By Lincoln G. Peters
Liberia’s two main rival political parties – the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) and the opposition Unity Party (UP) are trading accusations after clashes between their supporters reportedly resulted in at least two deaths.
Supporters of the rival parties clashed over the weekend in Foya, Lofa County, a political stronghold of UP presidential candidate Amb. Joseph Nyumah Boakai.
Reports say the incident interrupted a buildup to receive U.S.-based Lofaians who were returning to the county to show support for Boakai, the main rival to incumbent President George Manneh Weah.
The political violence is reported to have taken place Friday, 29 September 2023 at the Shiloh Junction adjacent to the compound of CDC’s Montserrado County Electoral District #5 Representative Mr. Thomas P. Fallah.
At least 19 other victims were reported to have sustained wounds and several properties were destroyed during the political violence.
Incumbent President George Weah and his CDC campaign team had departed Lofa after campaigning there for re-election, and his rival Amb. Boakai and his UP-campaign team were heading to Lofa for their campaign when the incident occurred.
Mr. Weah addressing supporters in Yekepa, Nimba County on Friday, September 30, condemned the violent clashes saying violent should have no place in our country.
“Today, fellow CDCians, Liberians, what went on in Lofa County today is wrong. I don’t think any political party, or any group has the right to kill innocent people in this campaign period,” Mr. Weah said.
“It is wrong, it is sad. We are all Liberians, no matter which party you from, we are all families and friend,” President Weah said stressing, “what happened in Lofa today is wrong. I prayed no other county will allow such behavior to hurt each other. The days of war are over-let’s keep the peace.
Rep. Fallah has left Montserrado to contest a legislative seat in Lofa.
He told the media that there were two deaths, but the UP claimed that from the information it was receiving from the county, four persons were feared dead and dozens more were injured.
Meanwhile, both the CDC and UP continued to trade accusations regarding who engineered the violence in the county.
Supporters of the UP and CDC were said to have met at the Shiloh Junction in Foya around Mr. Fallah’s compound after a motorbike belonging to UP supporters broke down.
The violence is reported to have started when CDC supporters allegedly came and began engaging UP supporters.
During a press conference after the incident, Mr. Fallah accused the Unity Party of allegedly brutalizing and murdering peaceful CDCians who came out to demonstrate their love for him and the party.
“I am deeply saddened by the regrettable events that transpired today, Friday, September 29 in Foya District, Lofa County,” said Mr. Fallah.
“Today, members of the Unity Party led an unprovoked attack, resulting in the death of two supporters of the CDC and the injury of nineteen others,” Mr. Fallah alleged.
Reacting to the Lofa violence, UP presidential candidate Amb. Joseph Nyumah Boakai expressed regret and sadness over the unfortunate incident.
Mr. Boakai accused the CDC of allegedly attacking, provoking, murdering, and injuring UP partisans who were preparing for his visit to the county on Sunday.
“We don’t have the full details now but what we are hearing is that four persons have been killed by CDC before Representative Fallah’s compound,” Boakai alleged.
“We have also been informed that the police commander of Foya shot a live bullet which resulted in the death of one of our partisans, a situation that escalated the situation,” Amb. Alleged further.
However, the opposition leader has challenged the ruling CDC, saying no threat from the ruling party can stop his visit to Lofa they are under obligation as a government to provide protection and security.
The Lofa election violence has prompted an influx of condemnation from Liberia’s partners, foreign missions, citizens, and institutions.
The United States government through its Embassy near Monrovia has condemned the violence and loss of life that reportedly occurred in Foya, Lofa County on 29 September.
Through a statement issued here, the U.S. expressed sincere condolences to the families of the victims and urged everyone to maintain the peace.
“The US Embassy calls upon authorities to swiftly bring the perpetrators to justice. Political differences must be solved at the ballot box, peacefully, and never through violence. Violence is never the answer,” the Embassy.
Dozens of citizens and residents who spoke to our reporter have called on the international community and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to speedily assist in the electoral process of Liberia.
Mary Massaquoi, a resident of Logan Town on Bushrod Island said they feel no longer safe due to the huge political tension between the CDC and the UP.
“This is not the first violence since the launch of the campaign. We are living in serious fear. Taking the lives of others that you can’t replace is bad. We want the international community to step in and make sure that our lives are saved,” said Madam Massaquoi.
“We can’t move around freely any longer because everyone is now being targeted,” she noted.
Liberia’s Joint Security has said it has dispatched a team to investigate the incident in Lofa between the CDC and UP.
The Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) also condemned the recent wave of political violence in Lofa County, particularly the distressing acts of aggression between members of both UP and CDC.
“Our hearts ache for the lives lost and the many injured, including a law enforcement officer. Violence has no place in our democracy, and we vehemently call for an immediate cessation of these acts that undermine the fabric of our nation. We call upon the Liberian authorities to investigate these incidents swiftly and impartially, ensuring that those responsible face the full force of the law,” CPP said in its statement issued on Saturday.
“We strongly urge all political stakeholders to prioritize peace, unity, and respect during this critical juncture in our nation’s journey. Liberia deserves an atmosphere of peace and cooperation, where dialogue and understanding triumph over hatred and hostility,” the CPP said.
Condemnation also came from ECOWAS and the United Nations (UN). In a joint statement issued over the weekend, the international partners noted with grave concern the violence that broke between UP and CDC, which led to the loss of three lives.
“ECOWAS and the UN extend deep condolences to the families of the deceasedwhile calling on parties to adhere to the Farmington River Declaration 2023, the protection of human rights, and under the due process of the rule of law/