Tensions have erupted in Liberia during an initially peaceful protest outside the headquarters of the leading opposition party, the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), in the country’s capital of Monrovia. The exact circumstances surrounding the violence are still unknown, but there is a general consensus regarding the chain of events.
Various reports agree that the CDC originally called for its supporters to gather peacefully outside the CDC headquarters to protest and boycott the second round of elections, set to take place tomorrow, following CDC opposition leader Winston Tubman’s loss to sitting president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in the first round of voting. It has been agreed that Tubman had little to no chance of winning the second round. The Huffington Post said, in an article this afternoon, that international observers approved the first round of elections, and consequently this move by Tubman is seen as an attempt to discredit a fairly run election that did not turn out in his favor. These elections mark the second time voters have gone to the polls since the end of Liberia’s 14-year-long civil war in 2003.
The Huffington Post reported one death today, saying, “It was not immediately clear what set off the violence, but it appeared to have degenerated when security forces opened fire on demonstrators.” Meanwhile the Liberian Journal reported five people killed in the violence, writing, “The Liberian police, without any provocation, began to fire in the air, even after they barricaded the main entries to the opposition facility, provoking further tension and the chaos that followed.”
On today’s violence, the International Crisis Group’s West Africa Director said, “It’s motivated by the fact that they (Tubman’s party) think they don’t have a chance. It’s a way to stain the election. To create a problem of credibility for the president.” A Liberian Church leader offered another version: “I think members of the Liberia police force are provoking a problem, to justify their premeditated actions against a party that has chosen to exercise its full political and constitutional rights.” U.S. photojournalist Glenna Gordon, who is in Liberia, reported that she witnessed a confrontation between the Liberian riot police and UN peacekeepers. She also said she heard CDC supporters chanting “Tonight, tonight there will be a massacre.”
Ellen Margrethe Loj, the UN Secretary General’s special representative and head of the UN mission in Liberia said today, “Peaceful, credible, and transparent elections are important to ensure that peace in Liberia is maintained.”