MONROVIA – The National Civil Society Council of Liberia (NCSCL) has condemned the disruptions of tallying centers in Sanniquellie, Nimba County, and at the Samuel Kanyon Doe (SKD) Sports Complex in Paynesville, outside Monrovia.
NCSCL, the apex body for all civil society organizations in Liberia, has also taken the Chairperson of Liberia’s Governance Commission (GC), Atty. Garrison Yealue to task for his alleged role played in the October 13, 2023, Sanniquellie election violence saga.
NCSCL observers reported that Atty. Yealue, Chairperson of the GC, appeared at the Magisterial Office with seven vehicles containing supporters of the CDC to file a complaint.
The Council’s observers reported that some of his supporters attempted to enter the tallying center and their presence disrupted the tallying proceeding. Reports by the NCSCL observers were further validated by observers of acclaimed local elections observatory group, Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC) and local media.
According to the Council, the Sanniquellie fracas led to the suspension of the process for several hours during the day which compelled national and international observers to leave the center. The situation, ECC added, was brought under control with reinforcement from the joint Security Taskforce.
At the same time, NCSCL observers recollected that at SKD Sports Complex, the tallying process was abruptly disrupted allegedly by supporters of the CDC. The disruption is reported to have lasted for three hours (7pm-10pm) and the scale of the interference placed the lives of the observers and election’s data at risk.
Based on the two incidents, the CSO Council in a statement noted that these actions do not only instill fears in Liberians, but also have the potential to undermine the transparency of the electoral process, which was conducted freely by the National Elections Commission (NEC).
As conscience of the Liberian society, the Council warns against the disruption of the peace and democracy of the state, stating that they will not sit supinely to allow any group or individuals to do so.
“The National Civil Society Council of Liberia is deeply saddened by the recent disruptions of tallying processes in both Nimba and Montserrado Counties as reported by elections observers and the media. As the lead voice of the civil society we will not remain quietly seated to allow anyone to disrupt our peace and democracy,” the CSO Council asserted in the statement signed by Chairperson Madam Loretta Alethea Pope-Kai.
NCSCL maintains that the actions by the groups, predominantly youth, under the reported influence of key government officials, pose a serious threat to the peace and security of the state, noting that this has the propensity to cause serious chaos in the country.
The Council pointed out that these acts do not only create chaos but equally undermine the fairness of the electoral process, which the Commission has vowed to uphold.
“We are very ashamed of the GC commissioner Hon. Garrison Yealue reported involvement in election violence,” stated the Council.
“This is counterproductive to the fairness of the peaceful elections that were held freely and greeted by massive turnout. This is scaring and Liberians must desist from these kinds of violence because the peace and security of this country is the responsibility of every Liberian,” the statement furthered.
Particularly on the alleged involvement of Atty. Yealue, NCSCL described as unfortunate, for a person heading an integrity institution to be meddling in politics despite many calls for his recusal.
“We are particularly disappointed by the alleged involvement of a top government official in person of Atty. Garrison Yealue, who is reported to have masterminded the attack. Like many rights groups and pressure groups in the country, we have since advised against the ill-decision of the appointment of Atty. Yealue to a campaign team, but our calls were not adhered to and this is the result we have today. Be it true or not, Atty. Yealue absolutely has no grounds to get involved in any active political activity, least to say, campaign activities,” noted the statement.
NCSCL calls on the Government of Liberia (GoL) through the Ministry of Justice to improve electoral security in a bid to maintaining a peaceful atmosphere.
The Council at the same time urges political parties to remain peaceful as it is coordinating with all stakeholders to ensure a peaceful ending.
Meanwhile, when contacted, Atty. Yealue described the allegation linking him to the attack as false and misleading but video accounts indicated otherwise
According to him, he had gone to Sanniquellie on the day of the incident to file a formal complaint before the NEC Magistrate on behalf of his client, incumbent Nimba County District #4 Representative Gorpu Kargon regarding the very attack, which resulted in the Representative ballot box being taken away.
While in Ganta to celebrate his birthday, he narrated that rumors started to circulate that he (Yealue) was the mastermind of the violence, something he indicated is completely contrary to the real facts.
“I can tell you I am not a violent person; I have never been into violence. When the people were fighting war here, we were there teaching children to go to school. So why would I want to be involved in violence now at my age above 50 years? I get nothing to do with violence but those guys just feel intimidated whenever they see me around,” Atty. Yealue clarified.
“Yesterday, it was a common thing that I did – I had just gone to Sanniquellie to file my complaint; simple and nothing else about it. I filed my complaint and I left from there so I don’t know why so much hatred is in them about me. They are going on Facebook lying. If you go to Facebook, you will see that they were celebrating my birthday in Ganta, while they were throwing stones there. So, it’s strange. Why will I be in Ganta and you say I am there? It’s strange!! People don’t lie like that mehn. We need to think about this country, because no matter what we do, Liberia is the only place that we have,” he among other things stated.
It could be recalled that despite heading an integrity institution, Atty. Yealue, a former Nimba lawmaker, was appointed to the campaign team of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) by President George Manneh Weah. The Liberian leader’s decision has since been condemned by rights-based groups, integrity institutions, and civil society organizations including apex body NCSCL.
The CSO Council at the time of the appointment described the President’s decision to appoint Atty. Yealue as a breach of the law because it contravenes Sections 2.2 and 5.3.4 of the Act creating the Good Governance Commission that requires both the GC and its Commissioners to be independent and politically neutral. But the Liberian leader failed to acknowledge the red flags that rose around the appointment of Atty. Yealue, hence; he still maintains him as one of the key officials of the CDC’s campaign team, while still heading the GC.
Atty. Yealue has defended that his right to fully participate in politics or political activity is guaranteed under the Constitution of Liberia, which surpasses all statutes.