Amid reports of voters trucking in Bomi County, western Liberia for registration, ahead of the December 8th midterm senatorial election, the county’s provisional city, Tubmanburg, has witnessed serious fistfight between groups believed to be rival supporters of two aspirants there.
Supporters of incumbent Bomi County Representative Edwin Melvin Snowe and former Speaker Alex Tyler clashed in a face-to- face battle with machetes and other weapons, bringing the city to a standstill momentarily. There was no casualty.
The violence started when the government-operated National Transit Authority buses arrived in Tubmanburg with group of people in their youthful ages onboard, believed to be supporters of Ex-speaker Tyler to participate the ongoing voters’ registration by the National Elections Commission.
But members of the group were vehemently resisted by people in the area from registering on grounds that they are not residents of Bomi County, something that resulted to violence.
Officers of the Liberia National Police swiftly intervened by disbursing the crowd, but situation degenerated early Tuesday, September 15, when both sides engaged each other, throwing stones and other deadly objects thereby stalling movement of students, marketers, visitors and bystanders.
The fight, which started from the road leading to the Bomi County Administrative building, took a dramatic twist to the campaign offices of incumbent Rep. Snowe. Later, officers of the Police Emergency Response Unit moved in and arrested three rioters.
Bomi County has been the hub of importation of voters from Monrovia and neighboring Sierra Leone by rival aspirants in their apparent desperation to win the county’s senatorial seat in Dercember.
According to some residents, Representative Snowe and Ex-speaker Tyler are directly behind the trucking of voters to the county, but Snowe has denied.
A member of the governing Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) and political leader of the Liberia People Democratic Party, a constituent party of the Coalition, Tyler has not spoken to allegations of his involvement in trucking voters for registration.
On Monday night, two reporters, James Flomo of Spoon FM and Nyentee Togba of Ok FM, respectively were besieged by trucked voters, who had entered the county to get register, violently seizing the reporters’ mobile phones for screening live happenings in the county on social media and to their respective media institutions in Monrovia.
The Bomi County Police Detachment arrested the situation and with immediate effect, released the reporters along with their phones.
At the same time, several young people took the street of Tubmanburg, demanding that the trucked voters leave the county immediately, noting the importation of voters may not reflect actual winner of the December 08 poll in Bomi.
Meanwhile, when both Snowe and Tyler were contacted via mobile, their respective telephones rang endlessly without response.
Liberians are expected to go to the poll December to elect 15 of the 30 senators at the Capitol. The National Elections Commission has embarked on replacement of lost voter’s cards, registration of citizens who turned 18 years after the 2017 Presidential and representatives elections, including voters who have relocated from one county to another.
Addressing a press conference in Monrovia on Tuesday, the NEC warned those aspirants allegedly involved in trucking voters to desist immediately, as the practice contravenes the electoral law of Liberia.
NEC Chairperson Davidetta Browne Lansanah said the Commission is concerned about reports of “trucking” of citizens by some aspirants.
“We note that trucking is prohibited under Chapter 10.1(a) of the New Elections Law and is punishable by a fine or imprisonment of up to six months”, Madam Lansanah said in a press conference at the NEC headquarters between 9th and 10th Streets in Sinkor.
She said while the NEC is not clothed with authority to impose criminal penalty, the Commission frowns on the trucking of citizens for political purpose, and calls on all involved in this practice to desist.
“A person who is trucked to another area is in violation of Chapter 3 of the Elections Law which states that a person must register to vote in the area where he or she ordinarily resides. Upon finding, consistent with due process of law, that a person was trucked in this regard, his or her name will be removed from the registration roll; similar actions will also be taken against persons who registered more than once”, she also warned.
Ahead of official campaign and actual poll day, activities of rival supporters of aspirants across the country are being marred by violence with a key opposition politician in the race, incumbent Senator Darius Dillon of Montserrado County threatening to respond to violence in a tit for tat manner.
By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor–Editing by Jonathan Browne