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Liberia: Widespread Condemnation, Reactions Follow Bloody Day in District 15

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Monrovia – Widespread condemnation has followed the latest violent turn of events in Montserrado County District 15 which is once shrouded in electoral violence after Ms. Telia Urey, one of the candidates in the disputed Representatives’ by-elections  and her supporters came closed to meeting their deaths Saturday.


Report by Rodney D. Sieh, [email protected]


Ms. Telia Urey told a news conference Sunday that the bloody attack Saturday led to the damage of her bullet-proof Toyota Land Cruiser and injuries to she and several of her supporters who had gone to visit the headquarters of another candidate in the recently-held elections. 

The incident she says has caused her to lose faith in the Liberia National Police. “We don’t feel safe to campaign in District #15 anymore because we don’t trust the Police. We will on Monday file our complaint with hard evidences to the National Elections commission telling them that we don’t feel safe in district #15 anymore. Before President Weah statement about the Urey’s we never had violence in district #15 but since he made those remarks about me telling his supporters to flogged me, we starting experiencing Violence.”

“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

Lost Confidence in Police 

For Ms. Urey, Saturday’s incident was unnecessary and could have been avoided if President Weah had not stirred up his base to go after her. “We can all recall that in June of 2019, President and Standard Bearer of the Coalition of Democratic Change, George Weah, announced publicly that “No Dillon or Urey will win elections in Liberia. He declared that this will not happen under his leadership  – in fact over his dead body. He went further to say that he will flog that little girl, Telia.  The only logical inference deducible from the ongoing acts of violence against Telia and supporters in District 15, given the sluggish and don’t care attitude of the government, is the fact that all efforts are being exerted by the President and his CDC to ensure that his threats against Telia Urey manifests. 

Ms. Urey said the attack occurred in the presence of the police who sat idly and watched the attackers throw stones on the headquarters while the meeting was ongoing. In fact, she says, the attacks took place just a stone’s throw away from the Logan Town Police Depot of the LNP. 

Mr. Momo Sambola, Vice Chairman of the All Liberian Party (ALP) was also wounded along with several other partisans and supporters. 

The District 15 candidate averred: “It is this shame and attempt to subvert the Will of the Majority that has led to the orchestration of violence to intimidate, threaten and harass peaceful citizens whose only crime is to peacefully assemble and exercise their franchise. This is a clear case of electoral violence.”

This is the second time in recent weeks that violence has hit the district. On June 10, at least one person was injured and two others flogged following a political violence in run-up to the District No. 15 race. The incident in the Blamo Town community, Logan Town, reportedly left supporters of Ms. Urey’s team seriously injured.

The National Election Commission last week announced a re-run of the elections at six polling places in the district after an election dispute hearing in which Urey claimed and proved electoral fraud. The ruling CDC has said that the Elections Commission’s decision was influenced, hence, they’ll boycott the re-run.

On Sunday, Ms. Urey said she was visiting Kelvin Bayoh’s campaign team at their campaign office, which has been the late Representative Adolph Lawrence’s office since 2011 when they heard noise outside and then rocks on the roof, then through the windows.

Ms. Urey said because there was only one way out of the building, she and her supporters as well as those of Mr. Bayoh were trapped in the building.  “We couldn’t get out because there was only one way out, which is where the attackers were.”

Ms. Urey says the police arrived after 20 minutes and did nothing- similar to what happened in June when she came under a similar attack from supporters of her rival, Abu Kamara.  “We made rescue calls all over to no avail since they blocked the road. Besides the few men who were trying to defend us, we were stuck inside for over an hour and a half,” the candidate explained.

Ms. Urey said she and her team made several attempts to leave the office but it was just impossible, although she laments that the police were standing right there. 

Attacker Entered Scene of Siege with a Knife

She explained that one of the attackers even got in the building with a knife and almost stabbed her. “They completely damaged the roof of the building. At the end, they even brought gas to burn the place down. When I smelled the gas, I didn’t think we were going to make it.”

Ms. Urey said a man called Mr. Johnson made it inside after Senator Nyonblee Karnga(Liberty Party, Grand Bassa) who was trying to find out what was going on, asked she and her supporters to hold on while he tried to go out and get some help. 

Ms. Urey said the Police 105 was outside at this point. “People asked 105 to bring his car down into the garage to evacuate me out of there but he refused. Mr. Johnson came in with his friend’s car and they built a shield around me for me to get in the car. My leg is injured. 15 other people are injured. 12 were taken to the hospital.” 

