-Senators say of Nov. 17 election violence
River Gee County Senator Conmany B. Wesseh has described as “very grave” the Saturday, November 17, election campaign violence involving supporters of opposition candidate and members of the ruling party ahead of the November 20 by-election in District #13, Montserrado County.
Wesseh warned that as small as people may consider the Saturday incident, “it is the beginning of bigger things to come; so there is a need for comprehensive inquiry, because this is how major political violence is groomed, and the history of Liberia relating to many cases of violence that followed elections; the violence that led to the war that took away the lives of over 250,000… all followed elections and electoral violence. Therefore, we need to keep this in mind.”
Sen. Wesseh’s statement was in reaction to a communication from Grand Bassa County Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, requesting inquiry into the Saturday fracas in which she claimed to have been held hostage by supporters of the ruling party for about two hours.
“In this particular case, I think the revulsion of every Liberian is that what happened should have never happened. They are not interested in what party was involved; we are interested in the fact that they wasted human blood and those people did not cut themselves. Whoever did it, even if the people cut themselves, we want to investigate so that during elections rallies, others who want to cut themselves will not go there,” Sen. Wesseh declared. He called on his colleagues to condemn the action and set up an independent investigation board to probe the report.
He further reminded his colleagues that elections violence have been catalytic, and has challenged them to help demonstrate and ensure that the relative peace enjoyed in the country for the last 15 years will be consolidated.
“Absolutely, no one at all has the right to disturb that peace. As representatives of our people, I think we will stand upfront and say that is the road we are taking; investigate to look into the fact, and those who will be responsible will be given appropriate punishment in accordance with the law,” Sen. Wesseh said.
Other speakers, including Senator Varney Sherman, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, recalled that upon receiving the information and shortly after viewing the video footage of the November 17 incident, he immediately suggested to his colleagues to set up a commission of inquiry.
“I believe that were this matter to go to the committees that I have proposed, we will come out with a proposition as how to proceed,” Sherman said. “Because I also believe that if we were to set up a committee of inquiry we must give the members a strong power of compulsory process, so that when they call on you, whether you are a Jefferson Koijee or any other person, you will be compelled to appear before them, instead of sitting here debating the issue based on hearsay,” Sen. Varney said.
In her communication to plenary, dated November 20, Sen. Lawrence noted that as political leader of the Liberty Party and in the spirit of opposition collaboration, on Saturday she went to the New Georgia Estate to support the campaign rally of Unity Party candidate Cornella Krauh-Togba.
She added, “While parading from the New Georgia Estate to the program venue, I received a telephone call informing me that a group of uniformed men, headed by Jefferson T. Koijee, were approaching our direction. The group immediately appeared, and the residents who had lined up on both sides of the road to watch the parade started booing,” Sen. Lawrence narrated.
When partisans in the parade identified Koijee and pointed to the group, Sen. Lawrence said his people resorted to throwing stones.
“In response to that, Koijee’s group pulled cutlasses and brutalized supporters of Cornelia Krauh-Togba; they surrounded my vehicle, but fortunately, residents of the community came to my rescue, and took me to a secure location…and as a result of the pandemonium and mayhem, we had to use the back road to escape the scene,” she said.
“Pro Temp and distinguished colleagues, I wish to request an inquiry into this matter, as the action has the propensity to undermine the peace and stability of the country; it also questions the neutrality and trustworthiness of the security sector. Moreover, it is also a disruption of the electoral process, which could undermine the credibility of the result. The presence of the City Mayor (Monrovia) at a campaign rally violates the country’s Code of Conduct,” Sen. Lawrence’s communication said.
The issue has meanwhile been sent to the committees on Judiciary, Defense and Autonomous Commission and Agencies.