WITH THE CRUCIAL 2023 presidential and general elections fast approaching, Liberia and its international development partners are becoming increasingly concerned for all efforts to be exerted in ensuring that the ensuing elections are held in a tranquil, free, fair and transparent manner, devoid of the spate of violence that marred recent by-elections in the country.
TAKING A CUE from renown human rights advocate Attorney Samuel Kofi Woods who addressed the Association of Liberian Journalist in the Americas (ALJA) over the weekend in the United States where he enjoined the Liberian media to remain vigilant and only take the side of the truth, especially as it relates to the sustenance of democracy in our country; and given the media’s own crucial role in monitoring, reporting and giving voice to the populace during the 2023 presidential and general elections, our attention is therefore drawn to the somewhat unflattering and threatening remarks issued by the Liberian Chief Executive against opposition politician Lewis G. Brown when he (Weah) delivered a sermon this gone Sunday at his Forky Klon Jlateh Church.
MAKING REFERENCE TO a statement attributed to Ambassador Lewis Brown when he (Brown) appeared on a popular talk show and is alleged to said President Weah might not even go to the polls in 2023, the Liberian leader said Mr. Brown thinks he is a rebel, but there are other people who are even crazier.
“THE SAME MAN that we sacked from the Foreign Ministry in America, he said, and it’s very serious and I am going to say it, that George Weah will not go to election. He thinks he is a rebel. But other people are crazy more than other people. If you think your craziness pass-mark, some people own more than you own. I don’t know what he meant by I will not go to the election, and I want to say his name here – Lewis Brown. He was sacked because he doesn’t know diplomacy at all…” said President Weah when he mounted the pulpit to deliver the Sunday sermon at his church.
OF COURSE, AS beneficiary of the free speech for which journalists fought and died to sustain in this country, dating from the administrations of Presidents William V.S. Tubman, William R. Tobert, Samuel Kanyon Doe, Charles Ghankay Taylor, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and now himself; President Weah must understand that his right to free speech must be protected at all times, just as others’ rights to free expression must be jealously guarded.
BUT OUR PRESIDENT must also understand that as leader of this nation of nearly 5 million people, he bears the greatest responsibility to protect EVERYONE, not just members of his political institution, the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC). President Weah must also understand that the high illiteracy rate of the populace makes the majority gullible and prone to herd mentality, a situation that led CDCians to chase and hunt down then opposition candidate TELIA UREY DURING the recent by-election in Montserrado County District #15.
We still vividly recall how CDCians went on the rampage in an attempt to kill Ms. Urey following a statement from President Weah during a campaign rally at the CDC compound in Congo Town, that no Urey will ever win an election under his rule.
IT CAN ALSO be recalled the numerous attacks on opposition members in the recent past where the lives of prominent opposition politicians were put in harm’s way, their properties burnt and they were publicly disgraced under the watch of pro-government authorities. The violence meted against ANC standard bearer Alexander Cummings and delegation in Grand Gedeh; and other incidences that affected Montserrado County senator Abraham Darius Dillon, Unity Party stalwart Cornelia Kruah-Togba, Montserrado County District #10 Representative Yekeh Korlubah, among others, all bear testament to this government’s total disregard for political tolerance.
MOST APPALLINGLY, GOVERNMENT officials like Monrovia City Mayor Jefferson Koijee have become so emboldened by the laissez faire attitude of President Weah when it comes to prosecuting perpetrators of electoral violence, that Koijee is now on record for stating that he will not hesitate to protect the CDC hard-won trophy, to the extent that he would discard his coat suits and get in the trenches to pursue those who oppose the ruling party. Of course, we know what happened to the University of Liberia peacefully protesting students in the aftermath of Koijee’s statement.
PRESIDENT WEAH MUST realize that the entire world is keenly watching the 2023 elections. The Liberian people are watching. The press is watching. When the leader of the country uses the pulpit to bully his own citizens, it creates a recipe for violence.
THE VIOLENCE FROM our ugly past need not serve as a reminder to us. Never again.