West Africa: Is Ecowas Shooting Herself in the Leg Too?

(file photo).

For the past few weeks, the City of Monrovia has virtually been at knife's edge, so to speak, amid rising tension emanating from the Montserrado County and District#15 elections in which the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), formerly the Congress of Democratic Change, saw its candidates Paulita Wie and Abu Kamara pitted against opposition candidates Darius Dillon and Telia Urey in Montserrado County senatorial and District #15 representative races, respectively.

For so long, since 2005 the CDC has enjoyed a large following in Montserrado County, particularly in Monrovia, the nation's capital. Until these recent elections, the CDC had long held sway in Montserrado County with the electorate turning out in their numbers to vote CDC to power. Until these elections, any candidate appearing in public with President Weah at their side was sure to win at the polls because the masses would invariably turn out to cast their votes for the CDC.

The elections results would however this time, leave a sour taste in the mouths of the CDC leadership as the masses turned out but failed to cast their votes in favor of the CDC and instead voted the opposition which saw senatorial candidate Darius Dion clinching the vote by an overwhelming margin far above that recorded for President Weah when he contested the senatorial elections in 2014.

But unlike the 2014 senatorial elections, which was virtually violence free, these just concluded elections have been marred by violence that have resulted in life threatening injuries and severe damage to property. From all accounts including photos and video evidence, it has been supporters of the CDC unleashing violence and perpetrating mayhem against the opposition.

For one thing, these elections have been watershed moments for the CDC which has, since 2005 enjoyed unflinching support from the masses but which now finds itself in dire straits with the loss of two legislative seats in Montserrado County, long since prided by CDCians as its stronghold where it could not possibly lose an election to an opposition candidate.

But these elections have come at a time of severe economic difficulties for the masses, most of who are caught in poverty traps from which escape has proven extremely difficult and challenging if not impossible. For most of these people, hopes for their salvation, until now, remained pinned on the mercurial football star whose fancy footwork on the soccer field had dazzled millions around the world, Liberians being no exception.

The many accolades he won for his success on the football pitch, including his stint with the Lone Star football team especially during the country's most difficult moments, endeared him even more to Liberians; and it was by no means surprising that thousands of Liberians threw their support behind his initial and subsequent runs for the presidency. After a 12-year wait, he finally earned the coveted prize in the 2017 elections and was elected president of this post-conflict nation.

At his swearing-in to office, he pledged to Liberians before the entire world that Liberians would be players, not spectators, in their own economy. He also pledged that corruption would have no place in his government and that he would transform Liberia for the betterment of all.

Barely, two years into his sojurn, President Weah appears overwhelmed by the challenges of office, through which he seemed unable to dribble his way much like he did to opposition numbers on the soccer pitch to the delight of thousands of cheering supporters. But the weight of office appears too much to bear and the cast of individuals he has surrounded himself with have not helped much.

His officials also appear lost and confounded and their response to popular stirrings against their corrupt behavior is the use of violence intended to intimidate and cower the opposition into silence. For to them, the loss of power is unfathomable and they seem prepared and sufficiently filled with desperation to do anything or commit any act only to assure their grip on power. They appear stuck between a yesterday that is fast fleeting and a tomorrow whose relevance is now and whose time has come.

Thus, the recent spate of violence meted to opposition figures by supporters of the CDC and encouraged by its officials, particularly its Chairman Mulbah Morlu and Youth League chairman Jefferson Koijee, are but signs of desperation which suggest that the likes of Morlu and Koijee appear prepared to put this nation on fire, being completely oblivious to the consequences of their actions. It is like shooting oneself in the leg.

In face of a wave of public condemnation of the unprovoked violence unleashed by CDC supporters against Telia Urey and her supporters in Logan Town over the weekend, Morlu, perhaps reeling from the wave of condemnation was quick to tender an apology for the action. Yet, at the same time he was calling on Ms. Urey to stop crying and playing victim.

And the fact that the Police has displayed open bias in its law enforcement duties, has not helped the image of this government and is deepening the culture of impunity as perpetrators of violence are allowed free range. But what this newspaper finds very disconcerting is the rather shameful silence and disposition of the ECOWAS mission in Liberia towards these acts of violence which have the propensity to take Liberia back to its gory past.

The embassies of the United States and European states accredited to Liberia, as well as the EU delegation here, have spoken and condemned the violence, although belatedly but where is the voice of ECOWAS in all this? Has her early warning mechanism failed or has it rusted away or is it just indifference feigned or real?

Such displayed silence and virtual inaction is even more shameful and disgusting in view of the huge sacrifice in human lives and material resources ECOWAS committed to the restoration of peace in Liberia.

The Oxford Dictionary of English idioms defines the expression "shoot yourself in the foot" as "to inadvertently make a situation worse for yourself; demonstrate gross incompetence". From all indications, the CDC led government by its policies, economic, social and otherwise, keeps shooting itself in the leg and incurring increased displeasure of the people.

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