.... Let it be known that going forward, the future of the country now lies in the hands of President George Weah and Joseph Boakai and, if they fail to restrain their supporters from engaging in further violence, it shows that they care less about diffusing tensions and preventing election-related violence.
Liberia, which fought a painful civil war triggered by the outcome of the 1985 election, is now at a crossroads as a result of the actions of supporters of President George Weah and Joseph Boakai that threaten the fabric of the nation’s nearly 20 years of postwar peace.
Both men, the frontrunners for the October 10 elections, appeared to lack control over the supporters who engaged in a violent confrontation on Thursday, August 10, in Montserrado County Electoral District 9.
The clash between the two groups, which saw both sides throw projectiles — leading to several people being injured — started when rival supporters of both Weah and Boakai gathered for separate campaign rallies in the same district.
But while the fracas will need a thorough investigation to establish the root cause of the incident and how it unfolded, it is important to note that the action of President Weah’s and Boakai’s supporters is disturbing and frustrating as they threaten the country’sactions.
Election violence, fueled by political maneuvering, is an affront to the very essence of democracy. The right to choose one’s leaders through free and fair elections is a cornerstone of a functioning democratic society. One far-reaching consequence of such violence is that it jeopardizes the progress Liberia has made in healing from its past — as the memory of the civil war is a clear reminder of the horrors that unchecked violence can unleash.
President Weah, as the head of state and the incumbent in the pending election, has a significant responsibility to ensure the sanctity of the electoral process. While democracy thrives on the robust exchange of ideas and spirited competition, it also demands a commitment to peaceful coexistence and respect for the rule of law.
The violence perpetrated by some supporters of President Weah’s party raises concerns about his administration’s ability to maintain control and curb such actions. Sadly, the actions of President Weah’s supporters came days after another group of Weah supporters paraded the streets with a casket adorned with pictures of Mr. Boakai, which was a blatant provocation.
The President’s response was a mere condemnation and did not take action against said supporters, which emboldened another group to become violent. This indicates that President Weah needs to take a firm stance against any form of violence or intimidation carried out by his supporters to convince Liberians that the election process will be peaceful.
His position grants him the power to do so as well as setting the tone for a peaceful electoral process. If not, President Weah will embolden his supporters to continue violating the Farmington Agreement, which was signed by him and other political actors to symbolize their collective commitment to peaceful elections and the protection of democratic values.
The agreement emphasizes the importance of engaging in a fair and peaceful electoral process while safeguarding the rule of law and respecting the rights of all citizens. This vision, however, can only be achieved when the President prioritizes the nation's interests over his political ambition.
Similarly, Mr. Boakai must use his influence to ensure that his supporters adhere to principles of non-violence and respect for the democratic process.
While political competition is a healthy aspect of any democracy, it must not devolve into a dangerous game that jeopardizes the very foundation of the nation. His supporters look up to him for guidance and leadership. As such, Mr. Boakai can restrain his supporters and must condemn yesterday’s violence in which his supporters were involved.
He and President Weah must pull back from the temptation to exploit the situation for their gain, as it is now being done by shifting blame instead of demonstrating true statesmanship by holding their supporters accountable.
Elections, we are aware, often evoke strong emotions. But it is time for President Weah and Mr. Boakai to engage in a public, joint commitment to peaceful elections. Such an act would send a powerful message to their supporters and the entire nation that they prioritize Liberia’s well-being over personal political gains. This gesture could be a turning point, demonstrating that political rivals can collaborate for the greater good and set an example for future leaders.
Let it be known that, going forward, the future of the country now lies in the hands of President George Weah and Joseph Boakai and, if they fail to restrain their supporters from engaging in further violence, it shows that they care less about diffusing tensions and preventing election-related violence.
The reality is, the actions of both men’s supporters, going further, will determine whether Liberia continues along the path of progress or descends into a state of turmoil.
As such, we implore them to rise above personal interests and to lead with integrity, guiding Liberia toward a future defined by peace, prosperity, and democratic values. The world is watching, and history will remember the choices you make today.
The public interest is the people’s concern.