Delegates of the main opposition Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) including the party’s head of secretariat Cllr. Aloysious Toe have been arrested by state security officers in Gbarpolu County, amid continuing electoral violence that has stalled a senatorial election which has been led by female independent candidate Gbotoe Kanneh.
The CPP says its delegation got arrested and detained beyond statutory period when it traveled to the county on a fact – finding mission to possibly lend technical support to Madam Kanneh following reports of alleged political harassment against the female candidate and violation of human rights to circumvent the will of the people in Gbarpolu.
Due to the election violence in the county, authorities at the National Elections Commission (NEC) announced this week that no date has been set for the rerun of the Gbarpolu Senatorial election in Nomodatahum, District #3 area where a Clan Chief has unleashed a Traditional Devil.
NEC said it has pulled out all its staff from the area and will only conduct the rerun when the situation normalizes. So far no specific date has been set after a rerun. Nomodatahum is a bordering town with Sierra Leone.
In a phone interview with police Spokesman Moses Carter Thursday evening, 17 December, he confirmed to this paper that seven members of the CPP delegation including Cllr. Aloysious Toe were arrested and taken to Bopolu City on Thursday for allegedly instigating electoral violence and throwing ballot boxes into the river.
“The truth here is all those that were brought to Bopolu today were people that are responsible for the electoral violence that occurred in Nomo … in Gbarpolu County,” Mr. Carter tells this paper.
According to the Police Spokesman, among those taken to Bopolu City is the Secretary General of the opposition Alternative National Congress (ANC), a constituent party of the CPP, Cllr. Aloysious Toe for allegedly instigating violence.
“The total number of persons [is] seven. Some were held liable for the throwing of the ballot boxes into the river called ULC … and some other persons were held liable for their involvement into the violence,” Carter explains.
Regarding reports that some women were allegedly raped, Mr. Carter says there is no woman among all those arrested by police, casting doubt on the report of alleged rape. “How come a woman was raped? No woman is arrested and detained by the police among those seven,” he says.
Additionally, Carter says the police have not received any report of rape in relation to the electoral violence in Gbarpolu County. However, he says if any such report comes and a medical report shows that a victim was tampered with or raped, whoever that will be held liable will face the full weight of the law. Regarding the whereabouts of candidate Botoe Kanneh, Mr. Carter notes that police have made contacts with supporters and some hierarchies of her camp, but the supporters allegedly declined to reveal their candidate’s whereabouts for security reasons.
Earlier, opposition CPP official Mr. Kla Edward Toomey told local broadcaster OK FM that a couple of days ago, the CPP’s head of secretariat Cllr. Aloysious Toe was arrested in Gbarpolu.
He laments that the arrest was made when the CPP delegation went to Gbarpolu on a fact – finding mission for the possibility of lending technical support to female candidate Madam GbotoeKanneh who was leading the pools in the county.
“The delegation was detained for more than 48 hours against our laws. After mounting pressure from the CPP and the media, they were released. This morning while on their way to town, attempting to come to Monrovia, they were rearrested and as we speak they’re being treated like common criminals,” Mr. Toomey says.
“Their only crime so far is the fact that they decided to travel in that part of the country, in their own country to lend support to a female candidate who … two members of her delegation have been reported raped and manhandled,” Toomey alleges further.
He describes the alleged acts as blatant violation of the rights of Liberians, cautioning that this goes against the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) – led government’s human rights credentials.
He claims that the goal of the political harassment and the violation of human rights is to circumvent the will of the people in Gbarpolu County.
Gbarpolu County Representative Alfred Koiwood who is contesting the senatorial election with government backing explains that the situation was inflamed by information reported to his rival Madam Gbotoe Kanneh by one of her supporters that her brother Cllr. BoakaiKanneh had allegedly been kidnapped and killed.
Mr. Koiwood insists that he is not aware that a country devil was brought out in the town during the election related crisis, adding that it is unfounded if somebody alleges that the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs Nathaniel McGill is masterminding [a plot] for his (Koiwood’s] ascendancy to the Senate seat.
“If somebody comes and says Honorable McGill has been masterminding for my ascendancy as a senator, it is absolutely unfounded, it is not true,” Mr. Koiwood says.
He accuses Madam Kanneh of allegedly erecting two check points on the route leading to the town in question, one for males and the other for females, adding that this country is a country of law and those who violated the election law have to be prosecuted.
The election violence emerged after angry youth acting on the instructions of the Clan Chief stormed voting centers on Election Day, 8 December and took away the boxes containing ballot papers and other voting materials.
Currently, as per the NEC provisional results, Madam Botoe Kanneh, an independent candidate is topping the race by some 449 votes ahead of the ruling CDC candidate Alfred Gayflor Koiwood in the county’s senatorial election. A win in the town with 2021 registered voters could seal her victory.
Reports of voters’ intimidation flared on Monday with many locals reporting the presence of a traditional (country) devil ordered in town by the Clan Chief, a diehard CDC supporter, which is preventing many people from accessing the town.
By Winston W. Parley