were viciously attacked by supporters of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) in Bambala Town, Porkpa District,” the CPP said in a statement released on Sunday, December 6. “The CDC thugs set ablaze two vehicles belonging to the CPP campaign team, the home of Hon. Bob Sheriff and damaged other properties of CPP supporters. The unprovoked attack, which was planned by CDC executives in the county, was carried out in the full view of state security. Mr. Simeon Taylor and team ran to the bushes for safety of their lives from where they arrived in Monrovia at 4:45 a.m. this morning. Getting Simeon and Team to safety was of utmost concern to the CPP.”
According to Frontpage Africa, which originally reported the story, Mr. Taylor was out investigating reports of Sierra Leoneans crossing over into Liberia via Grand Cape Mount County to vote. A confrontation ensued, and Mr. Taylor’s vehicles were set ablaze. According to the report, Rep. Sheriff, who tried to intervene in the confrontation was attacked by shots fired on his home in the County and the place was ransacked and also set ablaze.
The CPP, in a statement, said it “has remained very calm and peaceful throughout the conduct of this campaign despite series of provocations from the CDC. We continue to respect the laws while the CDC is continuously violating every laws with the intent of degenerating the country back into conflict.
The opposition bloc described the attacks as “unprovoked”, which it has condemned “in strongest terms,” and issued a demand to authorities “to bring to justice those responsible for such horrible attack.”
Since 2018, reports of elections-related violence against candidates from the political opposition have been gaining frequency. In September 2018, two female politicians Montserrado County District #13 aspirant Cornelia Kruah Togba and Grand Bassa County Senator Nyonblee Karnga Lawrence, were almost mobbed during Kruah’s campaign. Both women said they were whisked to safety by individuals who they claim saved their lives.
In 2019, during another by-election, Montserrado County District #17 aspirant Telia Urey was attacked in Logan Town. Her vehicle was vandalized and the building in which she sought refuge was threatened to be set ablaze with her in it. In that instance, police riot officers who were on the scene in gear were caught on video filming for themselves the attack on Ms. Urey, with absolutely intention to move in an stop the attack.
Both instances of attacks against the three female politicians were reported to authorities and, so far, there has not been any resolution to the investigations. However, a dossier from the Minsitry of Justice, viewed by the Daily Observer, suggests that while the official complaints of said electoral violence were filed, the women themselves had yet to show up in person to commence the investigations.
A third incident took place in the City of Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County, where CPP chairman Alexander B. Cummings and Montserrado County District #10 Represenative, Yekeh Kolubah, were attacked by an angry mob outside of their hotel with stone-throwing. The mob claimed that the attack, especially directed against Kolubah, was due to his verbal attacks against President George Manneh Weah.
A senior official of the Weah Administration, Eugene Fahngon, is on record via social media post for endorsing the attack on the two men. This official was suspended in May 2019 by President Weah for his “irresponsible speech”, reportedly based on pressure from the United States Embassy, which at the time opined had the propensity to spark violence. The Embassy also called out Rep. Kolubah and Nimba County Senator Prince Y. Johnson for inciting “unlawful acts through ill-considered rhetoric that could jeopardize Liberia’s hard-won peace and security.”
President Weah reinstated Fahngon on June 7 that year.
“The CPP continues to avoid engaging into confrontations not because we are weak, but because we hold dearly the peace we all enjoy and are doing everything to ensure that that peace is preserved despite incessant provocations from the CDC and their hooligans,” the CPP statement, signed by its spokesman, Mo Ali, said.
“The CPP would like to draw the attention of Liberia’s international partners, who spent billions of dollars and shed blood to restore peace to our country, to these state sponsored attacks. We like to remind the government that Liberia’s descent into 14 years of brutal uncivil conflicts was because of these same vices that they are now perpetrating against the opposition and peaceful citizens. At some point in time, the people will rise up to protect themselves since the state has now resulted to hooliganism and thuggish behavior.”
According to a statement released by the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism, President George M. Weah has strongly condemned the “reported act of political violence… in Porkpar District, Grand Cape Mount County” and “said the government will not condone such violent action by any group of citizens and political party.”
The statement expresses President Weah’s emphasis of elections being about the exercise of people’s democratic rights, void of any kind of violence and his call on all political parties and their leaders to encourage their respective partisans and supporters to conduct themselves in a peaceful manner. The statement also warns that the Government “will not hesitate in bringing to book any group of individuals who engages in acts of violence during and after the upcoming elections.”
“There is no need for violence at a time when our country heads to a crucial election period which would solidify our democratic credentials,” the President said.
Meanwhile, a joint statement from diplomatic missions near Monrovia have added their voice to the condemnation of the violence in Grand Cape Mount County but stressed that, “there must be a full investigation of [all] incidences of violence, including yesterday’s, and all those found responsible must be held accountable. Law enforcement agencies must be granted sufficient resources to carry out their work, including the provision of security to political candidates and polling sites.”
“The diplomatic statement continues: “We have invested heavily and worked strenuously alongside Liberians from all political parties and all walks of life to promote peace, security, and democratic institutions in this country. We deplore the incidence of violence in Grand Cape Mount yesterday, including the burning of cars and looting and burning of a house, and are certain that the vast majority of Liberians would wish to disassociate themselves from such acts.
“In this regard, we fully support the statement this morning by President George Manneh Weah condemning the violence and calling for political partisans and their leaders to conduct themselves peacefully.
“We recall commitments stakeholders made in the Code of Conduct to ensure a peaceful and transparent electoral process. We call on all parties to renounce the use of provocative language and dissemination of misinformation and falsehoods that only promote political tensions, divisiveness, and violence and risk the progress Liberia has continuously demonstrated since 2005.
“We further call on political leaders and electoral candidates to pursue any disputes through peaceful means and dialogue, in accordance with the law. International partners are following closely Liberia’s adherence to the rule of law and its advancement of peace and democracy. We look forward to witnessing the voting process on December 8, and support Liberian civil society observation and monitoring initiatives as well. We remain confident in the strong commitment of the Liberian people to peace, stability, and development and continue dedicating our support to advance these essential goals,” the joint diplomatic statement said. The statement was signed by the United Nations in Liberia, ECOWAS, the EU Delegation and the Embassies of the EU Member States (France, Germany, Ireland, and Sweden), the Embassy of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the Embassy of the United States of America.