MONROVIA, Montserrado – The Liberia National Police is warning supporters of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change and the four opposition collaboration political parties to stay off the premises of the National Elections Commission.
The warning follows several incidents of electoral violence in the hotly disputed by-elections in Montserrado’s 15th district. The National Elections Commission had ordered a re-run to be held within ten days at the disputed precincts in the district when it ruled into the hearing of two separate complaints filed by Telia Urey, a candidate representing the All Liberian Party, and independent candidate Bishop Siebo Frank following the July 29 polls.
The ALP candidate, along with Frank, complained of electoral irregularities, which they claimed amounted to electoral fraud at six precincts or 20 polling places. Urey accepted the decision and agreed for the re-run.
However, Abu Kamara, the Coalition for Democratic Change candidate, filed an appeal against the re-run ruling.
A police press statement dated August 21 said only those invited to the hearing and the media are allowed into the hall to witness the hearing.
The measures, according to the police, are aimed at averting any clash between supporters of Urey and Kamara.
On July 27, the final day of campaign for the July 29 by-elections, Urey had reported being attacked by supporters of the CDC.
Again, on July 31, a riot began on Tubman Boulevard in Congo Town when members of the CDC infiltrated a pre-victory celebration held at Liberty Party’s headquarters, with stones thrown at opposition supporters.
The police director of communications, Moses Carter, confirmed the violence but said no arrests were made.
On August 13, police arrested 11 persons linked to elections violence at NEC’s headquarters. The police had said the violence broke out between supporters of the two candidates after they gathered at NEC’s headquarters on Ninth Street in the wake of final arguments into the by-election dispute.
The LNP has also said it is investigating another violent elections-related episode in Montserrado’s 15th district that occurred on August 17.
Urey had posted video footage showing a violent attack on her and her supporters. Urey and her supporters had been meeting with supporters of Kelvin Bayoh, another candidate in the election, who had declared his support to her ahead of the re-run of voting for 20 polling centers in the district.
Urey alleged that her vehicle was set ablaze by CDC supporters, with over 15 of her supporters being injured.
The police condemned the violent action, terming it as ‘counterproductive’ to the peace and stability of the state.
According to the statement, the contingent of police officers who first responded to the scene was unable to arrest violent actors.
“When reinforcements arrived, the alleged perpetrators had absconded,” it said, in response to criticisms that the police was favoring one side.
The police said it had launched an investigation into last Saturday’s violence, and urged members of the public, especially residents of the 15th district, to assist with any useful information.
The frequent violence has already drawn the attention of international partners such as the European Union delegation in Liberia and the U.S. Embassy, which issued a joint statement urging all political parties and their leaders to “ensure a peaceful completion of the electoral process, and to refrain from any inflammatory statements or acts of aggression, intimidation or violence.”
“We call on all Liberians, and in particular political leaders and citizens conveying messages in traditional and social media, to avoid using hate speech which could further enhance tensions and undermine the peace and stability of the country,” the partners said.
They also called on the relevant Liberian government agencies to investigate the violence swiftly and hold those responsible accountable.
Meanwhile, President George Weah has mandated Justice Minister Frank Musa Dean and the police to carry out a thorough and expeditious investigation and bring the perpetrators to justice, irrespective of who might be involved.
According to the Executive Mansion, peace is a high priority on the government’s agenda, and it will spare no effort in ensuring the protection of lives and properties.
“Electoral violence in all its forms will not be tolerated, and individuals who disrupt the peace will face the full weight of the law. President George M. Weah has mandated the Liberian national police and other security agencies to be proactive and bring to book anyone engaged in violence,” the executive mansion said in a release.
“The government remains committed to ensuring that all Liberians exercise their democratic rights. Notwithstanding, political parties should ensure that their supporters remain peaceful at all times. Political leaders will be held accountable for disruptive behavior, regardless of their political alignment.”
Featured photo courtesy of the Liberia National Police