Wednesday’s (20 September) bloody clash between two opposition parties here – the Liberty Party and the Coalition for Democratic Change in Sanniquellie City, Nimba County, which left two persons allegedly stabbed almost to death and properties vandalized should not have happened at all.
The melee clearly points to lack of commitment or lip-service by political parties and their leaders to uphold peace before, during, and after the October 10th presidential and representative elections as was agreed upon in a pact dubbed, the Farmington Declaration that they signed here few months ago at the Farmington Hotel near the Roberts International Airport in Margibi County. The signing ceremony, which coincided with the Summit of heads of state of ECOWAS, was witnessed by leaders of the sub-region.
This paper gathers that partisans and officials of the Liberty Party, who were already in Sanniquellie, Nimba County had converged at their local office along the main street of the provincial city for a parade to launch their campaign in the county when CDC standard bearer George Weah, at the head of a Coalition convoy entered Sanniquellie reportedly on his way to Yekepa, an industrial hub near the border with neighboring Guinea for a campaign trail, but was requested by the police to detour or use an adjacent route in order to avoid his huge convoy coming in direct confrontation with the LP partisans.
However, the CDC crowd refused to detour, rather insisting that they would pass through come what may, something resisted by the LP, which sparked the commotion that resulted to two partisans of the LP being allegedly stabbed and properties vandalized.
The violence speaks to the depth of disunity and fragmentation among opposition political parties, vying to provide the country’s next leadership. That partisans of rival parties, specifically the CDC and the LP could not tolerate one another, and had to result to bloody violence is really sad, not only for Liberia, but electorate who look up to the political institutions for guidance.
That parties and political leaders could not commit to peace, but engaged in violence that left people wounded is highly disappointing. No electorate or partisan no matter from which party should suffer bodily harm due to sheer lack of leadership at the top. And we think this is what led to the riot on Wednesday.
Had due diligence or responsible leadership been exercised by either side on that day, the bloodshed would have been avoided. But even with the presence of the CDC standard bearer George Weah on the ground, and LP vice standard bearer Harrison Karnwea in the county, both leaders failed to restrain their respective partisans from violence.
Although the Police are investigating the situation to establish what actually caused the riot or who is responsible, both sides are engaged in claims and counter-claims, busy constructing their own accounts of the happening, further confusing the public.
We like to draw the attention of authorities of both the Liberia National Police and the National Elections Commission to stay on top of electoral activities leading up to polling day on October 10, and even post-elections era to maintain peace in the country.
Specifically during these campaign period, the NEC should be in the know far ahead, movement of mainly presidential candidates and their zealous partisans and supporters as to when and where they go to avoid clashes with rival parties as was experienced in Nimba. Similarly, the police should increase vigilance as they accompany party standard bearers and their partisans on campaign rallies across the country in order to nip any potential violent situation in the bud, and ensure peaceful elections and political transition.