On Mont. District #13 Weekend Fracas: CENTAL Wants Independent Investigation

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This supporter of Cornelia Krua-Togba alleged that he was beaten by CDCians during Saturday's melee

Police: ‘No one died in violent clash’

By David S. Menjor & Alvin Worzi

The Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL) has condemned the November 17, 2018 riot in Montserrado County, District #13, in which several persons were reported wounded, and called on the government to set up an independent body to investigate and prosecute all those responsible for the violence.

CENTAL is a civil society organization involved with advocacy for transparency and accountability in public and private sectors’ service in the country.

The Liberia National Police (LNP) in a release yesterday said that “no one died as a result of the violence in District #13 by-election campaign rallies on Saturday.” According to the LNP, “the situation left four persons, three males and one female injured. The injured victims were immediately rushed to the Kevin Clinic in Bassa Town, New Georgia and the John F. Kennedy Medical Hospital respectively for treatment after which they were discharged.”

It can be recalled that partisans of the former ruling Unity Party (UP) supporting the Representative bid of Mrs. Cornelia Kruah-Togba and partisans of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) in support of John Weah clashed during the close of their respective political campaigns.

In its press statement released yesterday, the civil society organization expressed deep concern over reports of the violence in the New Georgia neighborhood of District #13 and said the incident, among other things, should not be taken for granted.

“CENTAL frowns on such acts of violence, as they have the propensity to derail the peace we have enjoyed in the short while, as well as to undermine the gains made in enhancing democratic participation and sustainability in Liberia,” the press statement signed by the management, said.

The release added that the Liberia National Police (LNP) should take the lead in the investigation and should give serious attention to allegations linking Monrovia City Mayor, Jefferson T. Koijee to the fracas.

“And findings of such investigation must be timely published and all those implicated impartially prosecuted, in keeping with the law,” the press statement advised.

CENTAL urged all candidates, their supporters and others, directly or indirectly associated with the upcoming District #13 Elections, to remain civil, peaceful and tolerant as they engage the electoral process.

The grounds of the New Georgia road and Estate turned chaotic around 4 p.m. Saturday, November 17, 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 one allegedly killed.

The situation occurred while the two sides were simultaneously conducting their political rallies, anticipating the pending by-elections, scheduled for today, Tuesday, November 20. According to eyewitnesses, the situation became tense when Jefferson at the head of a group of men wielding machetes, according to eyewitness accounts, marched from Iron Factory to the New Georgia Housing Estate where a rally for Ms. Kruah was being held by her supporters. They allegedly  disrupted the program and physically assaulted Kruah’s supporters.

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 tipped 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 an independent candidate.

Several people however sustained injuries with one death(unconfirmed) 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, used pepper-spray on his opponents.

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 that: “Political Parties shall not carry and /or display arms and offensive weapons at political and related activities and gatherings; shall not engage, recruit or deploy any individual (s) for the purpose of violence, intimidation or harassment; 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 text messages to the Monrovia City Mayor Jefferson Koijee and Cornelia Kruah-Togba about whether either party officially informed the NEC about their campaign rally arrangements. Neither party has since responded to our inquiries.

However, Dunbar from NEC confirmed to this newspaper 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, Cornelia Kruah-Togba said her campaign team officially informed the NEC of their planned rally. But the NEC communications officer, Prince 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 has 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 machetes, 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 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 tripartite 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, among many others.”

Meanwhile, the LNP has launched an active investigation to ensure that perpetrators of such violence are made to face the full weight of the law. Members of the general public are urged to cooperate with the Police in ensuring that those who perpetrated such acts are penalized.

As residents of District 13 go to the polls on Tuesday, November, 20, 2018, voters are advised to comport themselves in an orderly and peaceful manner in order to avoid further violence, LNP said, promising to “deploy greater police presence in District #13 to ensure a peaceful conduct of elections.”