Ms. Urey further explained that her driver who was in her car when the incident started had to flee as one of the attackers burst the back window. “One of the guys jumped through the window and attacked the driver but the driver pulled off, driving with one hand and fighting with the other and that’s how he got into the first crash. He(the driver) escaped the crash and like you saw in the video starts to speed faster to avoid being hurt and then makes the final crash.”

Violence Not Tolerated, President Says 

President George Manneh Weah, in a statement Sunday said: “Electoral violence in all its forms will not be tolerated, and individuals who disrupt the peace will face the full weight of the law.”

The President mandated the Liberian national police and other security agencies to be proactive and bring to book anyone engage in violence, Ms. Urey on Sunday detailed at a news conference how she and her supporters almost lost their lives.

Mr. Alexander Cummings, leaders of the Alternative National Congress, said the people of District #15 have elected Urey as their Representative and it is unacceptable for a President to declare that no citizen will win election. “We will be peaceful in opposition against these threats, but they should be assure that we will stand for our rights.”

Mr. Cummings said the ANC stands shoulder to shoulder with Ms. Urey and said the ANC will not accept the irresponsibility on the part of the government. “I want to echo the call to our international partners that we will be responsible in opposition, but we will take responsibility of our country and will in a peaceful manner ensure that our democratic rights are protected.”

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For his part, Mr. Benoni  Urey, the current leader of the four-party coalition says he forgives everyone who perpetrated the violence against his daughter. “They will no force us to go down low as they are doing. All those including the President should remember they have children we should never go down that low.”

Senator Steve Zargo, leader of the opposition Liberty Party was grateful to all peace-loving Liberians who assisted in the rescue of those involved in the unprovoked attacks on Ms. Urey and her supporters. 

Said Senator Zargo: “It was another bloody day in our country yesterday. The Blood of these victims cries out to Liberia and the world for action and Justice. Unfortunately, our government under the Leadership of George Weah is the promoter of the violence against peaceful citizens whose only crime is to exercise their franchise. The same process from which George Weah and his party has benefitted from to become Senator and now President today.  Unfortunately, our country is being led by the most vindictive, divisive and egoistic character whose sense of success is the building of monuments and statutes of himself. Our President now promotes violence and chaos and takes pride in being a leader of some and not of all!

Ms. Macdella Cooper, a candidate in the Just-ended Montserrado County Senatorial Elections in a Twitter post, deplored recent violence in District No. 15 and urge the government to fully investigate and prosecute those responsible. “All political parties, especially their leaderships, have a responsibility to avoid inflammatory rhetoric and promote a peaceful political process.”

Criminal Court Concern

The condemnation comes as the National Patriotic Party of former Liberian President Charles Ghankay Taylor, in a statement said, Liberians should be mindful that electoral violence is now a serious Human Rights violation, punishable by the International Criminal Court.

The party the officials and members of the Executive Committee of the party which is a constituent party of the current ruling Coalition for Democratic Change, denounced in the strongest terms, all forms of violence increasing across the country, the most recent being perpetrated in the electoral District 15.

The party, in a statement Sunday urged Liberians to take steps to prevent the current wave of violence and restore sanity to our nation. 

The NPP appealed to all Liberians to stop the violence, as it has the potential to reverse the country’s hard-earned democracy and scare those investors in and out of Liberia. 

The NPP also calls on the government functionaries, to secure the peace and to launch an immediate investigation into this current wave of electoral violence and bring those perpetrators to justice so as to set the example that violence has no place in our nation.

The attack on Ms. Urey is drawing widespread condemnation. “This is sad reality in Liberia today. President George Weah, if you cannot lead our nation, you must resign,” said Mr. Benjamin Sanvee, former chair of the opposition Liberty Party tweeted Saturday. 

Student activist Martin Kollie told FrontPageAfrica: “Our democracy was on trial under Doe and Taylor. It is now on retrial under ex-Soccer Star George M Weah. Things are falling apart so quick. Lawlessness is hitting the roof. Violence and Vandalism have become the new normal. The debris and scars of our dark past are fast evolving. Terror is back in the land. This is an incipient warning of a breakdown in governance and a crackdown on democracy. No rule and order. LNP has become a partisan police force. The judiciary is corrupt and toothless. The Legislature is rubber-stamped and houses a group of racketeers. Both branches are controlled and manipulated by a domineering and an inept Executive.”      

“All political parties, especially their leaderships, have a responsibility to avoid inflammatory rhetoric and promote a peaceful political process.”

– Macdella Cooper, Candidate, Just-ended Montserrado County Senatorial Elections

Opposition Won’t Cower in Fear

The recent wave of violence has prompted the four-party coalition to plead with the international community for protection. 

