On Monday, July 14, 2014, hundreds of residents of the 17- Electoral Districts of Montserrado County swamped the Doe Community football pitch on a Busrod Island in Monrovia to petition the former Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Oil Company of Liberia or NOCAL, Mr. Robert Sirleaf for the Liberian senate during the Special Senatorial Election in October of this year.
According to the petitioners, joined by supporters of Robert Sirleaf, under the auspices of the Montserrado Redemption Squad, their decision was against the backdrop of what they claimed is Mr. Sirleaf’s numerous contributions to the socioeconomic well-being of the young people of Liberia, with specific emphasis on his support to infrastructure development- especially in slum communities like West Point, Samuel K. Doe Community and PHP, as well as education, among others.
“Due to his passion for our county and country at large, we have made our political calculation to bring Mr. Robert Allen Sirleaf in the legislative spotlight to adequately represent the peace loving people of Montserrado County,” the petitioners, through spokesperson Lassana Fofana, told the gathering, further justifying their decision: “We have realized with great disappointment and shocking political disdain over the period about the high level of legislative abandonment meted against our people in this county and we have suffered for nine years from the hands of leaders we elected after the period.”
Mr. Sirleaf could not outrightly accept the petition, but promised to take it to the Lord in prayer: “I want to thank you all for giving me this folder. I hold this folder to my heart, and I will take it to God tonight; and I will wake up tomorrow morning and I will ask God… if what’s in this folder represents the dreams of the people of Montserrado County and then God will send me a message that in this folder; if I would make a decision, I would do so.”
The peaceful gathering- the second largest in recent times compared to rallies staged by the Opposition Congress for Democratic Change or CDC, was, however punctuated detracting protest staged by a group of young people- an unfortunate action that may have provoked violence had the Petitioners not been focused in achieving their primary objective. Even if it should be accepted that the community (Clara-Doe Community) in which the petitioning ceremony for Mr. Sirleaf was a political stronghold of a particular party or individual, it was only uncivilized for the so-called protesters to have acted they way they did.
Moreover, being the stronghold of a particular individual or political party did not give the protesters any land right or legal authority to execute such action as they did on Monday, July 14, 2014, while another political rally was ongoing. Our concern is against the backdrop of recent past political violence arising out of similar provocations- situations which almost portrayed a negative picture of Liberia’s emerging democracy.
Ahead of the 2014 Special Senatorial Election, there are threats of election violence in a number of counties, including Bong and Nimba, with aspirants and their supporters deviating from issued-based politics to personal attacks, including the use of invectives at political gatherings. Those who preach democracy and fair-play must equally ensure tolerance in practical terms.
In view of the foregoing, the attention of the National Elections Commission or NEC must be drawn to these occurrences, which if not tackled, would erupt into violence. The urgent need for the National Election Commission to immediately put a check to such uncivilized political actions, including the Monday, July 14 protest action in Clara Town, must be emphasized and action(s) taken against those who attempt to mortgage our democracy so as to deter future recurrences in the interest of democratic political freedom.
Should the NEC renege on intervening by instituting the necessary measures to avoid future embarrassment and conflict, it may surely be held responsible for any future violence as Liberia moves closer to the Special Senatorial Election in October and the 2017 General and Presidential Elections.