MONROVIA : Tough-talking National Chairman of the opposition Collaborating Political Parties Musa Hassan Bility is calling on President George Manneh Weah and his ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) to understand that the peace and security of Liberia during these crucial national elections depend wholly and solely on how well they manage to avoid confrontations that could escalate into electoral violence and eventually into a full-blown national crisis.
Making his position known in one of his recent podcasts that referenced the Thursday, August 1, 2023, campaign violence which erupted between supporters of the CDC and the opposition Unity Party, Mr. Bility said he was saddened that influential persons in society would continue to engage in acts that continue to remind the Liberian people about their bitter past.
According to Bility, the ruling CDC has a responsibility as a government to do everything they can to avoid confrontation. Reminiscing on how former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf did everything humanly possible to maintain the peace and curb electoral violence in 2011, Bility recalled how when he served as campaign manager for Montserrado County, they were marching with a very heavy convoy, coming from Congo Town to former President’s residence in Sinkor, right by the CDC headquarter, where CDC was having a program, and CDC refused to give the then ruling party a chance to pass.
“I was upset, and I said, if they don’t want to give us chance to pass, let’s go there. We cannot allow CDC to control the country. This was 2011, and Madam Sirleaf called me towards her car and said to me, ‘Musa, I have instructed the police and the security that we will bypass the CDC crowd. We will pass through the Old Road and go through Kailondo’s place and go to my place.’ And I said to her, ‘Madam President, you are showing weakness. You are trying to say that you don’t have control over this country, and that anybody can do anything. I think what you are doing is, you are going to allow these people to do even more’.
“At that point, I was upset, I got in my car and left. I followed the convoy. She had given the order as the boss, so I followed. And then she sent for me when we reached the house, and said, ‘Musa, I know you are not happy. But let me say this to you. Just imagine, if you had walked through those people, and they did something and the security opened fire on them, whose failure is it? CDC or me as President of Liberia? The report will never consider me as a candidate. It will say that my security had opened fire on unarmed civilians and they’d been killed. And if the president’s security is threatened, they will shoot no matter what happens. So, the fact that we are here, and the CDC is here, and the country is still intact, that’s leadership. So, it may look like I am weak; it may look like I capitulated, but I preserved the peace. And that’s what you should consider when you are the leader,’” Bility said, cautioning that President Weah and his CDC ruling party must do exactly as former President Sirleaf did in 2011.
Further advising President Weah and the ruling CDC, Mr. Bility said the Liberian leader should never himself to be placed in a situation where he will have to prove a point and the outcome becomes violent.
“I am way up north, I don’t what happened. I honestly don’t know who is wrong, but the truth of the matter is that in all that I want to do, I just want to make sure that you understand that if there is violence between your party and another party, the burden of the safety of every Liberian is on you. It’s not about whether you are right. It’s not about whether Unity Party is right or wrong; it’s not whether Unity Party provoked your people, it’s the fact that the burden of peace is upon you as president, and by extension, the CDC. Do not allow yourself to be part of anything that will bring chaos. You are the custodian of peace, so, you don’t have an excuse as a ruling party to be involved in violence. Nobody should lie to you. Anybody who lies to you is trying to make you and your government to fail. Listen to your conscience and do everything you can to avoid conflict on the street.
“When the president’s party, when the ruling party is involved in an open fight, there is no way you can be right. The burden of peace is on you; security is under your control. There are several ways to avoid things like that. You can increase security to create sufficient buffer between CDC and any other party, because if it goes wrong, there is no way that the government will not be held responsible. While we’re waiting for the report, and this is not to cast blame on the ruling party, but this is to say, it’s the issue of the egg and the rock. When the egg falls on the rock, the egg busts. When the rock falls on the egg, the egg busts.
“In the search for peace, you cannot fight for right. Honestly, this is not about politicking, this is not about campaigning. We will never campaign, we will never go to the ballot box, we will never cast our ballot unless there is peace. West Africa is on edge. There are too many things going on, and I feel like a cold war is rearing its head in our subregion.
“Mr. President, please understand that this country has paid its fair share of violence. Take your time, next time, avoid conflict. You can’t be looking for rights. When you are a government, the burden of security is on you. That organization, that preemptive action – the police should be deployed, even undercover police should be deployed so that when violence is coming, they can alert so that there can be deployment to avoid it.
“Please do not allow Liberia to disintegrate into another form of chaos. We can’t do it. We are not in the position. It’s not okay. As custodian, you have the constitutional responsibility to make sure that there is peace, and there are several steps that can be taken to avoid what happened. What happened two days will happen again, and again, and again. It is left with the government.
“When there is chaos during election, opposition is not held responsible. During the 12 years when CDC was in opposition, there was never a time when CDC was held responsible for chaos or violence, even though they were involved in violence with the ruling party. The rule cannot change now. So, please do your best. Let’s go for peace. We can insult one another. We can campaign. We have been expressing ourselves freely, our democracy is thriving. Anything to the contrary is a stain on your government. Don’t let anybody to tell anything. You can’t be right on that one.
“So, I ask the Minister of Justice, I ask the National Police to be proactive. Just imagine, 50 policemen deployed between the Unity Party and the CDC would have saved that boy’s ear. But the boy’s ear is gone. It doesn’t matter which camp he’s from. A Liberian has lost an ear. We’ve been there before. Those are not things that we want to hear again in our country.
“We are coming to difficult times. Opposition, we cannot campaign in violence. Let’s try to avoid it. Unity Party, put people, leaders in your march, in your rallies that will control a crowd. Let’s campaign on the issues. Tell our people, please vote for us based on our agenda, just as the CPP is doing. It is wrong. Let’s fix it. “My people, war is not good. Some of you sitting down in America today benefitted from war, but you have to remember how it started. There are still children here that have not gone to school. There are still teachers that don’t take pay. We are struggling in this country. Our people are struggling, let us do our best.
“We are going to have crisis with this election. Let’s stop humiliating one another. Let’s stop putting our children, our young people in harm’s way in the name of politics. Go to these elections with the open mind of voting for someone that you believe will change the country, and for us politicians, that we should give the Liberian people the opportunity to make a choice that will change their lives, and in order to give them that choice, they have to be given the change to listen to us; our positions, our dreams, our visions and our aspirations for them. Unfortunately, that call is not being heeded by almost all corners.
“The CPP has done an excellent job by focusing on a strict message, reaching to the Liberian people, but focusing on campaigning based on what we believe to reach to the Liberian and make them to understand that their vote is beyond t-shirts, billboards, stickers. It’s about your future and all of us future. I’ve done that, and we continue to do that. We’ve preached the same thing in Nimba, Montseraddo, everywhere. But unfortunately, most of our compatriots are not doing the same. At the end of the day, it’s hurting us,” Bility lamented.