The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has flagged a creeping tendency for some political leaders and activists to stir violent emotions here in the run-up to Liberia’s October elections.
In a statement released Thursday, 21 September 2023, ECOWAS expressed concern against the creeping tendency for some political leaders and activists to use incendiary rhetoric that could stir violent emotions, incite disturbances and jeopardize the peace and stability of Liberia.
“ECOWAS condemns in no uncertain terms such inflammatory statements that have the propensity to trigger violent confrontations,” the statement said.
The regional bloc did not name a particular political leader or an activist, but its statement comes at a time Nimba Senator Prince Y. Johnson faces condemnation for recently issuing a threat against election rigging.
Senator Johnson told a press conference on Monday that the impressive turnout exhibited during the opposition Unity Party’s (UP’s) campaign launch on 17 September 2023 is an indication of the people’s resolve to remove President George Manneh Weah from power.
“Before the October elections, Liberians are coming out under the banner ‘Don’t Try It’ – any attempt, the people’s power would be exercised like the Arab Spring,” said Sen. Johnson.
“You’ll shoot your gun; you’ll kill us or you’ll die. No more fear, Liberians don’t have fear anymore,” Sen. Johnson said.
The former Liberian warlord is a key political ally of opposition presidential candidate Amb. Joseph Nyumah Boakai and the former ruling Unity Party in this year’s elections.
He raised a concern about alleged potential election interference by the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) and has threatened to fight back with arms in the cause of the people.
Liberia’s Joint Security has condemned Senator Johnson’s threat of an “Arab Spring” rebellion should the government rig the October 2023 presidential and legislative elections.
Meanwhile, ECOWAS has urged political actors to use dialogue and mediation to address grievances and legal channels to seek redress to such concerns.
“We continue to reiterate the importance of fostering an issues-based campaign devoid of vituperative language,” said ECOWAS.
The regional bloc called on all state institutions with roles to play in the electoral process to continue to execute their mandates in neutrality.
It further urged them to provide a level playing field for all stakeholders to exercise their constitutional rights with respect to the rule of law.
“ECOWAS reminds all actors that the provisions of the Farmington River Declaration are in force and cardinal to the conduct of all political actors to safeguard the electoral process.”
The statement said the ECOWAS Commission and its long-term observers currently in Liberia remain vigilant in assessing the political ecosystem in the run up to elections and affirms its continued support to a peaceful and successful presidential and general election.