The parties said the National Elections Commission and international partners should support the consolidation of democracy by speaking out now and bringing international observers to observe the elections due to the extent to which violence is becoming consuming and addictive. “We hope all relevant committees of the national legislature would call for a full inquiry and summon the relevant institutions/agencies of government to provide proper explanations for their actions against peaceful citizens.”

The parties also urged the international community to urgently investigate these acts of deliberate violence against peaceful citizens and bring all perpetrators to Justice. “We call on the International Criminal Court to take seize of this matter, conduct the proper investigations and ensure justice for victims.  We call on the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the United Nations, The African Union and the Economic Commission of West African States (ECOWAS) to act and act with utmost urgency. Liberia is rapidly descending into chaos, violence and lawlessness.”

The Collaboration of Political Parties say they will not cower in fear to this wave of national terror being imposed by our President. “We will resist it with peaceful actions and in the words of former US First Lady, “where they go low, we will go high”. We remain cognizant of the years of conflicts our country and its people has endured and we remain committed to providing an alternative leadership with peace and unity as our core values. We call on all citizens and our supporters to remain peaceful. Liberia is our common denominator and we must not allow this President and ruling party to take us back to the days of old.”

Amid the fears, the Liberia National Police in a statement Saturday says it too condemned in the strongest term violence which broke out in District 15. “The LNP views such action as counterproductive to the peace and stability of the state.  The contingent of Police who firstly, responded to the scene was unable to arrest violent actors. When reinforcements arrived, the alleged perpetrators had absconded,” the statement said.

“The ANC stands shoulder to shoulder with Ms. Urey will not accept the irresponsibility on the part of the government. “I want to echo the call to our international partners that we will be responsible in opposition, but we will take responsibility of our country and will in a peaceful manner ensure that our democratic rights are protected.” 

– Mr. Alexander Cummings, Alternative National Congress

CDC Eyeing Path to Peaceful Outcome

In view of this, the LNP says it has launched an investigation into  the violence.  “Members of the public, especially residents of District #15 are urged to assist with any useful information including videos and pictorials to ensure that those responsible are made to face the full weight of the law. The Public can be assured that violent actors in today’s violence will be made to face the full weight of the law.”

 Ms. Urey’s version contradicts that of the ruling CDC party chair Mulbah Morlu who said in a Facebook post Saturday that Ms. Urey was playing a victim. “The Ureys provocative action to relocate their party office to almost the doorpost of Abu, explains the violence; as residents advised they remain at their original office, they hauled rocks in a pickup and began stoning Kamara’s yard. The Ureys must stop playing victim after throwing stones,” Mr. Morlu averred.

On Sunday, the CDC was more somber, declaring through its Executive Committee, that it condemns in the strongest possible term recent acts of violence, warning that such acts of violence are a threat to the peace, democracy and the economy of the country. Violence has no place in our politics, irrespective of the scale and tone of our political differences. “We call on partisans of the Coalition for Democratic Change and of the four collaborating political parties to refrain from violence, whether in District 15 or in future elections. The Committee enjoins upon all partisans of political parties the obligation to renounce violence and show restraint even when provoked by political counterparts.”

The Executive Committee also thanked Mr. Morlu for reaching out to candidate Telia Urey to convey to her the party’s condemnation of violence, express regrets for the unfortunate situation she encountered, provide assurances of its support for speedy and impartial investigation, and hold discussion on the path toward peaceful elections and civil political dialogue. The Committee hails the National Chairman’s show of leadership as necessary to calm existing tension and to show that political rivalry in Liberian politics does not and should never mean polity enmity.

The EC has mandated Mr. Morlu to broaden and sustain these engagements with national leaders of the four collaborating political parties to construct a path to peaceful national political dialogue among parties, with the aim of reducing the prevailing level of vitriol in public statements emanating from leaders of  all parties.


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Liberia

Weeks, Others Spend Second Night

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…At Central Prison

Former and current Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) officials who were re-arrested Tuesday, August 20, 2019 and jailed have spent their second night at the Monrovia Central Prison.

Defendants Charles E. Sirleaf, Milton A. Weeks, Dorbor Hagba, Richard H. Walker and Joseph G. Dennis were re-arrested Tuesday, after prosecution changed their earlier charges to Money Laundering.

The defendants were immediately taken to the Monrovia Central Prison and jailed.

But defendant Sirleaf was released late Tuesday evening on medical ground while the others spent the night there.

Montserrado County Attorney Cllr. Edwin K. Martin told The NEWS Tuesday evening via mobile phone that defendant Sirleaf’s medical bill has since been before the court which indicates that he’s not well.

