The National Elections Commission (NEC), in consonance with Section 3.1 of the New Elections Law of Liberia, recently proclaimed September 11-25, 2020 for the Voters Roll Update and its attendant processes. According to the NEC, “about 500 or more Voter Roll Update Teams will move across the country, at three-day intervals, from Voter Registration center to Voter Registration Center, covering more than 2080 Centers”. Immediately following the NEC pronouncement for commencement of the VRU process, the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) alarmed that the VRU process could open a floodgate for double and triple registration, voters’ cards padding and accumulation by powerful and wealthy candidates, for distribution to illegally imported voters. Hardly had the sentence ended from the CPP’s mouth when violence erupted in Grand Cape Mount during the Voters’ Roll Update and Registration process, leaving several persons severely wounded including journalist Omaska A. Jallah. The Analyst, in its obligatory duty of providing an untainted version of developments, launched an independent investigation which findings point directly to Grand Cape Mount County Senator Victor Watson and his supporters as gang leaders of the September 13, 2020 violence in Jenneh-Liberia and other parts of Western Liberia.
But even before this paper could wrap up its investigation, Senator Victor Watson had already taken to Facebook complaining about attacks against his supporters.
“As Senator of Grand Cape Mount County, I have taken NOTE and I have filed a formal complaint with the Liberian National Police, please do, if you’ve not. To all victims, I am deeply sorry about your ordeal, it’s thoroughly horrible. The violence was allegedly instigated by Representative Hanson Kiazolu and Mr. Abu Kamara, former director of the Liberian Business Registry. I have received reports of violence in different places which led to people being wounded. These incidents by Hon. Kiazolu led to the damage of my vehicle by a dangerous mob at Vincent Town in Bomi County. I condemn it! Rep. Kiazolu, this is totally unacceptable. We respect you as a son of Grand Cape Mount County who is now a representative of Montserrado County but we will not tolerate attacks on our people and perpetrators will feel the full force of the law. This is clear that actions like these are causing violence and disorder in our country and communities, I urge people to stay away from violence. I look forward to the findings of the police investigation. This will inform our subsequent action. I urge our supporters to remain peaceful and law abiding as we explore all legitimate means to ensure that the perpetrators of violence account for their actions. Stay safe and avoid violence,” Senator Watson posted on his Facebook page Sunday.
But according to eyewitness accounts, especially from victims of the September 13, 2020 Grand Cape Mount County electoral violence, the whole bloody incident was orchestrated by Senator Victor Watson and his supporters, in a bid to register Sierra Leonean citizens as Liberians for the VRU process.
Mohammed Daramie is a party agent for the Collaborating Political Parties who was assigned to Jenneh-Liberia in Tewor District, Grand Cape Mount County, to monitor the VRU and registration process.
According to Mr. Daramie, in an exclusive interview with this paper, a lot of violence took place in Cape Mount on Sunday, but he could only speak to the issue as it relates to Jenneh-Liberia in Tewor District.
“Yesterday was the endorsement ceremony of the lone candidate for the CPP in Cape Mount. But then at the same time, the voter roll update and registration were going on. So we went to Jenneh-Liberia to monitor the update. When we got there, we signed in as party agent to monitor the process. There, we saw the chief of office staff of Senator Victor Watson of Cape Mount, one Abel Fahnbullleh, one Amadu and lot of people we could not identify besides those three quickly. When they came, they asked that we leave the community. That’s how the NEC staff said: ‘No. This guy is working here. We recognize his presence; because he has the NEC tag that was given to him. So he works with us.’ Then Senator Watson’s people said, ‘okay, let the other people leave this town. They are not supposed to be in this town’. That’s how they jumped on one of our guys and wounded him badly. They managed to bring him to Sinje Hospital,” Daramie narrated.
Explaining further, Mr. Daramie said Senator Watson’s men later returned and requested that they needed no other person at the registration center, demanding that he should leave.
“But the guy who works with NEC disagreed with them. The NEC personnel told them that I am doing my work, that was why I was assigned by my party, for which NEC gave me an ID card. But Senator Watson’s men jumped on me and started to beat on me too as well. After they flogged me bitterly, the NEC guy asked me to do a complaint and I did the complaint which the NEC official signed, witnessing the process. While I was there, the NEC guy asked me to call some people to come and free me. When I called for people to come and free me, they went to the police station and registered the case to the police for reinforcement to come to my aid. So the police said they were waiting for manpower. While they were in the process, some motorcyclists decided to come and get me out of the place. About seven motorcyclists reached there, but they were not able to get me out. The Victor Watson group jumped on the motorcyclists and beat on them. Later on the NEC official asked me to leave my motorcycle with them and some of the community people helped me to escape from the community,” Mr. Daramie further narrated.
