Violence Drowns Political Campaign

By Abdoulaye W. Dukulé

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
August 18, 2005


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Weah's supporters
Hopes for a civil and quiet campaign were dashed when unruly partisans, mostly youth supporting the George Weah campaign took to the streets, swirling rocks at convoys of opponents, attacking partisans of other camps and tearing down posters of those they perceived to be “enemies” of their man.

Two young men were arrested after they threw rocks at the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf convoy, breaking the windshield of a car. Madam Sirleaf was in a different car and no injuries were reported. However, one of her supporters was beaten and disrobed by another group of youths and was taken to a hospital. A float in the Varney Sherman campaign was attacked and destroyed while the convoy headed for the Antoinette Tubman Stadium for the launching of the campaign.

Sirleaf's supporters

For some Monrovians, the scenes were well reminiscent of the 1997 elections to some extent when intimidation by former combatants commanded the streets. Thousands of youth, mostly teenagers and young adults, wearing washed out jeans and t-shirts, eyes shut out, sweating, yelling out of cars took over the streets, screaming inaudible slogans. The police tried in vain to confine them to one side of the road. But the mob was uncontrollable. We’re in town, Politicians scare!” We are in town, no more Gorbachow…” They carried posters of George Opong Weah. The youth, the jobless, the ones left with a grim future by the warlords and born during the decades of Liberia’s slip into the dark ages. George Weah, the football star represented their aspiration.

The Ministry of Justice decided to put a halt to the mob action, calling on political parties to ask their partisans to refrain from any form of demonstration in the streets during the campaign. In its communication, the Ministry of Justice said that it was saddened by the behavior of certain partisans who took to the streets and paralyzed traffic in many areas, especially during rush hours.

Traffic in Monrovia flow pretty much on one straight line, Tubman Boulevard to downtown and the other road goes from Red Light, in Paynesville through the Freeport and over the bridges to downtown. Both roads were almost closed to traffic on Monday, on the opening day of the campaign. Weah’s supporters took over Tubman Boulevard, in waves,.

The two campaigns of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and George were well on a collision course. Many young partisans of Weah see in her the same person who fought their “pappy,” Charles Taylor until he was ultimately driven out of power. On Monday afternoon, many youth carrying posters of George Weah stood across from the Ellen campaign headquarters on Broad Street, singing slogans, at times using very crude languages.

“Nobody in their right mind would dare carry posters of any other candidates in front of George Weah’s CDC headquarters,” said a Liberian Action member who was trying to placate posters of Varney Sherman on Broad Street. “They tore down every poster we put up in the last two days but we will not respond in kind! Their standard bearer must tell them how a political campaign is run in a civilized and democratic society.”

Many see the ability of George Weah to deal with the behavior of his partisans as the first and true test of his leadership capacity. On Tuesday morning, a host on a radio talk show wondered how could “Opong run a nation if he could not control his partisans?”

A fortnight ago, unknown individuals attempted to set the jeep of National Election Commission co-chair Jimmy Fromayan on fire. There has been no arrest in the case. The incident, coupled with threatening letters sent to other members of the commission has lead to more security for members of the commission.

The Varney Sherman campaign was launched on Monday afternoon at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium, across from the Barclay Training Center (BTC). According to Mrs. Sheba Brown, Chair of the Liberian Action party (LAP), it was the “most organized launching event.” She said that the campaign caravan would be headed for Bong County on August 24, which incidentally, is Liberia National Flag Day. Asked if she thinks that Varney Sherman could win the elections, she responded; “the people of this country know who got the goods and who can deliver.”

The Liberty Party of Charles Brumskine is said to be preparing a grand launching in Buchanan where the party headquarters are located. According to unconfirmed reports, thousands of Liberty party partisans are being bused to Bassa County.

The Liberia National Union (LINU) party is scheduled to launch its campaign in Sinkor, at its headquarters on 16th Street in Sinkor, today. Mr. Morlu, the standard bearer of LINU who took over the party after the death of its founder expects the party to do more than well in the elections. “We are going in this as the underdog, we may not have the name recognition of some other candidates, but that is because we have been working quietly to reach this far and the results of these elections would surprise many people.”

The National Patriotic Party of former president Charles Taylor launched its campaign on Tuesday afternoon at its headquarters, on Tubman Boulevard. The standard bearer of the former ruling party said that the international community

With unemployment hitting conservatively 85 percent, there are enough partisans to go around for every candidate. Free meals, free posters, free T-shirts, a place to hang out attract crowds in this beat down city.

On Tuesday night, while the city of Monrovia was slowly quieting down and recouping from the second day of campaigning, young partisans of George Weah were just beginning the night with a concert at the CDC headquarters. Reggae, rap music as well Liberian songs brought together thousands of people who seemed determined to spend the night dancing and singing.