By E. Geedahgar Garsuah
MONROVIA: Barely a week after the chaotic scene at Nimba County Senator Prince Yormie Johnson’s Christ Chapel of Faith Church located in Paynesville City, the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR), has advised politicians whom, the Commission referred to as “instigators of violence” to desist or get prepared to bear the burdens for their apparent politically-motivated actions.
“INCHR reminds political leaders that any acts of pre and post-election violence that are engineered by politicians would have serious legal consequences. INCHR takes note of the election violence in other countries and notifies all actors that international human rights instruments including the Statute of the International Criminal Court, which Liberia ratified in 2004 are applicable at all times in Liberia.
“INCHR avers that those who believe that they can incite violence and chaos without accountability are living in illusion, because the INCHR will not hesitate to prevail on the International Community to sanction those who engage in any acts of violence that may lead to violation of basic rights to life.”
INCHR is the state-owned but independent entity charged with the responsibility to protect and promote human right across the length and breadth of Liberia.
The Commission warned Liberian politicians who are determined on initiating violence as a means of frightening their political rivals to have a rethink.
The Commission, through its Chairman, Cllr. T. Dempster Brown, via a statement issued on Thursday, May 25, 2023, made known its concern over the increasing waves of political violence that have engulfed the country barely a later over four months to the conduct of the much-heralded Presidential and Legislative elections slated for Tuesday, October 10, 2023.
“INCHR particularly wants to raise concern relative to acts of violence and hate statements that have been made by political leaders in recent times,” the Commission made known its concern.
Cllr. Brown wants political actors to trek carefully in their utterances and actions which in some instances have the proclivity to breed confusion that might result into violence and disrupt the peace in the country.
INCHR cautioned politicians to be mindful of “statements that have the tendency to draw supporters of rival political parties into chaos and violence, something which he said, would undermine the conduct of smooth and peaceful elections and render citizens and residents vulnerable to injuries and loss of lives.”
The Commission urged political stakeholders to educate their supporters and sympathizers on the contents of the Liberian Constitutions including other international human rights laws that recognize freedom of assembly, association and expression to which the Liberian Nation is a signatory.
The Human Rights Commission urged political actors to peacefully use the legal path in finding resolutions to their grievances as diametrically opposed to engaging in acts of violence and lawlessness.
The INCHR, at the same time, called on Justice Minister and Attorney General of Liberia, Cllr. Frank Musah Dean, to move swiftly in apprehending all those who are involved in the chaos that greeted the Church of Nimba County Senator’s Prince Yormie Johnson, recently in Paynesville, outside Monrovia.
INCHR’s words of caution against pre-election violence comes on the heels of the Sunday, May 21, 2023, violence incident at Christ Chapel of Faith Church by individuals calling themselves partisans of the National Patriotic Party and loyalists of the governing Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC).
“The action by the group of youth under the banner of the National Patriotic Party (NPP) Youth Wing to disrupt church services at the Christ Chapel of Faith was awful and should be condemned. INCHR reminds all Liberian politicians to avoid using young people to create havoc and chaos during this electoral period,” INCHR condemned NPP Youth Wing action.
However, CDC, through its National Chairman, Mulbah K. Morlu, has categorically distanced itself from the attack against PYJ’s Church in Paynesville.
But NPP Youth Wing members who were seen attired in their party regalia, carrying placards bearing anti-PYJ inscriptions chanting slogans such as “war crimes court coming for you” besieged the Church’s building leaving worshippers in total disarray.
According to the NPP Youth Wing members, their protest gathering was in reaction to Senator Johnson’s “planned outburst against their political leader and Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor.
The group added that the protest was also to caution Senator Johnson against the regular abuse of his church’s podium to vilify President George Manneh Weah and other officials of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC)-led government.
Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor, who was linked to the violent attack on the PYJ church, has refuted claims of her involvement in the attack, saying she remains supportive of the Farmington Declaration recently signed by more than 32 political parties to support peaceful and non-violent election comes October 2023.