Liberia’s Sirleaf urges end to poll violence
Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf warned on Friday that political violence could spark a slide back into the civil conflict which devastated the country, after recent attacks on politicians.
In a statement posted on the presidential website, Sirleaf warned that politically motivated violence was creeping into the country’s electoral process, just days before a constitutional referendum ahead of an October presidential election.
“Violence against, and intimidation of, political actors and individuals undermine and destroy democracy,” said the 72-year-old who is seeking a second term in office in the west African nation, where she was elected in 2005 after two successive civil wars ended in 2003.
“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.”
On Sunday, Senator Geraldine Doe-Sheriff, chairman of the opposition Congress for Democratic Change, was attacked by angry members of the party after disputed election primaries, local media reported.
“Shortly thereafter was the arson attack on Mr. Eugene Nagbe, Deputy Campaign Manager of the (ruling) Unity Party, the burning of his car in his yard in the middle of the night,” Sirleaf said.
She said the violence was clearly politically motivated and would be investigated.
“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,” she added.
Presidential and legislative polls on October 11 will be the second since the end of the brutal warfare which left more than 200,000 dead.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, in his latest report to the UN Security Council, urged politicians and citizens “to make the utmost effort to ensure the upcoming elections will be free, fair and without violence.”
He said the upcoming elections would be “critical to the consolidation of the tremendous progress the country has made over the past eight years.”
Ban recommended extending the mandate of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) for another year, and that the current strength of the mission be maintained, given the still limited capacity of national security institutions.
UNMIL has an authorised strength of 7,952 military and 1,375 police personnel and the current mandate expires on September 30.
Ban also raised concerns about the “significant challenge” posed by some 160,000 refugees in Liberia which fled a post-election crisis in Ivory Coast.
A report on Liberia by the International Crisis Group released Friday said: “The most serious threats to security, however, are the persistence of mercenary activities and arms proliferation.
“The post-election crisis in Ivory Coast from December 2010 to April 2011 has tragically revealed the extent of the problem for the entire region. Hundreds of young Liberian fighters were easily recruited for a minimum of $500 (350 euro).”
Ban also voiced concern about the slow implementation of recommendations by the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
“Other areas of concern include continuing ethnic and communal tensions, disputes over land and other resources, drug trafficking, and limited employment and livelihood opportunities,” read a UN statement.