Renewed Electoral Tension in Gbarpolu

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The Independent Candidate Botoe Kanneh and CPP candidate Sam K. Zinnah and a number of their supporters were stopped by Liberia Immigration Services (LIS) officers from entering the town of Normor Datando.

Normor Datando was a scene of renewed tension on Sunday December 13, 2020 when two Candidates attempted to enter Normor Datando ahead of the Tuesday schedule. The CPP Candidate Sam K. Zinnah and Independent Candidate Botoe Kanneh and number of their supporters were stopped by Liberia Immigration Services (LIS) officers from entering the town of Normor Datando.

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. He named some as Assistant Superintendent for Development, Joseph Akoi; former District # 3 Representative Gertrude T. Lamin; CDC Gbarpolu County campaign Chairlay Musu Kamara, commonly known as Pro-Poor queen; Jormandi Kamara and many others from the CDC camp.

Nomor Datando is believed to have approximately 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. Zinnah has already pledged his support to help Kanneh finish the race strong.

The supporters of Kanneh and Zinnah expressed disappointment in the LIS officers for their selective enforcement of the law and demanded that either every supporter of all camps leaves Normor or everyone be allowed to have access to the town.

In a telephone interview, Candidate Zinnah told the Daily Observer he arrived in the town around 11 p.m. on Saturday, December 12, and booked a room to lodge. The following morning, he was called out of his room by “a well-armed Immigration officer, who refused to identify himself.”

According to Zinnah, the immigration escorted him to the outskirts of the town, where he met fellow Candidate Kanneh, who had just arrived at the town that morning and was barred from entry. Zinnah says the two of them were held on the outskirts of the town by armed joint security, including PSU officers, for more than five hours. Their only option, he narrated, was to leave the town and lodge somewhere else.  Zinnah said he ended up having to retreat to Kongbor Town by motorbike, leaving his personal effects in the room he rented at Normor Datando, and has not had access to them since. Kongbor Town is a nine-hour walk from Normor Datando.

Some youth of Normor Datando town seized the ballot boxes on December 8, 2020 and took them to the home of Clan Chief McGill Wleh

The CPP candidate blamed the action of the joint security or LIS officers on the instruction of the CDC government. He alleged that the officers were taking direct instructions from higher ups in the CDC-led government, denying opposition and independent candidates access to the town. He saw this as intimidation tactics by the Koiwood team to disadvantage the other candidates.

A spokesperson for the Liberia Immigration Service (LIS) told the Daily Observer that, while he confirmed the presence of LIS officers in the area, he could not reach any of them for their response to the allegations because they were out of mobile phone coverage.

On December 8, 2020, four ballot boxes were snatched away by angry citizens of Normor Datando town in Kongba District, Gbarpolu County. The action of the citizens was as a result of allegation of heavy influx of Sierra Leoneans from across the border, which is just an hour and a half walking distance.

According to eye witnesses on the scene, some youths were seen with the transparent ballot boxes, moving in an angry mood toward the Paramount Chief McGill Wleh’s house. They placed the ballot boxes in the custody of the paramount chief McGill Wleh, who many believed was instructed by some higher ups in the ruling CDC government. The seizure and confiscation of the four ballot boxes resulted to the closure of the polling precinct until the end of the day. The National Elections Commission (NEC) recently rescheduled the election in Normor Datando to take place on Tuesday December 15, 2020 but with the presence of heavy joint security officers. Some Senatorial candidates in the Gbarpolu County race bagan trooping into Kongba ahead of the December 15, 2020 scheduled polling.

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