While the December 8 senatorial elections were largely peaceful, its aftermath have been marred by violence instigated mainly by complaints of attempted vote count rigging in Nimba, Grand Kru, and Gbarpolu Counties.
The conflict situation brewing in those counties arising from arising from the conduct of the elections is indeed worrisome and warrants the immediate attention of President Weah lest the situation may spin out of control with potentially disastrous consequences for peace and national stability.
The situation in Gbarpolu and Grand Kru are of extreme urgency and should be treated as such. In Grand Kru the Magistrate has been accused of manipulating the vote count in favor of the CDC candidate Dr. Peter Coleman against the leading contender, Nathaniel Barway.
Reports say the Elections Magistrate building had been surrounded by angry protesters who threatened to burn down the building should the results be tweaked to reflect the CDC candidate as the winner.
Informed sources have told the Daily Observer that a certain legislator was allegedly given a huge amount of cash (US$600,000) to spend in Grand Kru in order to ensure the election of a candidate favored by the ruling CDC.
Informed sources further say there is an alleged growing rift between President Weah and Grand Kru Senator Albert Tugbe Chie, which is being reflected in the battle between independent candidate Nathaniel Barway and President Weah’s preferred candidate, Dr. Peter Coleman.
The Senate President Pro Tempore, Albert Tugbe Chie, is reported to be filthy rich and has reportedly placed his bets squarely on the independent candidate while President Weah has reportedly also placed his bets on Dr. Peter Coleman.
At this point it remains to be seen how this clash of the Titans is going to pan out. But for now the nation’s attention has become riveted to ongoing developments in Gbarpolu County, which are indeed alarming.
Reports of violence being perpetrated against female candidate Botoe Kanneh can by no means be considered an isolated incident given what appears to be manipulations by top officials of this government to secure victory for the CDC candidate.
According to sources, Madame Kanneh has been active in the lives of the people, supporting and undertaking local development initiatives with her personal resources, intended to benefit local communities.
Thus, according to sources, it is by no means surprising that she has garnered so much support for her candidacy. But the problem is, given current developments, neither she nor her supporters may be able to cast their votes in a significant voting center owing to what the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) claims are tactics of intimidation by the ruling CDC.
Caller after caller on various radio talk-shows have pointed accusing fingers at officials of this government particularly, Minister of State Nathaniel McGill, who is accused of being the mastermind behind the violence and illegal activities by vigilante groups.
At this point it remains unclear whether the elections rerun in Normor Datondo Town, Gbarpolu County, will be held at all. This is in view of the presence of the “Bush Master” (Poro Grand Master) in that town. This means that female candidate Botoe Kanneh and her female supporters will not be able to access the polling center.
Just how the National Elections Commission(NEC) is going to handle the situation remains unclear at this point as there is no indication whether the matter has been resolved.
Police spokesperson Moses Carter however, told journalists that several individuals, about 30 in number, have been arrested by the Police in connection to the seizure of the ballot boxes. But he could not say whether sufficient calm has been restored to allow the election to proceed without hitch.
The current situation highlights the precarious nature of the peace the nation currently enjoys. Reckless behavior appears to be a defining character trait of officials of this government and it is rearing its ugly head, triggering an unprecedented wave of post-election violence with a potential to morph into open conflict.
The current situation also underscores the country’s critical national governance deficit with grave implications for sustained peace and stability if left unchecked. Included in this is the critical deficit in natural resource governance.
This has created a situation where now more than 10,000 Burkinabe nationals have reportedly crossed the border from the Ivory Coast into Grand Gedeh County, where they are setting up permanent settlements operating under Ivorian law according to Attorney at-law and head of the Grand Gedeh Bar Association, Alphonsus Zeon.
Local communities say they are aggrieved and feel betrayed by their officials who they accuse of facilitating the illegal mass settlement of Burkinabe nationals in their county.
All these concerns are issues which people feel strongly about, and which, ultimately, feed into and inform their political behavior and choice at the polls.
As the results of these elections show, it is trust and confidence of the people not money nor a show of force which can earn one the opportunity to serve and not to be served.
And these are all reasons why President Weah should become seized of the situation and act with dispatch to bring things under control.
As this newspaper has always reminded him, in the final analysis, he will bear his cross alone. That is when the likes of the greedy opportunists around him would have been long since gone.
President Weah should also bear in mind that the Vice President-elect of the United States is a female and this newspaper harbors no doubt that in her stead, she is expected to do her all to advance the rights of women everywhere including women in “shithole countries” — like ours?
And it includes the rights to contest public office just like what Madame Botoe Kanneh is now attempting to do. She ought to be encouraged and not cried or shot down by mean and spineless men without character.
Looking for those trying to track you down Mr. President? Just look around, they are right there before you hiding in plain sight.