Peaceful Campaign Ends in Liberia



By Abdoulaye W. Dukulé

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
October 11, 2005


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For a country that has just emerged out of one of the deadliest civil wars in Africa modern history, Liberia has managed to conduct a surprisingly peaceful campaign leading to presidential and legislative elections scheduled for October 11, 2005. Although a few partisans swirled rocks at the convoys of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Varney Sherman on the opening day of campaigning, the process has very calm.

This past Saturday, 4 political parties shared the pavements of Monrovia without incident. Partisan groups yelled at each other, using their party’s slogans. In Sinkor, a group of National Patriotic Party (NPP), the former ruling party of Charles Taylor, encountered a group of partisans from the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) of George Weah. The two groups moved to opposite sides of the boulevard and traded slogans. The NPP young supporters used a slogan from Ellen Johnson’s party “The Old Ma say Go to School!” while CDC partisans responded “He kill your Ma? No! He kill Your Pa? No He gave you Guns? No He only plays football!” After a few minutes of verbal confrontation, the groups continued their march in opposite direction.

The Coalition for the Transformation of Liberia (COTOL) headed by Varney Sherman and Liberty Party of Charles Brumskine were also holding what has now become known as “pre-victory rallies.” COTOL held its rally at the Antoinette Tubman stadium. The crowd was much smaller than the hundreds of thousands of people who rallied for Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Thursday and that brought the city to a standstill for almost an entire day. The NPP held its rally in their compound in the former Ministry of Agriculture.

By far, the biggest crowd came out for the George Weah who had invited his partisans to a “victory party” at the Samuel K. Doe stadium, which could contain hundreds of thousands. Waves of young people and children walked from every corner of the city to head to the stadium. Conservative estimates put the number at least half a million persons. The stadium was closed for renovation and the same crowd had to walk back from the Paynesville suburb to the CDC headquarters. Dr. Amos Sawyer who drove through the crowd along with Tiawan Gongloe likened it to the sight of a diver swimming against a school of fish.

The massive turnout of youth for George Weah could have an adverse affect on his campaign. It could lead to lead to a galvanization of older voters. The sight of hundreds of thousands of children following one politician was unsettling for many. The Weah parade was termed “the million man march.” Many Weah partisans said that they have already won and that any defeat on their part could stem from cheating.

As the country gets closer to balloting, the political parties have started to negotiate for possible alliances for a second round. Informal polls indicate that the race will be played between Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and George Weah.

International observers, including President Jimmy Carter and former Benin President Nicephore Soglo are already in Monrovia. The involvement of the Carter Center in the Liberian peace process dates back to 1991, when the late President Houphouet Boigny who then chaired the ECOWAS peace negotiations asked Mr. Carter to intervene. President Soglo was Chairman of ECOWAS and brokered the Cotonou Peace Accord that led to the formation of the first postwar transitional government. Since then, Liberia has had 5 transitional governments.

Liberians have been reminded by both local leaders and President Obasanjo who visited Monrovia on Friday and met with part leaders that this is the last chance for Liberia to make a transition.

He United Nations military Mission, in a statement issue on Wednesday, said that under the chapter 7 mandate, the peacekeepers would shoot on sight at anyone r group of persons who would attempt to disrupt the electoral process, during or after the voting.

Every political camp is claiming victory. Many candidates do not hesitate to claim that God has spoken to them. But, except for a miracle, the race will be decided between Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and George Weah, with each one claiming that they could win in the first round. In case neither candidate failed to get more than 50 percent of the votes, the two highest would go for a second round that is tentatively scheduled for November 8.