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Koijee, Others to Face Senate’s Probe over Election Campaign Violence

The Liberian Senate has launched investigation into Saturday, 17 November 2018 Montserrado District#13 election campaign fracas, a bloody confrontation between supporters of rival Representative candidates which left several people injured and others hospitalized.

Supporters of Unity Party’s (UP) District#13 representative candidate Cornelia Krua and John J. Weah, representative candidate of the governing Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), clashed over the weekend on the climax of their campaign rallies leading to Tuesday’s vote.

Graphic pictures from Saturday’s chaotic scene showed men wearing black       T-Shirts and red barrettes parading with cutlasses in their hands. Police are also investigating which of the rival groups the machetes-carrying men actually belong to. The exact circumstances which led to the nasty election campaign scuffle have not been established. Several media reports have linked Monrovia’s Lord Mayor Jefferson Koijee to the violence, but this news outlet has not indecently verified those reports.

The Liberia National Police is also investigating the matter to establish who started the violence and what led to the violence which has claimed international attention. Several international bodies, including UN, and ECOWAS, have issued statements condemning the weekend’s election campaign bloodshed. Also, as the LNP and relevant security apparatuses delve into the matter to unravel the truth and bring to book the wrong doers, the Liberian Senate, too, is not letting the violence go unnoticed.

In a communication written to the plenary of the Liberian Senate in Monrovia Tuesday, Grand Bassa Senator Nyonblee Kangar Lawrence, who is also Standard Bearer of the opposition Liberty Party (LP) is alleged to be directly affected by the weekend’s violence, called for immediate action to be taken in order to avoid a recurrence of the deadly campaign clashes which practically impeded normal movement of people in the Gardnersville and New Georgia Townships.

“I stand here today not to talk about an individual or a particular political party. This is not one of those issues that we can treat as party issue. This matter is about maintaining the peace and safety of our people. I am calling on this Senate to take some concrete steps that will serve as a deterrent because, you cannot have people carrying cutlasses and other machetes, harming people and threatening the lives of others. This country is a country of laws,” Senate Lawrence angrily opined while presenting her case to that august body.

After the weekend’s election camping melee, it was initially reported that one person died from the gory confrontation, but the Liberian National Police (LNP) has denied such reports. In a statement issued by the LNP, the country’s supreme law enforcement agency confirmed several injuries from the incident, but however denied media reports that people died from the violence.

In its initial reaction to the incident, CDC chairman Mulbah   Morlu on Sunday accused the political leader Nyonblee Kangar of broad day lies over accusation she (Sen. Kangar) levied against the MCC’s City Mayor Jefferson Koijee. It may recall n that Senator Kangar, after Montserrado Distrct#13 post-election violence, accused Mayor Koijee of leading a group gangs that reportedly sparked the weekend’s skirmishes, charges Mr. Morlu also denies.

The CDC Chairman addressing a press conference in Monrovia also vowed to take the LP’s touch-bearer to court to prove her allegation. In reply to Mr. Morlu’s statement, Senator Lawrence, too, fired back today, promising to give a crushing response to Chairman Morlu’s comments.

“I have personally written President Weah and informed him about this situation. I am waiting to hear from the President. In the meantime, I want to send out a caution to the President that he’s not just the leader of the CDC, but he’s President for Liberia and all political parties in this country and as such, when one party is affected and crying foul, we expect that he would rise above the fray to do his best and bring the situation under control,” Senator Lawrence told a team of legislative correspondents in an exclusive interview today.

Meanwhile, plenary of the Liberian Senate today voted to send Senator Kangar’s complaint to the committees on Judiciary, Rules and Order, and Elections to make report to plenary in a week’s time.

“Our views, opinions, recommendations, are very important to the public. My complaint is not about any political party or me. I am encouraging all of our leaders to be able to guide our peace and security. The UN, ECOWAS, and other international bodies have already spoken on this issue. We don’t have to wait for outcome of investigation. I think we should think beyond our individual selves and institutions.

