MONROVIA: As Liberians prepare to go to the runoff polls on Tuesday, November 14, 2023, to decide who leads their country for the next six years, the issue of electoral violence continues to rear its ugly head into the country’s body politics, prompting Vice Presidential candidate Jeremiah Kpan Koung of the opposition Unity Party Alliance to sound a strong caveat to all Liberians across the political aisles about the need to eschew violence in any form. Koung especially cautioned the voters, especially Nimbaians, to discuss the nagging issues that devil their progress, and accept the outcome of the November 14 runoff election in good faith, instead of engaging in acts of violence that will plunge the country further down its past ugly abyss.
Sounding the caution on Friday, November 10 during a phone-in segment of the Spoon TV Live program, Nimba County Senator and Unity Party Alliance Vice Presidential Candidate Jeremiah Kpan Koung especially called on the citizens of Nimba County to avoid being used by politicians to resort to violence as a means of addressing national concerns, warning that whenever the people use violence to settle political issues, they end up destroying their own lives, properties and country.
“The boys that got wounded tonight, they come from Karnplay and a town called Lapeah. Most of the boys from those towns were then gearing up to move to Zor Zualay and do otherwise. I had to be calling them and calling all of their leaders, telling the Representative-elect to speak to them, that this will bring more destruction to us. We already got seven Nimbaians wounded. If you went there and wounded other people, you have wounded Nimbaians and Liberians. So, we will be fighting in our room and destroying our own property. All we are doing is to tell them to keep the peace. We will not revert to violence because we know what violence brought into this country. I was 12 years old when the war came. I saw people die before me and I know what the war did to people.
“We will pray never to go that level for any reason, whether for power or whatsoever. All we can keep doing is to keep exposing the weakness of this government. The government is afraid now, they know they are about to be defeated. Our messages are very strong out there. Let us revert to intellectual debate. Bring out your issues. Defend the government. You say you are the best president, the best government. Tell the people what you’ve done. We are telling the people what you have not done and what we can do better. That should be the discussion, instead of people wanting to instill fear in the people. We will not be afraid. We will not be violent.
“I am calling on the young people to never get involved with violence, because all of us politicians, we are not sending our children to shoot guns or throw rocks. Quiwonkpa has his children in the States. He didn’t tell any of them to come down to shoot. They are other people’s children you are using. I will not tell my son to shoot; and I will not ask anybody’s child to go shoot. So, we should stop these things, using other people’s children while our children are seated in good places. This is wrong. We should stop this. The international community should get involved. The area called Zoh is a hotspot, and people should get involved to make sure that some of the things that are happening should not be happening.
“President Weah is supposed to be a peaceful person. Ambassador Boikai is a very peaceful person. He has asked all of us behind him to be peaceful; when we see violence we should walk away. I want to use this medium to tell President Weah to tell his people who follow him, that nobody should get involved with violence. This election is a few days from now. The Liberian people will be making their decision, and whoever that decision is, we accept and move forward,” Senator Koung admonished.
Genisis of the Zoh Zualay Fracas
According to Senator Koung’s Spoon TV Live narration, he and his campaign team, including Nimba County Senator Prince Y. Johnson and a recently elected Representative, had embarked on a runoff campaign tour of the seven cities of Nimba County when he (Koung) received credibly disturbing information that President George Weah had instructed some of his surrogates in Nimba County to cause disturbances there and chaos so Nimbaians could not have the time to go to polls to vote. Koung went on to disclose that he was credibly informed that President Weah was using one Anthony Quiwonkpa who works in his office and Mr. Garrison Yealu, the Chair of the Governance Commission.
“So, on Tuesday, I came to Nimba from Monrovia. When I got here, I asked my special assistant to announce on the radio that I was going to a community called Zoh, the home of the late Thomas G. Quiwonkpa. He comes from a town called Zoh Zualay, but Zoh is a Chiefdom with many towns, and Zualay is one of the towns within that chiefdom. And so, as the announcement was on the radio informing the people of Zoh about our going there the next day, I missed a call from Anthony Quiwonkpa who is believed to be the son of Thomas G. Quiwonkpa. Then I got another call from an unknown number, and that number asked if we were going to Zoh the next day. I replied yes.