However, his colleagues remained behind bars, apparently they have not filed valid bond to be released.

On Tuesday, Judge Blamo Dixon of Criminal Court “C” ordered the defendants re-arrested and imprisoned until the right bond is proffered if possible.

The Judge in his ruling on Tuesday, August 20, 2019, said government lawyers should turnover every documentary evidence to the defendants through their lawyers in 72 hours to give the defendants sufficient notice and enable defense team to provide adequate representations.

He also commanded the sheriffs of the court to serve the defendants with the Writ of Arrest along with the indictment so they can be aware of the new crime charged by prosecution.

The defendants were first charged with Economic Sabotage, Criminal Conspiracy, Criminal Facilitation, Criminal Solicitation and Bribery.

The five former and current CBL officials who were re-arrested Tuesday, same being August 20, 2019, were immediately taken to the Monrovia Central Prison for the amended crime of Money Laundering that was imposed on them.

The defendants were re-arrested based upon the indictment prepared against them by the Grand Jury of Montserrado County.

The indictment said the Grand Jurors have taken an oath to find probable cause that the defendants at CBL at the time committed the crime of Money Laundering, a first degree felony in violation of chapter 15, sub-chapter “D”, section 15.2 (a) (b) (c) (d) (f) of the penal law of Liberia.

The crime, money laundering states that, “a person or body corporate or other legal entity commits the offense of money laundering if that person knowingly or having reason to believe that is the proceeds of crime: engages directly or indirectly in any transaction which involves the property; receives, possesses, conceals, disguises, transfers, converts, disposes of removes from or bring the property into Liberia; or participates in, associates with or conspires to commit, attempt to commit, or aids or facilitate the commission of any of the above acts.”

According to the indictment, on April of 2016 up to August of 2018, at their CBL offices, the defendants by virtue of their employments within the CBL deliberately, knowingly and intentionally colluded and conspired with the wicked intent to launder money and sabotage the Liberian economy.

It also revealed that the defendants defrauded the CBL and the government when they unauthorizingly printed excess Liberian dollar banknotes amounting to 2,645,000,000 (Two billion six hundred forty-five million Liberian dollars) to infuse into the Liberian market.


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Weah Reiterates Commitment

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… To Protect Women

President Dr. George Manneh Weah has again reiterated his commitment to the promotion and protection of women and girls against sexual gender-based violence and gender inequality, an Executive Mansion release discloses.

The release said President Weah made the pledge Wednesday, August 21, 2019, at his Foreign Affairs Office when he received a petition from women who reportedly represented ten civil society organizations.

The women through their designated speaker, Mmenbeydo Joah-Harell petitioned the President to protect the rights of women, increase the number of women in government and provide security in District 15, Logan Town.

The Liberian leader told the petitioners that his commitment to gender equality and protection of the rights of women, girls and children would not diminish for any reason or by another force.

“I want to assure residents of Montserrado County, particularly voters and candidates of District 15, as well as all Liberians and the world that there would be a free, fair and transparent elections anytime under my administration,” the Liberian Chief Executive averred, adding that he would increase security presence in District #15 if there would be a rerun.

President Weah also reminded the women to take responsibility to preach peace. He urged the women to also prevail on their relatives, mainly youth, to at all times be peaceful and refrain from violence.

He used the occasion to once more call on leaders of political parties to encourage their supporters to be civil and peaceful during election times.

The Liberian Leader also promised a timely and prompt investigation into last Saturday’s violence in District 15.


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Liberia

Culture Of Impunity Must End

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…RWHR Wants War Crimes Court Established

The Regional Watch for Human Rights, Inc. (RWHR) has stressed the need for the Liberian Government to end the culture of impunity that it said has engulfed the Liberian society by the establishment of War and Economic Crimes Court.

Addressing a news conference Wednesday, August 21, 2019, in observance of International Justice Day Worldwide which was celebrated on July 17, 2019, Cllr. Thompson Adebayor, Regional Director of RWHR said Liberia failure to establish war crimes court for people to account for their actions is responsible for the recent wave of violence in the country.

He said had people who committed heinous crimes during the country’s civil unrest been prosecuted for their action, it would have served as deterrence for others.

Adebayor told journalists that the establishment of war crimes court would demonstrate the government commitment to fight impunity which he claimed appears to be taking over the country.

He said the establishment of war crimes court is in the best interest of the government and its people.

At the same time, Cllr. Adebayor said his group is troubled and concerned about the wave of violence and insecurity in the country.

