Partisans of the Liberty Party (LP) and the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) violently clash here on Wednesday, 20 September, leaving at least two persons reportedly wounded, in what is clearly the first campaign violence ahead of the October 10th Presidential and Representatives Elections.
The violence erupted right in front of the LP local office, which is about a stone throw from the Presidential Palace along the main street of Sanniquellie City, Nimba County.
As LP partisans converge in readiness to launch their campaign in the county, Coalition standard bearer Senator George Weah, at the head of a convoy, simultaneously entered the provincial city and attempted passing in front of the LP local office, already occupied by zealous partisans, who claim they had received official permission from the National Elections Commission to host the rally in Sanniquellie.
According to reports, the area had been blocked off by the Police in Sanniquellie to allow the LP rally activities, while the roadway around the City Hall was designated by the Police for CDC movement.
However, when the CDC convoy arrives with George Weah, CDCians insisted that they must pass in front of the LP HQ, bulldozing their way using rocks and knives, which led to two LP partisans being stabbed by CDC members, one of whom receives about 40 stitches in the stomach later at the government hospital.
Besides, there were of destruction of LP property, including musical set being used for the rallies, office computers, including engine of one LP pickup, which was parked.
The CDCians also brutally beat the driver of a second LP pickup, forcibly seizing the keys from him and took the vehicle away, but they were stopped outside the LP campaign offices and fled, leaving the car.
All this time, police officers were present but did not intervene to stop the violence. Coalition standard bearer Weah himself was reportedly on the spot during the chaos, but did nothing to halt the melee.
LP vice standard bearer Harrison Karwea, who is in Nimba, subsequently instructed his partisans to stand down, while he contacted police authorities.
The CDC said they were on their way to Karnplay, location of the LP rally scheduled for today, Thursday, and that they intend to disrupt another LP rally slated for tomorrow, Friday in Ganta, sources alleged.
Meanwhile, LP campaign CEO, Musa H. Bility says police in Monrovia have been contacted about the violence.
“We have contacted the Liberia National Police in Monrovia to report the incident. I am calling on all LP supporters and partisans in Nimba, and around the country, to remain calm in the wake of this blatant display of lawlessness and to not take any physical action. We will not stoop to violence, but we will remain strong and keep forging on. We will come together to kick out this lawless behavior permeating our country as we wait for the LNP to intervene in the matter”, says Mr. Bility
In order to avoid rival parties clashing, the NEC has announced that no two parties are allowed to hold rally on the same day in the same county or same location anywhere in the country.
Liberty Party vice standard bearer Harrison Karnwea, who spoke with a local radio station in Monrovia, narrates that the CDC was not granted official approval to rally in Nimba as the LP had earlier announced its rally and obtained permission to be in the county.
“I was not on the field myself, but the CDC was told they were wronged; their request was not granted”, Karnwea, who hails from Nimba, explains.
But a local journalist on the ground claims a Liberty Party pick-up marked “Special Operation” ran into the crowd of CDC partisans despite LP’s assertion that two of its partisans were allegedly stabbed and are being treated at the government hospital in Sanniquellie. Efforts by The New Dawn to contact officials of the Coalition for Democratic Change via mobile phone prove unsuccessful, as mobile numbers were inactive or out of coverage area.
-Story by Jonathan Browne