Many Liberians now fear the worst in the fight against Ebola in the wake of what they saw as a blatant violation of preventive measures by Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) partisans who rallied in the thousands in Monrovia last Friday for their Senatorial candidate George Manneh Weah.
Throngs of CDC partisans brought the capital and its suburbs to a complete standstill as they converged from all parts of greater Monrovia on foot or jam packed in vehicles to get to their party headquarters in Congo Town.
The scene of masses of CDCians surging together along several streets of Monrovia and moving en masse to their destination left observers in total bewilderment as to who could be responsible for this outright defiance of Ebola prevention measures just when Liberia is gaining the upper hand against the deadly virus which has killed thousands in the past nine months.
The marchers in their euphoria appeared unperturbed by any Ebola risk as they paraded or rode shoulder to shoulder, singing party songs and others chanting obscene slogans about one of Weah’s challengers.
It appears that elections decision makers have of late thought it expedient to prioritize people’s political aspirations under the guise of fulfilling constitutional provisions and desert the Ebola battlefield even if for a brief period that could turn out to be a costly gamble.
Inspite of the still volatilehealth crisis facing the country, the government of Liberia, through the National Elections Commission (NEC), decided to conduct, with all the trappings, the special senatorial elections which, according to the Constitution should have been held in October but had been rescheduled for December 16, 2014.
The NEC’s decision was against the objections of many Liberians both at home and in the diaspora and some eminent non-citizens who thought that the country should keep its focus on the fight against the still lethal epidemic. NEC, declaring that it had the consensus of all major stakeholders, political parties and their candidates, subsequently announced that campaign activities would begin last Thursday November 20. The campaign exercises have since begun, though with huge public objection.
Ebola is transmitted through physical contact with an infected person or getting contaminated with body fluids from a victim.
The threats that the electoral process, especially the campaign, pose to the fight against the deadly EVD was clearly exhibited last Friday when CDC,the largest opposition party, headed by football icon Weah, who is also the party’s senatorial candidate for Montserrado County, launched its campaign.
CDC took advantage of this “loop-hole” again to show its political strength numerically. Monrovia was indeed a scene of complete craziness on Friday with huge and uncontrollable crowds everywhere dancing and chanting party slogans with sweat – one of the means of Ebola transmission – streaming down their bodies.
At the party headquarters where a general rally was being held, there was again, massive and intense physical contact, as thousands of partisans rubbed against one another, dancing and shouting slogans and even profane language.
The massive crowd which marched to the CDC from all parts of greater Monrovia including Red-Light, Duala, New Kru Town and West Point, found themselves having to get back home most of them on foot. Traffic was blocked everywhere for hours throughout the day and well into the night, and some people driving homeward from central Monrovia through Sinkor late afternoon took over four hours before passing the CDC Congo Town headquarters. Some CDCians trekking home on foot taunted those stuck in traffic. “Yor will sleep in yor cars tonight,” they shouted.
Many people who observed the CDC rally, including some CDCians, were bewildered, asking whether Liberians have already forgotten about the Ebola virus.
One by-stander said: “The adherence to the Ebola preventive measures is being practically violated here. This is happening all because someone wants power and this seems selfish to me because I don’t know why I would endanger the lives of the people I say I love all because I want political power.”
He then asked this rhetorical question, “If the people get infected with the Ebola virus and God forbid, they die, how they will vote for you? This situation is really puzzling me because I just can’t comprehend what is happening here. We Liberians are very quick to forget.
“We were all crying just yesterday, calling on the international community to come and help us. They came and by the grace of God things started improving, but look here my brother.Do we really care for our lives?”
A health practitioner, George Gontee, 34, said “This political rally we are seeing here is ignoring all the preventive measures that the health experts have told us to follow in this fight against Ebola in the country. With what I see here today, if we are not careful there will be an upsurge in cases again in the next few months. There is no need for this at all in this country.”
Mr. Gontee noted that the international community is sitting and looking at what Liberians are doing. “I don’t know whether when we have a resurgence in cases we will be calling on the international community again? This for me is complete stupidity.”
Another, who considers himself a concerned Liberian, William Sumo, said “the success we have had in this Ebola fight now appears to be a different story as Liberians blatantly disregard all in the name of fulfilling constitutional provisions and adhering to democratic tenets. In my personal opinion, the lives of the Liberian people are now at a greater risk with this rally today.”
Mr. Sumo continued, “What can we learn from our neighbors? Look at what is happening in Guinea and Sierra Leone. From the initial stage, they were saying that they were having a reduction in cases, but look at what has been happening in recent weeks. Those two countries have had a resurgence of Ebola while we have been seeing a reduction. But what I’m seeing here today, I’m afraid for the worst.
Meanwhile, the fear and hopelessness that gripped Liberians during the height of the Ebola crisis when the virus claimed several thousand lives, is seen to be dissipating (going away) with reports of a significant reduction in infections.
Inspite of this, many health experts have warned against complacency, admonishing that people continue to obey the preventive measures that have yielded the huge success in beating back the virus. But this significant success in the battle against the deadly virus may have been dealt a major blowif this new trend of political eventsas that staged by the CDC last Friday continues.