Letter to my Compatriots
My dear Compatriots:
Ref.: Our Country’s Slow But Irreversible Descend into Violence
In the past week, pre-and-post elections debates and disagreements have punctuated and saturated the air – and assumed a perilous dimension. In Kakata, Margibi County, I understand, a jeep belonging to the Paramount Chief of Todee District, Oldman Gbailey Kamara, of Gegbah Town, was petro-bombed by unknown persons. The Paramount Chief is said to be a vocal and known advocate for Representative-elect Josephine Francis of Unity Party. A few days following the Tuesday presidential and legislative elections, a partisan of Unity Party, following what was reportedly a passionate and heated defense of his party, was hammered on his head by his neighbor who belongs to another party. The UP partisan was hospitalized.
This past weekend, the district office of Unity Party in District # 6 in Montserrado County was burned. Love Radio Station’s facilities on 10th Street, owned by Mr. Benoni Urey, a prominent member of the Alliance of Congress for Democratic Change and National Patriotic Party (NPP), was petro-bombed. Tension in Monrovia is palpable – and is as thick as commercial ice block.
These reported heinous acts of violence go beyond the evil and criminal conduct they represent: they are an assault on our constitutional right of free association and free choice; they are an assault on democracy, because they attack and destroyed the symbols of democracy, the office of a national political institution – and on freedom of the press and freedom of expression, two pillars of democracy and critical bedrock of a democratic society. Further, by attacking Love Radio, the criminals sought to silence an important instrument that gives public voice to many of our citizens – and informs and entertains the public.
My Compatriots, these attacks point to intolerance because they seek to extinguish the burning flame of political pluralism or difference and healthy political competition and discourse. Intolerance, whether ethnic, religious, political, social, academic or intellectual, fosters hate – and breeds more intolerance. Unchecked, intolerance and hate create insecurity and ignite conflict.
However, the silver linen in this is that the leaders of the two leading political parties, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, of Unity Party, and Counselor Winston A. Tubman, of Congress for Democratic Change, have both issued strong statements calling on their partisans and supporters to refrain from engaging in any acts of violence and to remain civil throughout the electioneering process. It is also noteworthy that the two Standard Bearers have stated that they would participate in and abide by the verdict of the Liberian voters at the end of the run-off presidential election. Their supporters, all of us, should listen and heed their advice.
Are all Liberians listening to the President of Liberia and the Standard Bearer of CDC? Yes, because in recent days, I have been heartened to see and hear many significant stakeholder organizations and prominent fellow Liberians speak out against violence and in support of the continued peace, security, and stability of our One Liberian Nation. I urge you, my Compatriots, to be prepared to demand and to sacrifice for permanent peace for our country and our children.
In one of my recent letters, I wrote that in the current political contest, one of the two political parties will WIN, because this is the goal that the run-off election seeks to achieve. The sooner members of each of the political parties and their supporters come to grips with this reality, the sooner we will be able to pipe down our vitriolic rhetoric; the sooner we will begin to realize that violence is not a healthy and patriotic way to vent disappoint and frustration in a democratic political contest; the sooner we will realize that violence hurts our common country and endangers all of us; the sooner we will accept that our COUNTRY, indeed, our COUNTRY, is and will always be supreme; that Liberia is bigger than any political party and anyone of us, that this country is the only place we can call home without a qualifying adjective.
My Compatriots, are you listening? Are you seeing what is happening? Did you listen to LINSU, FLY, our religious and women leaders and groups – and our individual fellow citizens? They are saying a resounding NO to violence; they are saying Liberia is not a prize to be won by any person or group of persons who shouts the loudest, or who has the greatest capacity to threaten to inflict violence on our citizens and country – and as a result of the presenting threat of violence and war cows the free citizens of this Republic to surrender our national leadership to them. Do you agree – and are you prepared to join the chorus and any patriotic collective action to peacefully condemn and resist any and all violence or threats of war whether they are by groups or individuals, or whether it is petro-bombing or through other diabolical instruments that assault our fragile democracy and our individual, inalienable rights and civil liberties?
My Compatriots, violence, intimidation, harassment, intolerance, and hate have no place in democracy. In our post conflict nation, they present a real danger and threat to us all.
When the symbols of our democracy and our civil liberties are being brazenly assailed, is it NOT TIME for all of us to condemn the acts by those I consider the apostles of conflict and chaos? Do we remember the Liberian parable that states, inter alia, that “when a neighbor’s house catches on fire”, it is your moral – and, I dare say, your Christian and Islamic duty to help your neighbor put out the fire, because if you fail to assist, that fire could expand to consume your own house? In a word, I call on all Liberians, regardless of where they stand along the continuum of our national political, ethnic, religious, socio-economic, and cultural divides to condemn the creeping acts of violence in our country. Together, Liberians can checkmate this menace to our peace and security and stability and democracy – and make our nation’s march toward continued peace and socio-economic progress irreversible.
I would like to thank the Minister of Justice for her strong statement of assurance, and the Police for their vigilance in reportedly apprehending some of the alleged suspects. I also thank our faith-based groups and leaders as well as our civil society organizations and fellow citizens, including the Press Union of Liberia, for speaking out against violence now and violence forever.
In Union Strong, Success is Sure!
Morris M. Dukuly, Sr.