ON THE RECENT POLITICAL VIOLENCE IN LIBERIA
NOVEMBER 21, 2018
I was a member of the Cabinet on November 7, 2011, when the headquarters of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), then an opposition political party where the scene of violence and unwarranted bloodshed took place.
Despite my position in government at the time and holding true to my values as a human rights advocate, I condemned the government’s actions, the senseless tragedy and bloodletting; and declared the act a bad omen for our democracy. I called for a full investigation of the incident, emphasized the need for accountability, and demanded the reopening of radio stations that were summarily closed in the aftermath of the incident. An independent Committee was later appointed, inquiry conducted and some of its recommendations implemented.
Today, in the wake of the recent election-related violence in District#13, I am painfully reminded of that November 7, 2011 incident and concerned that bloody political contests searing our conscience and decency might become the new norm.
I hereby condemn the Saturday November 17, 2018 act of lawlessness and call on the Government to conduct a comprehensive investigation and ensure that the alleged perpetrators are brought to justice. “There must be no sacred cows”.
The violent incident over the weekend casts a cloud over the elections in District #13 undermining faith that the process and its outcome will be free, fair and transparent. It also puts a dent in the gains made over the years in consolidating our nascent democracy. This is an onslaught on human rights and a threat to peace and stability. However, it is convincingly reinforcing the case for accountability in Liberia. The indifference and disdain for human dignity persists due to the level of impunity indulged by our government and people.
Liberians have suffered over the years and would spare no price to resist attempts to intimidate, harass and impose inhumane treatment against those whose only crime is to freely associate and participate in a democratic competition and fulfill the full enjoyment of their fundamental rights.
We have had Two dark Novembers where blood has been shed and people killed for exercising their rights and civic duties. With victims of the previous incident now governors of the state, a repeat of this act of violence is unconscionable and unacceptable. Liberians look forward to a redemption of history and a conscious effort by the current leadership of this country to demonstrate its commitment to the tenets of democracy and peace. Government must realize that it is the agent responsible to protect all Liberians, not just some Liberians.
In view of these unfolding developments, I call for the following:
- A comprehensive investigation into the election-related violence that occurred over the weekend of November 17, 2018 and the incident involving the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) and the Executive Protection Services (EPS) on Sunday, November 18, 2018.
- All named perpetrators must be brought to justice
- All religious, civil and political organizations must ensure redress for the victims of such violence and campaign for the necessary punitive measures and sanctions against individuals and organizations who continue to engage in violence in our country; thereby undermining our peace;
- The National Legislature must conduct open session on these events and act to secure and protect our fledging democracy;
- International and regional organizations must take note of these developments and act to sanction individuals and organizations that seek to undermine the democratic gains made by our country;
- Where the Liberian Government fails to act properly, individuals are encouraged to take advantage of other avenues including the ECOWAS Court to ensure that government’s duty under international and domestic laws are adhered to;
- Any investigation must consider the violation of the code of conduct for public officials and the extent to which it has been violated
The Liberia Law Society is open to participate as a full partner to ensure that these recommendations and other suggestions are considered and implemented. IF IT WAS WRONG THEN IT IS WRONG NOW!
Atty. Samuel Kofi Woods, II
Legal Consultant & Founder
Liberia Law Society