Recent developments in neighboring La Cote d’Ivoire, where a convoy of seven (7) vehicles said to be led by Ivorian business and advisor to President Weah, Ousman Bamba were set alight by a group of angry citizens, is sending shock waves through that country with its ripple effects being felt here in Liberia.
The convoy was stopped at a check-point on the outskirts of La Cote d’Ivoire’s political capital, Yamoussokro and the checkpoint as can be seen from video images, was manned by civilians, apparently vigilantes. Yamoussokro is said to be a stronghold of opposition politician and former president Henri Konan Bedie, an ethnic Baoule.
The leader of the convoy, Ousman Bamba had reportedly told the vigilantes that he had been sent by exiled former prime minister Guillaume Soro. Sensing something was amiss, the vigilantes ordered all aboard to disembark.
Upon search of the vehicles, voting materials believed to be ballots, AK-47 assault rifles and body armor (bullet proof vests) were discovered aboard the vehicles.
It was also discovered most of the passengers were foreign nationals who were suspected to be Liberian mercenaries hired in service of current Ivorian President Allassane Outtara.
This angered the vigilantes and before long, according to reports, an angry mob acting in concert with the vigilantes had set Ousman Bamba’s convoy ablaze and severely flogged the occupants of the vehicles.
Further, according to reports, Bamba was also reportedly flogged severely but was fortunately rescued by the local town chief who intervened to bring the situation under control.
Almost immediately prior to this development, hundreds of Ivorian refugees had already begun pouring into Liberia seeking safety from a possible upsurge in electoral violence.
This latest development has only served to heighten and evoke fears amongst the local Ivorian populace of the involvement of Liberian mercenaries in their country’s electoral affairs.
Commentaries on local Ivorian media have been pointing fingers at Liberia’s President George Weah, who is being accused of supporting President Outtara and for having sent mercenaries to help him further his political ambition.
But this is not the first report of the involvement of Liberian mercenaries in that country.
It can be recalled that former rebel commander, Ofori Diah,a.k.a. “Iron Jacket” was arrested tried and imprisoned here in Liberia for his involvement in cross-border attacks that left several Ivorian troops and UN Peacekeepers dead.
Going back further into time, former President Charles Taylor was allegedly behind the formation of an Ivorian rebel group known and styled as Popular Movement for the independence of the Great West (MPIGO), let by a Felix Doe.
Thus, it is hardly surprising that current narratives making the rounds on social media and in Ivorian media as well speak of a plot to rig the Ivorian elections with the assistance of Liberian politicians and mercenaries as evidenced by the discovery of elections materials and assault rifles including Liberian mercenaries aboard the convoy of Ivorian businessman, Ousman Bamba.
This is indeed a very grave development that should claim the serious attention of this government. Such attention should go well beyond bare denials from this, which have only served to further heighten public suspicion about the actual involvement of members of the CDC Sabu Unit in Ivorian electoral politics as is alleged.
With tension rising in that neighboring country, evidenced by the surge of refugee inflows into Liberia recently, the risk of a spillover of violence into Liberia cannot be dismissed in view of the incidents near Yamoussokro.
Additionally and coincidentally, tension is also rising in Liberia stemming from the flawed Voters Roll Update (VRU) process, as well as the very flawed and compromised Voters Roll. Its clean-up, though mandated by the Supreme Court in 2017, was never done.
Sadly, the Supreme Court, under the leadership of Chief Justice Francis Korkpor, is steadfast in its refusal to stand by its own decision and clean-up mandate (Stare Decisis)
Stare Decisis, according to the Miriam Webster Dictionary, is the doctrine under which courts adhere to precedent on questions of law in order to insure certainty, consistency, and stability in the administration of justice with departure from precedent permitted for compelling reasons (as to prevent the perpetuation of injustice).
The refusal of then Justice-in-Chambers, Sie-A-Nyene Yuoh to hear the CPP’s petition for a Writ of Mandamus seeking to compel the National Elections Commission (NEC) to clean-up the Voters Roll is seen as tantamount to the perpetuation of injustice and is contributing significantly to the rise in tension.
This is because Justice Yuoh’s refusal to hear the petition is sending a clear message that the opposition should/must live with the reality of a deeply flawed and compromised VR.
The opposition, for its part, has appeared unfocused in its drive to assure a level playing field for elections.
Rather than fixing its sights firmly on the singularly most important issue-clean-up of the Voters Roll, they have instead diverted their attention to issues of lesser importance, such as holding the NEC to account for not adhering to the constitutionally prescribed time-frame for holding the by-elections.
Whatever the case, the matter will simmer down to the integrity of the Voters, absent which, elections will prove meaningless.
For her part, the Chairperson of NEC, Davidetta Browne Lansanah, appears to be engaged in feckless maneuvers that are in violation of the laws of Liberia such as the awarding of a procurement contract outside a competitive bidding process and to a company that neither has the competence nor did it participate in the bidding process.
Whether this was done for kickbacks or in deference to Presidential diktat, as is being widely assumed, is the question the NEC Chairperson needs to address.
The December 8 elections are indeed imperiled and the actions of the NEC Chairperson, left unchecked, will lead to a possible derailment of the elections owing largely to her own making. This newspaper urges her to deeply reflect, consider well and up her game, for the stakes are much too high for any hanky-panky, “play, play kill bird” games. It is a life and death matter, squarely put!