6 COMMENTS

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  2. The Minister of Defense should immediately send a digger over to that junction and around its environs to make certain that no more violence happens in election activities again in Liberia. Thou the soldier does not participate in politics, it is the duty of the army to prevent any such blood shed and use camp army intelligence in advance for all election activities in cooperation with civil securities before its ignition. The election commissions has the budget for that (protection). Has this pallet election Chairman pay yet? Give the army their part of that budget right now. Why did the Ministry of Defense not send its own intelligent officers to review civil security preparations knowing fully well that the CDC which had merger crisis with NPP also had records of violence with the corrupt UP, in active LP and reactionary ANC? All of these 4 political parties should face security questioning. We need not forget that it is not only the Presidential election that carries conflict. The Liberian election laws effect every campaign and anywhere in the Liberian nation election is about to or take place. All political parties should ensure the electoral peace process and immediately get to meeting to decide a peaceful dialogue to prevent such troublemakers, regardless which party you are from. The Liberian Army is concern with the peace and tranquility of every Liberian and the Nation as the whole.
    Merry X-mas. Where is my New Year? Do not answer me. Tell the whole Country.
    Gone to silent majority.

  3. The Elections Commissions should dispose the amount for election protection to the Minister of Defense or face the dismissed code. He should have kept in line with election safety to build the imaginary line between each party and each canvass time. Do not reply. See the people.
    Still in silence with registered majority.

  4. The Elections Commission Chairman should be replaced for negligence. Where is the election money for protection and peace? Answer the people. Not me.

  5. A wise person once said, “Those who seek power for personal aggrandizement will eventually run afoul (into conflict) with popular opinion.”

    Mayor Koijee (CDC Youth League Chair) and officials of this CDC government should realize that the 2017 general election (presidential election) is over! CDC won the presidential election. CDC is now entrusted with the mantle to run the affairs of this complex and complicated country called Liberia to the best of their abilities….with the help of God! They are responsible to maintain the peace at all cost.

    CDC officials were never entrusted with power to infringe on, or suppress the constitutional rights of their fellow Liberians who are lawfully seeking political office. Liberians fought too hard to break away from the crucibles (grips) of a one party state! In our democracy, everyone has the inalienable right to choose whichever political party to affiliate with.

    CDC government officials like Mayor Koijee (CDC Youth League Chair) and other CDC adjutants cannot continue to be in a state of perpetual political campaigns (sometimes violent) that have the propensity to impede the smooth running of this new government by creating chaos and confusion.

    These young CDC government officials and adjutants should realize they are now custodians of this new leadership. It should be their utmost responsibility to steer this poor economic nation in the right direction. History will always judge CDC Leadership on how they execute this enormous task of steering Liberia back on its right trajectory.

    Therefore, all perpetrators (on both sides) responsible for this violent clash between the various political parties should be held responsible for innocent lives purportedly lost and for those who sustained injuries during this melee. These violent acts are deterrents to attracting foreign investors coming to do business in Liberia. It also creates an atmosphere of instability in Liberia.

    Mayor Koijee and other CDC youthful militants cannot be political referees and players at the same time: they cannot make up their own rules and neglect the official campaign rules set by the National Election Commission (NEC) of Liberia which states:

    “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.”

    Most of these conflicts and brutalities could have been prevented by the high ranking CDC government officials who went to campaign on behalf of their candidate: they are in power. They have the advantage. They had security protection. They could have taken the higher road as leaders and changed venue!!!!!

    Why should CDC members violate NEC campaign rules by not informing NEC of their campaign venue? Why CDC candidate should schedule his campaign the same time and same venue as the opposition party did? Was this done intentionally to suppress the opposition from exercising her constitutional rights? If so, then, that was a recipe for disaster in a country where the poor people blindly follow their powerful leaders!

    If Liberians really want to succeed as a prosperous nation, then, we should stop this notion that Liberians who belong to a different political party or different philosophy are the enemies of this governing CDC party.

    Anger, hate, animosity, jealousy, bitterness, factionalism, sectionalism, conflicts, entrenched partisanship, and tribalism are rising exponentially in Liberia; while love for unity and love for our fellow Liberians are diminishing precipitously (sharply). These negative vices, if not put under control in Liberia, would definitely make it too difficult to summon our collective efforts as Liberians to wholeheartedly work together in rebuilding our torn nation.

    Remember Mayor Koijee and CDC Youth Militants, President Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “You do not lead by hitting people over the head. That’s assault, not leadership.”

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