By Morrison O.G. Sayon Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (231) 0775107709
It is no doubt that campaign for the 2023 Presidential and Legislative Elections is consequential because Liberia is at a crossroads, or critical juncture. That is why the National Elections Commission (NEC) and the national security apparatus must be vigilant in making sure that the people cast their votes, and their votes are counted because anything short of that might lead to consequences that we don’t want. Liberians have suffered too much to have another conflict.
It is no doubt that campaign for the 2023 Presidential and Legislative Elections is one of the most contentious campaigns in the history of our country considering the fact that the incumbent George M. Weah is being challenged by 19 other candidates for the nation’s highest office. But as it stands, it seems that the Presidential Election is a two horse race with former Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai being the main challenger to the incumbent Weah.
Since the start of campaign activities across the country there have been clashes and other forms of violence between supporters of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) of incumbent President Weah and the former ruling Unity Party (UP) of former Vice President Boakai despite the signing of the Farmington River Agreement which restraints parties and their supporters from engaging in violent activities during and after the campaign period.
At the very beginning of the campaign, Liberians witnessed an ugly scene when supporters of the ruling party-CDC were seen toting a casket bearing the image of Mr. Boakai who is believed to be the main contender to Mr. Weah; which many organizations and individuals including the CDC itself condemned. Days later, there were clashes around the Airfield belt where several persons from both parties got wounded. Again, yesterday morning it was reported that some Unity Party supporters were allegedly attacked by supporters of the ruling party leaving some wounded.
Following the incident on 9th Street, Sinkor recently, the Unity Party condemned the actions of the CDC and labeled them a “recipe for chaos.” They accused the ruling party of contravening the Farmington River Declaration, a pact signed by presidential candidates to ensure peaceful campaigning.
In response, the Weah-Taylor 2023 National Campaign Committee, representing the CDC, issued a statement denying the allegations. The committee clarified that their campaign activities had been pre-announced and were underway in other districts, well before the Unity Party’s event was planned.
The committee accused the Unity Party of deliberately scheduling their rally to provoke conflict and claimed they had adjusted their own campaign schedule to avoid clashes. They called on national and international bodies to intervene and ensure peaceful election proceedings.
Political tensions have been running high in Liberia as the country gears up for the upcoming elections. The clash at the Unity Party campaign rally highlights the fragility of the political landscape and raises concerns about potential unrest as the campaign season intensifies.
The clashes between the two groups, which saw both parties throwing projectiles thus, 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’s peace and stability.
These are scaring situation that we think must be avoided if the election is to be conducted in a peaceful, free and fair atmosphere. What we are seeing now is that the ruling CDC and Unity Party are not adhering to the Farmington Agreement intended to maintain the peace we all craved for over the years as leaders of the two political parties are not doing anything to restrain their supporters from engaging in these kinds of violence.
Let the political leaders of the CDC and UP be reminded that the future of the country now lies in their hands 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. Our nation is at a crossroad as a result of the actions of supporters of President George Weah and Ambassador Joseph Boakai which threaten the fabric of the nation’s 20 years of postwar peace.
It seems that Mr. Weah and Ambassador who are believed to be the frontrunners in the pending elections appeared to lack control over their supporters who continue to engage in violent confrontations since the start of campaign activities in the country
First, let it be known that we strongly condemn the recent outbreak of electoral violence involving supporters of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) and Unity Party (UP) in District #9 on Thursday and other places. We denounced the violent acts perpetrated by the UP and CDC parties because undoubtedly, these actions violate the principles and objectives set forth in the Farmington River Declaration.
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.
That is why we are calling on the President Weah and Ambassador Boakai and other political leaders to control their supporters as they go about their campaign activities because it is no doubt that election violence, fueled by political maneuvering is an affront to the very essence of democracy and also has the propensity to plunge the nation which they claimed to love dearly into another round of chaos as witnessed in the past.
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.
It is no doubt that elections 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 act will 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.