The violence which erupted over the weekend in Gardnersville during the political campaign rally of Ms Cornelia Kruah-Togba was widely reported in the media and has brought to the fore concerns about the fragility of the peace which the nation has enjoyed for the past 15 years. It has also left the public asking so many questions to which answers are hard to come by. Foremost on the minds of the Public is, where was the Police during the fracas?
How come the Police did not plan for such an event being fully aware of the possibility that things could have turned violent as they usually have the propensity to do during electioneering periods? Have the Police under Inspector-General Patrick Sudue now become partisan as is being suggested in certain quarters? Does the Liberia National Police have the temerity to fully investigate Monrovia City Mayor Jefferson Koijee who led CDC partisans through the area already designated for the Krua-Togba campaign rally, resulting in the fracas in which several persons sustained injuries?
Mayor Koijee, by his own accounts of the incidents told the FrontPage Africa newspaper “I had to move in because my responsibility in the campaign was to make sure I mobilize our supporters and I heard some of our supporters were stranded in that area where Cornelia’s people had set up road blocks so there was no way for them to reach to us. This is how I told my people, ‘Let’s go and see how best we can get them to join us. Immediately Cornelia’s people saw us, without asking, they started throwing stones.”
Granted that supporters of Cornelia Kruah did in truth establish roadblocks as alleged by Koijee, why did he not inform the Police about such developments? Has Mayor Koijee now clothed himself with Police powers and did he have any right under the law to employ such Gestapo like methods to deal with political opposition? Further why has this development with all its negative implications not claimed the attention of President Weah especially since he was reported to have been in attendance at the CDC rally in nearby Iron Factory?
This newspaper recalls that for the past years since the 1997 elections that brought Charles Taylor to power, stress has always been placed on the creation of a level playing field for elections, a key component of which includes the provision of adequate levels of security to ensure violence free elections. However, Police presence at both events were scanty and, as events proved, violence erupted because there was no Police available, which would have deterred violent individuals going on the rampage which resulted in several injuries and the near loss of life.
As the Daily Observer noted in its Monday, November 16th 2018 editorial there are just too many negative signals being sent out to the international community by the Weah led government. The unprovoked violence on Saturday led by Monrovia City Mayor Jefferson Koijee is just the latest ugly signal coming fast on the heels of the missing billions “wahala” and the US$25 million singlehandedly but inappropriately managed by Finance Minister Tweah to mop up excess liquidity with the view to halting the depreciation of the Liberian dollar against the US dollar.
But President Weah has since remained mum on Mayor Koijee’s unprovoked violent behavior that resulted in injuries and the near loss of life. Confirmed reports say that partisans of the CDC had assembled at the Iron Factory area to stage their rally while supporters of UP candidate Cornelia Kruah Togba had assembled in the New Georgia Estate for their campaign rally.
Meanwhile, the Liberia National Police has since refuted allegations of fatalities, although it confirmed that several individuals received bodily injuries. “The situation left four persons, three males and one female injured. The injured victims were immediately rushed to the Kevin Clinic in Bassa Town, New Georgia and the John F. Kennedy Medical Hospital respectively for treatment after which they were discharged,” the LNP said.
But eyewitness accounts speak of men wielding machetes, marching through the crowd of assembled supporters of Cornelia Kruah Togba. Grand Bassa Senator and Liberty Party’s political leader, Nyonblee Karnga Lawrence, who was present to lend moral support to Kruah-Togba, had this to say: “I watched Jefferson Koijee the City Mayor of Monrovia and a group of uniformed men walking through the crowd with cutlasses, and severely wounded many people. They also destroyed campaign equipment and disrupted the entire rally. I was rescued by community dwellers, and placed in a home for two hours, with all the iron bars locked”.
Senator Karnga Lawrence continued: “my vehicle and that of my team were escorted by men of the community on a back road to Dixville to get away. This was a very shocking and ugly scene! We condemn this act of brutality, and will fight for justice to be done. My prayers for all those who got wounded, wish you all speedy recovery, and my appreciation to the community dwellers who rescued me and others today. To God be the Glory! So many lives depend on what we do.”
This newspaper must again sound the warning that far too many signals are being sent to the international community by this government. President Weah’s remarks at the Saturday CDC rally declaring that “this is our time and in our time no one wins anything; if there is a race (election) that race must always before us” is but a rehash of his Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor’s “da our time to eat” mantra and a reflection of gross insensitivity to national imperatives for justice and reconciliation.
Finally, President Weah should set up an independent body to probe into the Saturday fracas with the view to identifying the root and attending causes of the violence and come up with recommendations to avert any future recurrence. Those found culpable should be dealt with in keeping with law and there should be no sacred cows. And he must keep at bay, the demons of the past now threatening a resurgence.