By: H. Richard Fallah
MONROVIA: The United States Embassy accredited near Monrovia has condemned recent violence that led to the death of at least three persons in Foya, Lofa County.
In a statement issued Friday, September 29, 2023, the United States Embassy in Monrovia expressed sincere condolences to the families of the victims and urged Liberians to maintain the peace in the country.
The US Embassy further called on Liberians authorities to swiftly bring the perpetrators to justice.
It encouraged Liberians to resolve political differences at the ballot box, peacefully, and not through violence. “Violence is never the answer,” the US Embassy noted.
Meanwhile, the United Nations (UN) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), have expressed grave concern, and strongly condemned the violence reportedly involving supporters of the governing Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) and the former ruling Unity Party (UP), in Lofa County.
ECOWAS and UN, in a statement, dated September 30, 2023, called for calm in the run-up to the much publicized Presidential and Legislative elections scheduled for October 10, this year.
“ECOWAS and the UN extend deep condolences to the families of the deceased,” the statement indicated.
“In the spirit of the Farmington River Declaration 2023, the protection of human rights, and under the due process of the rule of law, ECOWAS and the UN call on the leaders of the UP and CDC to strongly urge their partisans to refrain from provocation and any other acts of violence,” the statement added.
Both UN and ECOWAS urged the UP and CDC to fully cooperate with the Liberia National Police (LNP) ongoing investigation of the bloody violent incident in Lofa and to promptly restore calm.
UN and ECOWAS further urged the LNP to conduct speedy and impartial investigation, make public their findings and ensure that the perpetrators are prosecuted.
At the same time, ECOWAS and UN urged the media to be responsible in their reporting so as to avoid inflaming the volatile situation.
The duo also cautioned all stakeholders and the public at large to continue upholding the values of peace, accountability, respect for the rule of law, in order to consolidate peace and security in Liberia during this critical electoral period.
Both political parties’ supporters have however accused each other of instigating the violence.
Videos circulating on social media depict scenes of chaos, with rival groups engaged in altercations and hurling of dangerous objects at each other, sending shockwaves through the community, and raising concerns about political tension ahead of the October 10 polls.
Local law enforcement officers swiftly intervened by restoring order and calm. At least three people were reported dead while several others sustained injuries.
Police in Foya, however, have not identified those responsible for the violence, and no arrests have been made up to press time yesterday. The identities of those reported dead are yet to be established.
Nevertheless, both the ruling party and the former ruling party have issued statements condemning the violence.
Mo Ali, Campaign spokesperson of the Unity Party (UP), blamed the violence on the ruling CDC.
Mo Ali, at a press conference, held Friday, September 29, 2023, explained that the Unity party had previously gathered at a major intersection near Representative Thomas Fallah’s compound to welcome UP partisans from the Diaspora for a significant party event in Foya, and never expected interference from the ruling party.
Ali noted that while Unity Party supporters were at the intersection, some members of the ruling CDC who were in Fallah’s compound, began throwing stones at Unity Party supporters, who responded similarly.
“In the process, while they were exchanging the throwing of stones, one of our supporters was taken away by the Thomas Fallah people and was dragged into his headquarters’ fence. We don’t know the status of that person,” he said.
But in response to the UP allegation, Representative Fallah denied Ali’s allegations and pinned the cause of the violence on supporters of the Unity Party.
The latest violence comes days after the U.S. Department of State issued stern warnings of visa restrictions for individuals found undermining the integrity of the October polls in Liberia.
The international community had expressed hope that these measures would deter any further political violence, but the events in Foya serve as a stark reminder of the challenges Liberia faces in ensuring a peaceful electoral process.
The September 29 incident comes just under two months after a similar outbreak of violence between these two rival political parties in the Capital, Monrovia, which resulted into several being injured.