I am particularly concerned about 2020/2023 elections. We need to take action right now. This is a serious matter because election violence all over the world has the propensity to put countries in chaos. If we don’t do this, this could bring serious problem for us in the coming elections. Had it not been for God, this country would have descended into chaos over the weekend. If we in the high stages of the government are still involved in this kind of attitude, then, it means that fear is coming. This should not be business as usual. This report must not be swept under the carpet. President Weah must ensure that action is taken to serve a deterrent.”

“I my view, an allegation have been by very respectful citizen of this country. I believe the issue must first be investigated, and that a report made before we can open it for discussion   because, I believe this issue must be void of our emotions and sentiments.

“Liberia is heading for trouble if we are not prepared to address those issues head-on. If we fail to take action on this particular issue, it means we are headed for trouble.  We saw and read in the newspapers that people were beaten and brutalized heavily during the weekend’s fracas. We need to call Mayor Koijee to come here (to face Senate Plenary) and tell us what happened on Saturday. Mayor Koijee and others need to come and explain their side of the story.”

“For me, on this particular issue, I believe that Leadership and leaders must always prove themselves with facts so that when issues are raised and actions taken, they will always be in line with the reality. What are we debating here? We do not have facts and circumstances surrounding this issue. I would love the committee to go and investigate so that we can properly handle and take decisive action on this matter.”

“It’s good to talk about it so that our people can know that we should not tolerate electoral violence in this country.  Also, while it’s true that we wholeheartedly welcome for this issue to be turned over to the committee for investigation, in the meantime, I think we should condemn it in the strongest possible terms.”

“If you look at our history, most of our violence in this country started with electoral violence. The debate is not about investigation. It’s about people’s views that should accompany an independent investigation that we are trying to set up here.”

“We are not interested in any political party. We are interested in the bloodshed that went on. We all should condemn what happened. The condemnation is that people were seen with cutlasses and guns. If they say is not true, let them allow an independent investigation to go on. Election violence in this country has been catalytic.”

“We have to demonstrate that our hard won peace will be consolidated and that no one, absolutely no one, has the right to disturb this peace and security. Those who were involved must be held accountable for their actions. We must make sure that we consolidate this peace, and nothing else must threaten it.”

“I believe that if we were to setup and commission an inquiry into this matter, we would have drawn up a list of proposition on how we should proceed with it so that that proposition will be able to compel whomever was involved to come here and face the investigative panel, and this is what I voted against the motion to discuss this issue for now.”

“Let the Senate keeps its emotion. Let’s make the process of inquiry a credible one. I would like for us to invite the LNP and the NEC. Let’s invite the police and know what really went wrong. We also need to ask the NEC on the management of the two campaigns which were held on the same day. We all should be worried about the future. Despite the urgency of this matter, we need to remain impartial, credible and factual.”

“I am worried. This senate must get involved. We are in the same boat and if we don’t allow this boat to land safely, we will all feel it. We are landing on a rocky ground. I will agree that we open an independent inquiry into this matter. We really don’t need to worry about money for this kind of inquiry. To the ruling party, you must all remember that we all own this government. We will stand by the senate to ensure that the right thing is done to bring sanctity to this country.”

“We must never create the impression that this country is not governed by rule of law. I agreed that an independent inquiry should be setup so that we can establish the facts, and let the wrong doers be punished for their action. We have a primary responsibility to ensure the peace and sanctity of this country. If there’s no peace, we will not have the roads and other infrastructure development that government is craving for.”

“Even though they say we are enjoying peace, but let state here clearly that the state of peace is still fragile. Looking at what transpired over the weekend, one can safely say that we have trouble ahead. It would appear quite natural that the committees take seize of this matter and make their findings available to plenary. I still hold my grounds that on this issue, it needs to be taken seized of by our committees on Judiciary and elections, rules and order for a real debate to be held in the coming days.”

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