The Daily Observer enjoins issue with the President of the Liberia National Bar Association in condemning Police Inspector-General Patrick Sudue’s latent threats on the use of excessive force to counter popular street protests during the mid-term senatorial elections scheduled for December 8, 2020.
The Daily Observer is cautioning the Inspector-General to tread carefully given the rise in tension arising from the NEC’s shoddy handling of the Voters Roll Update (VRU) process which has been characterized by violence.
More to that there are several instances of members of opposition parties being violently attacked by thuggish individuals widely believed to be members of the CDC with the police standing by and not intervening to stop the attacks.
The most recent example of such violence was the violent attack and physical invasion of the home of Representative Yekeh Kolubah in the Old Road community by thuggish elements and again with the Police standing in plain view but yet doing nothing to stop the attacks.
In a strange twist of events and gross miscarriage of justice, the Police, instead of apprehending the culprits, some of who are reportedly Police officers, they have instead levied charges against the Representative.
In view of this, statements by Police Inspector threatening the use of excessive force to counter street protests cannot be taken lightly because the Police, under the leadership of Patrick Sudue, has unwaveringly displayed partisan bias actively protecting and shielding perpetrators of political violence. And there is sufficient documented evidence of several instances that have been making rounds on social media.
Additionally, just about anyone, except for the IG perhaps, can see and feel the tension in the air. There are many issues about which the Liberian people feel genuinely aggrieved. One such issue is corruption, official state corruption, which is sapping the lifeblood of the nation with devastating consequences on the living standards of the ordinary man and woman.
For them, elections are a way of expressing their grievances because it affords them opportunities to change the leadership for one believed to be most responsive and sympathetic to their interests — be they economic social, religious or political.
And because national stability hinges on elections, it becomes imperative that those elections be conducted in conformity with the highest standards of transparency and integrity. It goes without saying, therefore, that the body overseeing elections (NEC) be composed of individuals of proven integrity to inspire trust in the electoral process.
To the contrary, the NEC Board of Commissioners counts within its ranks/membership individuals who have integrity issues. One such Commissioner is Floyd Sayor, who was found guilty of manipulating vote count results of the Montserrado County District 15 Representative elections which pitted independent candidate Telia Urey against CDC candidate Abu Kamara.
Additionally, the Voters Registration Update (VRU) process has been fraudulently handled with several instances of multiple registrations, voter trucking which in some instances have been violently resisted by locals, and other irregularities. On top of all this is the messy and compromised Voters Roll/Registry. Its clean-up was mandated by the Supreme Court in 2017 before the conduct of the runoff elections but was never done.
Given its crucial relevance to the successful and transparent conduct of the Poll, the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) took the case to the Supreme Court with an application for a Writ of Mandamus to compel its clean-up by NEC prior to the conduct of the Poll. The Writ was filed before Justice-in-Chambers, Sie-Nyene Yuoh.
Suggestions that the Court will deny the application for the Writ of Mandamus are fueling speculations that violence in the December 8 elections appears imminent, should the VR remain as is. This is simply because the confusion likely to arise from a compromised VR could lead to mass street protests.
And given Police IG Sudue’s threats of excessive force a showdown between opposition elements bent on expressing their displeasure and the Police and CDC elements on the other side determined to quash the protests and send its participants fleeing in all directions. A similar scenario occurred in the early morning hours of April 14, 1979.
The Liberia National Police, under strict orders to prevent the planned demonstration, invaded the Randall Street Headquarters of the Progressive Alliance of Liberia (PAL), teargassing the teeming crowd and sent them fleeing in all directions. The people reacted by setting vehicles alight, burning and looting stores in Monrovia’s commercial district.
At the end of the day, over two-hundred (200) persons were shot and killed and millions of dollars of private and public property destroyed. The protest demonstration was indeed quashed but at a hefty price from which the Tolbert government was never to recover. Only a year later it was overthrown in a bloody coup d’etat staged by the country’s military.
These are lessons of history that should not be lost on the current national leadership as it navigates its way through a dense fog of problems, both economic and political.
Tomorrow when people get into the streets to protest against the poor conduct and corrupt handling of the VR process, it could turn bloody, given Police IG Sudue’s remarks, that the Police will be waiting, ready and prepared to use excessive force.
In this regard, ECOWAS is urged to review its early warning mechanism and avoid being caught pants down as it experienced in Mali recently. A crisis had been brewing all along but ECOWAS was apparently asleep, only to awaken after a military coup d’etat, popularly supported by the Malian people, had taken place. If the immense sacrifice it made to restore peace to Liberia means nothing at all, then the ECOWAS early warning system might as well rust and rot away. It is often said, sometimes it is “better to let sleeping dogs lie”.