Bloodied Polls: Liberia Runoff Elections Producing Low Turnout; Media Shutdown

Written by Rodney D. Sieh,; David B. Kolleh, Wade C.L.Williams
Source: Front Page Africa

Monrovia – Two hours after the polling precinct at the C.D.B. King school on Clay Street opened Tuesday, fifty persons had cast their ballots.

With a total number of 200 registered voters at the precinct, turnout here was low as voting in Liberia’s run-off presidential elections got underway.
Many of those standing in line to vote pointed the blame to the violent turn which dampened the mood Monday, killing one person and injuring several others.
Voters ‘coming in drops’

Nyombocher Worjolo, Head of the YMCA polling Center which has on its books 500 registered voters, said voters were coming in gradually but slow.
“We have four polling places and 500 persons registered at each polling place but so far only 200 persons have turned out to vote.”

Romeo Soko, the NEC  presiding officer assigned at the Buchanan street AGM school, polling centers 30421 and 30422 said voters were coming in to vote but in drops.
“We started 8 0’clock and gradually we are moving, the turnout is not really bad although they are not really pouring but they’re coming one by one at least,” said Soko.

The NEC poll worker described the process at his center as free of any disturbances adding:”The process is fine; we have not encountered any disturbances or any problem. Probably by 4pm people will come, some will come they will come later,” he said. At the Paynesville Community School in Joe Bar Paynesville those who have voted and those refusing to vote gather outside the center arguing bitterly.
This has been the story in virtually most parts of Liberia Tuesday. FrontPageAfrica correspondents in Grand Bassa, Lofa and Nimba County are reporting slightly higher attendance but at a slow rate. In Monrovia, the city is virtually calm, a day after Monday’s violent turn. With the exception of UNMIL soldiers patrolling the streets and inspecting vehicles, the streets are empty.
At the Power TV station on Carey Street, a small crowd assembled to protest the closure of the station which has been shut down temporarily in the aftermath of Monday’s melee. No reasons have been given for the closure of the station which were served restraining order from the Criminal Court A Tuesday.

Critics have been taking the ruling party government to task for reprimanding the stations over the broadcast of hate messages. Aaron Kollie, Chief Executive Manager of Power TV and FM station said his station will not waiver:  “I will not be deterred by anyone including this government to report the truth. We are a media institution and we are obligated to report the truth. Whoever sees us as an enemy it’s up to them.”

Mr. Kollie further consoling one of his reporters in tears said “Don’t cry we will be back on soon. No one has the right to keep us close without a cause. No matter what happens the world must hear about this.”

Voters calling in to most radio stations are also reporting low turnout from various parts of the country and many expected the overall turnout to be low.
Many of the radio stations have been airing a broadcast by the United Nations Mission Chief in Liberia Ellen Margaret Loj urging Liberians to vote without fear. But the shutdown of Power TV and FM and Kings FM has been the subject of discussions in many parts of the city.

Geraldine Doe-Sheriff, Chair of the Congress for Democratic Change issued a statement Tuesday calling on CDCians for calm while taking security authorities to task for the manner in which the incident was handled.“We have again witness a very tragic round of violence meted out against armless and defenseless civilians who had gone to demonstrate their franchise,” the CDC chair said.

Doe-Sheriff said armed police gangs like on the infamous bloody Tuesday in which school going children who were out to protest against their teachers salaries being delayed, thereby denying them from having education which we all know is a fundamental right have today shot and killed at least five of our partisans and wounded several others.

CDCians ‘nursing wounds’

Continued the CDC chair: “Currently, our partisans are nursing wounds at both the JKF medical hospital and the St. Joseph Catholic Hospital. The attack on our people we like to say will not go unnoticed, because this attack on defenceless civilians was an unprovoked one, and is counterproductive to the maintenance of peace in our war toned country.
This attack is also worrisome because it threatens the democracy we as a people have been trying to sustain following long years of war.”
Doe-Sheriff said the party is calling on all CDCians across the length and breadth of the country to remain calm as party leaders engaging the necessary actors to bring to end what she described as a national carnage.  Loj was working the clock Monday, holding talks with both Tubman and Weah at Weah’s home on Rehab Road off the Robertsfield Highway.

Meanwhile, CDC is urging international actors including the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), the United States Ambassador, the Africa Union (AU), ECOWAS and all well meaning Liberians and friends to condemn the attack at the party’s headquarters and commence an immediate investigation into this matter.
“Before today, many of those at the helm of power were among those who spoke against the rights of people being violated by different governments consider unfriendly. Today having allowed some of those very people to ascend to state power we are troubled that those very undemocratic tenants that were spoken against is becoming more common than they were yesterday.”

The party is also calling on Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to rise above the fray of just being a Unity Party Standard Bearer but also as the president of this nation to bring to justice the perpetrators who have carried out this great injustice against our people, because those who died are also Liberians like other Unity Partisans.
Said Doe-Sheriff: “The action of State Security forces today on our people is a gross violation of Article 17 of the 1986 Liberian constitution which calls for the peaceful assembly of Liberians. We cannot sit and allow this kind of action to continue as we all hope for a better Liberia.”

Kailondo explains ordeal
George Kailondo, Manager of a Travel Agency, Gas Station and Boutique, a former contender of electoral District #10 on the Unity Party slot, who lost out one Julius Barren of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), said a day after his gas station was vandalized and looted,  has been explaining how the incident unfolded.

Kailondo’s business center according to him came under attack after a crowd of fleeing protesters of the CDC who had blocked the main street just around the resident of incumbent leader Ellen Johnson Sirleaf were escaping tear gas and live bullets from riot Police.

“My boys told me that they saw a crowd of CDCians who came here and looted everything we had here. They threw stones and destroyed this place; I think you all can see for yourselves. But I tell you the truth, we are prepared for them this time around. If anyone comes here you will hear the news. I am not afraid because I am the son of a Kailondo, the son of a warrior.”  Kailondo told journalists.

Broken glass, tables and other office equipment were seen on the floor and the entire Kailondo business center was looted and is currently in ruins. Police form the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) were seen later providing security to the already destroyed business center in Monrovia.


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