He said the main reason for the whole hullabaloo was because Senator Watson’s supporters had brought in a huge batch of Sierra Leoneans that had just crossed into Liberia to register.
“And so, they never wanted us to be there because they had mandated the NEC officials to register whosoever that came to them. That was what led to the problem. They did not want any observer there. I spoke with some of the Sierra Leoneans. Unfortunately, the Victor Watson group destroyed all of the seven phones that we had. But the people were all Sierra Leoneans. Even when the ERU guys went to make some arrests, the other women they met in the house were all speaking Creole, they couldn’t speak any other language but Creole. So they themselves identified that the people were Sierra Leoneans,” Daramie lamented.
He said the violence also extended to the end of the Robertsport-Tallah highway, where the same group of Senator Watson people later converged to cause disturbances.
“When they got there with two NTA buses, the town chief told them that he wouldn’t allow anyone registering in his town except if they citizens of the town.
Daramie said while the commotion was going on between the town chief and Senator Victor Watson’s men, the town chief received a call from the Superintendent of the County, Mr. Aaron Vincent, ordering that the town chief allow everyone to register. Daramie said when the youths of the town decided to side with their town chief, confusion broke out. In the event, journalist Omaska Jallah who was on the scene to make some inquiry and get some report got wounded on his head.
“The supporters of Victor Watson that were using his pickup were able to chop Omaska on his head too,” Dararmie informed this paper, disclosing that the journalist is currently at the Saint Timothy Hospital in Robertsport undergoing treatment.
Daramie said while Senator Watson’s men were on their way back to town, they encountered Montserrado County District 17 Representative, Hanson Kiazolu, who had just left the CPP program in Cape Mount.
“The Victor Watson group bracketed with Representative Kiazolu right at the Robertsport Junction and attacked him. When they attacked him, the Representative’s boys wanted to retaliate, that’s how the Victor Watson guys got on their bus and they started going. While they were going, the Representative was still moving, the bus went and hit the Representative’s car, and they started stoning the Representative’s car. They even broke two of the car windshields. There were series of attacks up to Vincent Town, right near Po River, Monrovia. They also attacked Representative Kiazolu there. A serious fight was said to have taken place at Vincent Town but I cannot report much on that because I was not on the scene,” Daramie stated.
The CPP party agent to the VRU process said the issue of electoral violence is becoming deadly serious.
“And all of this happened yesterday when the City Mayor of Monrovia, Jefferson Koijee visited Cape Mount, Tienii yesterday where the CPP program was held. Mr. Koijee even walked to the police station and engaged the police officers,” Daramie alarmed.
Daramie fingered Mr. Augustine Sajumah Kamara, who works with Victor Watson, and Mr. Abel Fahnbulleh who contested the 2017 representative elections, as the main culprits who masterminded and spearheaded the September 13, 2020 electoral violence in Cape Mount.
Journalist Omaska A. Jallah’s Account
According to one of the victims of the Sunday attack, while on his journalistic tour in Grand Cape Mount County, he came across a situation in Latia, one of the towns on the Robertsport Highway where two NTA buses escorted by one CDC pickup had stopped to carry on voter registration of over 700 persons transported from Monrovia under the authority of Senator Victor Watson of Cape Mount.
“The town chief and some youth had gathered on the scene to prevent these people from registering on ground that they are not citizens of the town and can’t be recognized by anyone. I arrived as a journalist to probe into the issue and establish some facts surrounding the situation. I managed to get the side of Haji Sombai, Paramount Chief of Tombey Chiefdom, who narrated that he had been mandated by Superintendent Aaron Vincent to allow the people to register despite where they come from,” journalist Omaska Jallah stated on his social media page.
Journalist Jallah said in trying to get the side of NEC, the Electoral Supervisor for the Center, only identified as Ruth, stated that she had contacted her boss David Armah on the telephone and was given the permission to go ahead with the registration process.
“Crossing to the other side in keeping with balancing the stories, the group from the bus refused to talk with me and threatened to harm me if I did not disengage. It was against this backdrop that I decided going live to expose the situation, which didn’t go down well with the guys from the bus and so, they immediately moved on me, seized my phone worth USD 135.00, flogged, brutalized and injured me on my forehead,” Journalist Jallah narrated, adding, his attackers also stole from him USD 80.00 and 13, 500LD.