COTTON TREE, Margibi – Several persons in Margibi’s second electoral district have been injured and properties have been damaged as a result of a rift between supporters of independent candidate Ivar Kokulo Jones and the incumbent lawmaker Ballah Zayzay.
The Cotton Tree riot, which occurred on Thursday, happened just two days after another violent interaction between supporters of the two candidates.
The earlier altercation took place in Barclay Farm, a suburb of Harbel, where supporters of Jones alleged that one of their fellow supporters was attacked during the evening hours. They claimed that their supporter and another woman were both severely beaten by Zayzay’s followers while they were on their campaign tour in the community.
But responding to that allegation, Lasanna Massaquoi, chief of office staff for Zayzay, refuted the accusation and said at no time was any supporter of Jones beaten. He said the allegation was fabricated by Jones’ camp.
The more recent tussle occurred when Zayzay was campaigning in Cotton Tree, which is considered a stronghold of Jones and also where the challenger candidate lives.
Zayzay and supporters entered Cotton Tree late on Thursday afternoon and began campaigning in the various communities with few officers of the Liberia National Police, who escorted them while on the Cotton Tree to Buchanan route.
Though there was no physical presence or gathering of Jones’ supporters at the time of entry by advocates of the incumbent lawmaker, tension built up when supporters of Jones started assembling at their candidate’s residence, which is closer to the main road.
The police, who could not handle the crowd of the two groups, were seen calling for reinforcement when stones were thrown in the air at properties of the two parties.
Zayzay later announced on a local radio station that two of his vehicles were damaged, while several supporters sustained wounds during the violent outburst.
A local health center in Unification City told The Bush Chicken that they treated over 20 supporters of the incumbent lawmaker.
When contacted via mobile phone, the representative attributed the violence to supporters of Jones.
“It is so frustrating that someone who wants to be representative of a civilized group of people cannot control the emotions of his supporters,” Zayzay said.
“Unlike candidate Ivar Kokulo Jones’ supporters, we were permitted by the local police authority to go about with our campaign, evident by the presence of the police. The police told me that they informed Jones, who was not present, to dismiss his supporters, but he failed to do so.”
For his part, Jones confirmed the damage of three of his vehicles and said two persons, including his driver, were wounded severely.
Jones said he has written the Liberian National Police and the National Elections Commission to complain about Zayzay and his team.
Since the declaration of campaigning season by the commission, elections activities have taken a different dimension in Margibi’s second district, with several attacks on the social media and within the communities.
Recently, a campaign song released by the camp of Zayzay is said to be fueling tension among Jones’ supporters. In the song, the artist called on voters not to vote for what he termed as “boy girl.” The reference is meant to suggest that Jones is gay. Jones himself recently announced on a local radio talk show that he possesses a recording of the incumbent representative calling him gay.
Meanwhile, the local police authority confirmed the violence but noted it is too early to speak to the press.
Featured photo by Jefferson Daryoue