He called on the government to probe the recent electoral violence in District#15, Montserrado County to ensure perpetrators are brought to book.

The RWHR boss said Liberia has come a long way relative to the maintenance of peace and stability, something it cannot afford to jeopardize.

He called on every political party to jealously guide the peace that the country currently enjoys.


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“False Assets Declaration”

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…Rep. Gray Descends On Dillon

By A. Omaska Jallah

Montserrado County District #8 Representative Acarous Gray has described as ‘false asset declaration’ the recent declaration of assets by Senator Abraham Darius Dillon of Montserrado County, terming it as a violation to Section 10.3 of the Code of Conduct.

He said Senator Dillon declared his assets at the Liberian Senate without knowing and indicating his net salary on the assets declaration form provided to him by the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC).

While taking over at the Liberian Senate, Senator Dillon presented all documents regarding his assets, but his gross and net salary as senator was not indicated, something he told journalists in a recent press conference that he has not being informed about his salary by the Senate; as such, he could not indicate it,

But Rep. Gray said this contradicts his understanding of assets declaration.

According to Section 10.3 of the Code of Conduct under sub topic ‘Sanctions for False Declaration’ “every Public Official and Employee of Government shall declare and affirm that his or her declaration is accurate to the best of his or her knowledge. Any statement in such declaration found to be false upon verification shall lead to summary dismissal and other measures provided by law.”

But speaking to Legislative reporters on Tuesday, August 20, 2019, the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) Montserrado County District #8 lawmaker said Senator Dillon lied under oath, according to the mentioned section of the Code of Conduct; and as such, it is punishable under the same law.

He claimed that Senator Dillon violated the Code of Conduct relative to asset declaration; as such, he should be punished for misleading the public, noting that the senator undeclared his assets.

Rep. Gray maintained that Senator Dillon has betrayed historical comments made by him several months ago before coming to the senate.

Before his election, the Montserrado County Senator, in several public forums, stated that he will declare his assets if elected as senator and front for the reduction of salaries by senators at the Liberian Senate, something Gray described as political rhetoric that is yet to come to reality.

At the same time, Rep. Gray has disclosed that the CDC has filed a bill of exception to the National Elections Commission (NEC) which, according to him, is expected to be heard today.

According to him, the NEC haring officer that heard the complaints filed by the candidate of the collaborating party in the just ended Montserrado County District #15 by-election, Telia Urey, was in a contradiction.

The NEC hearing officer called for a rerun in the six quarantined precincts within the district, specifically Logan Town.

Rep. Gray said the hearing officer told the hearing that there was no fraud, yet he called for rerun.

This, the Montserrado County lawmaker said, is a complete contradiction by Hearing Officer.

Meanwhile, Rep. Gray has condemned the serious wave of violent perpetrated by both supporters of Telia Urey and Abu Kamara.

He called on supporters of candidates Urey and Kamara to remain calm.


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Abu Kamara Reveals ‘Untold Story’

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…In Latest Electoral Violence

LINA

“It was the first time ever I saw my family shivering from fear and trauma caused by the sounds and cracks from stones thrown at our house. Cars parked in and around my compound owned by family and friends were also vandalized,” Abu Kamara, candidate of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) in District #15, Montserrado County, narrates his ordeal.

The statement on his social media platform followed the counter-throwing of projectiles by his supporters spurred by initial attacks by those loyal to his key opponent, Telia Urey of the All Liberian Party.

Supporters on both sides were injured in the process which happened in the lead-up to a re-run at six precincts in the district under the county’s combined Senatorial and Representative By-elections.

The car belonging to candidate Urey was also attacked, one account stated.

In his statement, though, Kamara said: “We witnessed another episode of an act of electoral violence within our District. I am ultimately concerned about the escalating tension and violence erupting fears into residents of our district and contaminating the peace we enjoy.”

“We must stop the fears and electoral violence by all means possible and free our people from this political servitude,” he added.

Furthermore, Kamara urged his partisans, supporters to detach and avoid any act of violence and remain calm as they progress to the re-run poll, adding that episodes of violence are fast approaching a point where they can cause division amongst the people and land their fate into a doom of anarchy. “Liberia stands beyond us.”

Meanwhile, Kamara says he stretches hand to meet rival Urey and her team of managers, the district governing council, religious leaders, and all stakeholders in the by-election of the district for a reconciliation meeting in a secluded environment to mend relation, mitigate future violence and put the interest of the people above their political egos.

“I caution all involved, especially my supporters, to remain steadfast to peace and remain calm by avoiding all forms of violence to enjoy our fragile peace,” said Kamara.


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