“You come, you will see us here,’ the caller said. The guy’s name is Rudoph Kenneth, one of the security guards for Anthony Quiwonkpa. His number is 0775459682. He threatened me on the phone and cut his phone off. I didn’t bother. So, I saw the missed call from Anthony, so I called him. He picked the phone up and I informed him that I saw a missed call from him. He said yes, I learned you people are coming tomorrow. He said, ‘Senator, don’t come to Zoh. If you come to Zoh, if anything goes wrong, you will be responsible’”.
“So, I said, ‘Anthony, who are you to say we shouldn’t come to Zoh? You are not a candidate in this election. This election is between Ambassador Boakai, myself; President Weah and Madam Jewel Howard Taylor. You’ve got no part to play in this election, you cannot restrict anyone from going anywhere’. We started talking, going back and forth, then he said he’s having a program in Zoh. So, I said, go ahead with your program, I will cancel my trip tomorrow and push it to the weekend. So, I cancelled the trip and wrote NEC that I was going to Zoh on Friday and I was also doing the entire seven cities in Nimba launching on Saturday. So, I wanted NEC informed. The letter went to the NEC boss, and I called in this morning, and I was informed that NEC had no appointment for the CDC, and so I could proceed to Zoh.
“So, we left this morning. We entered the first Zoh town on the main road. In that town, when we were speaking, I heard noise. When we entered the town, we also met a police pickup – riot police pickup. Because when Quiwonkpa threatened on Tuesday, I called the Justice Minister that Quiwonkpa had threatened that we cannot go to Zoh to campaign, and if we go to Zoh to campaign, there would be bloodshed. I asked him to get involved because he is the Minister of Justice. He promised me that he was going to take care of the situation.
“So, when we got to one of the Zoh towns on the main road, we met a team of police, one pickup full with riot police. So, I said maybe it’s the Justice Minister that sent these people. They came to me and I gave them fuel; so, I said gentlemen, let’s go. So, we decided to speak to the people. While speaking, there was some noise. Quiwonkpa’s boys came and tried to misbehave. The police put them under control, so we left that town. We went through all the other towns.
“The guy who won the representative seat is one Mekeh Tee who was ahead of me with two other pickups including the band, with Senator Johnson riding behind me. While going to Zoh Zualay, Senator Johnson asked that the cars should stop and he wanted to speak to me. So, we stopped. He brought his phone to me and said he had just received a text message from Anthony Quiwonkpa. The message stated: “Senator Johnson, if you come to Zoh Zualay today, the blood of the Zualay people will be on your hands’. The text message was from Anthony Quiwonkpa’s phone to Senator Johnson’s phone.
“When I saw the text message, I told Senator Johnson for us to allow the police to go in front. We parked off the road and the police went ahead of us. When we entered the town, I saw Quiwonkpa walking with over 20 men and he opened fire on the pickup with single barrel rounds. Two shots were fired in the pickup, and a lot of the children in the pickup received bullet wounds. The police rushed on them, arrested four of them with three single barrel guns. Anthony himself escaped, and the police bought all of them and turned them over to the Sanniquellie Police Station. They gave receipts for all of the arms they received because the arms were retrieved by the three police officers that the Justice Minister assigned to me.
“One of the police officers that was assigned to me was the one who got those arms from those guys. They turned everything over, and we brought our wounded guys to the hospital. Four of them are admitted at the Ganta Hospital, those ones that are badly wounded. Three others are admitted at the Karnplay Health Center.
“I am hearing tonight that the President has ordered that those that were arrested should be released. I don’t know how true that information is, but we will get to know tomorrow if they are released. We think this is wrong,” Koung said.