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22.08.2011 Feature Article

ADMIST PRE-ELECTIONS VIOLENCE PRES. SIRLEAF SPEAKS TO LBERIAN..

Pres. Ellen SirleafPres. Ellen Sirleaf
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ADMIST PRE-ELECTIONS VIOLENCE
PRES. SIRLEAF SPEAKS TO LIBERIAN
By: Joe Noutoua Wandah/Monrovia
I call on all political leaders to condemn the violence that has been experienced recently, and to conduct themselves and ensure that their supporters conduct themselves in a responsible and law-abiding manner. If each political leader will assume responsibility for the conduct of his or her supporters and the adherents of his or her political organization, as is clearly intended by Article 80 of the Constitution, we will have violence-free, intimidation-free elections this year.

Nationwide Address by H.E Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia

On the Recent Intermittent Political Violence and Intimidation

My Fellow Citizens:
In recent months, each time I have addressed you, I have talked about the need for us to conduct peaceful, violence-free elections this year. I have implored each and every Liberian to contribute to the continued democratization of our country and to the consolidation of the gains we have made since peace was returned to our country after more than 14 years of civil war, by ensuring that the 2011 elections are free from any form of violence or intimidation.

Violence against, and intimidation of, political actors and individuals undermine and destroy democracy. Such conduct is the beginning of anarchy, and if not deterred, such conduct could reverse the political gains we have made and probably cost our country to retrogress into another civil conflict. We cannot afford this, and only those who have no stake in the future of Liberia, a future of endless possibilities and opportunities for all, will resort to intimidation and violence to settle their differences with others or to react to the conduct and utterances of others.

The freedoms we enjoy today – freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of choice – will all be destroyed by the intimidation and violence which some of our compatriots have engaged in during this early stage of the electoral process. Every Liberian of goodwill, irrespective of your political affiliation or disposition, must condemn the violence and intimidation we have experienced recently; there is no justification for such conduct, and those who seek to justify such conduct merely incite an already volatile situation. Their patriotism to our country and their commitment of our nascent democracy is questionable.

During the internal processes of political parties to nominate their legislative candidates, it was reported that individuals disrupted the processes in various electoral constituencies and at various conventions. Violence and intimidation were employed by some as manifestation of their dissatisfaction or disapproval of the processes at some places. Specifically, the Government and the entire nation were shocked by the attacks or attempted attacks on the person of Senator Geraldine Doe-Sheriff, Chairman of the Congress for Democratic Change, which attacks, we are informed, were orchestrated by some disgruntled or dissatisfied members of the Congress for Democratic Change. As the situation was never officially reported to the State security apparatus, it was assumed that this was merely an isolated internal fracas which the Congress for Democratic Change intended to handle internally, just as our own political party, the Unity Party, internally managed its own disturbances. Shortly thereafter was the arson attack on Mr. Eugene Nagbe, Deputy Campaign Manager of the Unity Party, the burning of his car in his yard in the middle of the night.

Whatever Senator Doe or Mr. Nagbe or any other victim of politically motivated violence or intimidation may or may not have done, whatever differences anybody may have had with them for whatever reason, the resort to violence and intimidation on their persons and properties is not only illegal but also detrimental to the democratic process we have embarked upon. I strongly condemn the perpetrators and their diabolical acts and I have instructed the State security apparatus to vigorously investigate these incidents and every other incidence of violence and intimidation and swiftly bring the perpetrators and their collaborators to justice.

It is clear that the violent acts against Senator Doe and Mr. Nagbe were politically motivated; and that these violent acts are in violation of our Constitution and statutes is unquestionable. Insofar as these violent acts violate the Penal Law of Liberia, the State security apparatus shall investigate and bring the culprits to justice. But we should also observe that Article 80(a) of our Constitution provides that "Parties or organizations which, by reason of their aims or the behavior of their adherents, seek to impair or abolish the free democratic society of Liberia or to endanger the existence of the Republic shall be denied registration."

Article 80(b) of our Constitution also provides, and I quote: "Parties or organizations which retain, organize, train or equip any person or group of persons for the use or display of physical force or coercion in promoting any political objective or interest, or arouse reasonable apprehension that they are so organized, trained and equipped, shall be denied registration, or if registered, shall have their registration revoked."

Section 10.5(a) of the New Elections Law states that a person commits an election offense punishable by fine or imprisonment, or both, when he or she threatens any person or persons, offers, procures, suggests, and uses or causes to be used any violence, or inflicts, or causes to be inflicted any injury, corporal punishment, damages, losses or disadvantage on any person or persons in support of any political party or a candidate.

It seems to the Government, therefore, that in addition to whatever actions are taken by the State security apparatus, the National Elections Commission should seize itself of the unfolding politically motivated violence and intimidation that are creeping into the electoral process at this early stage, and be very robust in enforcing the provisions of the Constitution and the New Elections Law.

It is my ardent belief that with both the Government and the National Elections Commission vigorously pursuing the perpetrators of these crimes and imposing the sanctions provided by law against the individuals and their political organizations, others will be deterred from engaging in such diabolical and unpatriotic acts which undermine democracy and the security of the Republic.

Meanwhile, on behalf of Government, I extend my deepest sympathies to Senator Geraldine Doe-Sheriff, Mr. Eugene Nagbe and other victims of politically motivated violence and intimidation, for their distress, loss and injuries (physical or emotional). I also call upon them and all Liberians of goodwill to remain calm and to exhibit the utmost restraint and maturity while the State security apparatus and the National Elections Commission conduct their independent investigations and apply the laws of our land against the perpetrators and their collaborators.

I call on all political leaders to condemn the violence that has been experienced recently, and to conduct themselves and ensure that their supporters conduct themselves in a responsible and law-abiding manner. If each political leader will assume responsibility for the conduct of his or her supporters and the adherents of his or her political organization, as is clearly intended by Article 80 of the Constitution, we will have violence-free, intimidation-free elections this year.

Finally, I reiterate my call to all Liberians to be peaceful and lawful- abiding during this electoral process. Let us commit ourselves to the fundamental premise that never again shall we, as a people, individually or collectively, ever resort to violence or intimidation to settle our political differences, and that we will not allow violence or intimidation, in whatever form or nature, to mar the 2011 elections.

May God guide all of us, as we attempt to work together to bring about the peace for which we have all suffered, and for which we have longed for so long.

Joe Noutuoa Wandah
Joe Noutuoa Wandah , © 2011

The author has 54 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: JoeNoutuoaWandah

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