Liberia: Alexander Cummings Rejects Justice Minister's Invitation for Probe Into Grand Gedeh County Violence

Monrovia — The Chairman of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), Alexander Benedict Cummings, has rejected an invitation from the Ministry of Justice to appear for a "meeting aimed at working modalities for the conduct of a full investigation" into the recent violent protest in Grand Gedeh County.

The CPP comprises of the Alternative National Congress (ANC), former ruling National Patriotic Party (NPP), Unity Party (UP), All Liberian Party (ALP) and the Liberty Party (LP).

On Thursday, July 30, the Chairman of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), Alexander Benedict Cummings, and Montserrado County Representative Yekeh Kolubah were attacked by aggrieved citizens of Grand Gedeh while they and several others were lodging at a local guest house in Zwedru, the capital city.

The protesters attributed their action to the consistent use of profanities against President George Manneh Weah by the Montserrado County lawmaker.

Two days later, the Government of Liberia condemned the act, summoned the county's Superintendent, Kai Farley, to return to Monrovia to assist an inquiry into the matter.

In a communication dated August 4 and addressed to the CPP Chairman under the signature of Cllr. Nyenati Tuah, Deputy Justice Minister for Codification, the Ministry of Justice admitted that the violent protest which occurred in Grand Gedeh poses a threat to Liberia's peace and security.

"We present our compliments and have the honor to inform you that the Joint Security Board of Inquiry has constituted an investigatory board relative to the incident that occurred on the 30th of July A.D. 2020 in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County between your delegation on one side and a group of citizens from Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County"

"Given the Voltaire nature of this matter as well as a threat it poses to the security and maintenance of the peace, we herewith invite you along with your legal counsel for a meeting aimed at working out modalities for the conduct of a full-scale investigation on the 11th day of August A. D. 2020 at the precise hour of 1:00pm".

The rejection

But in his response to the Ministry of Justice's invitation dated August 10, 2020 and addressed to Justice Minister Cllr. Frank Musa Dean, Mr. Cummings indicated that the MOJ's communication inviting him to "work out modalities" for a full-scale joint security investigation did not clearly specify his role that would be played during the meeting.

"There is also no precedent for this type of invitation. In view of the foregoing, I would prefer not to be involved in organizing or working out the modalities for the conduct of any investigation you wish to commence. Moreover, inviting me to help you work out modalities for an investigation demonstrates an obvious lack of seriousness and beclouds any serious investigation with issues of integrity and sincerity".

"It further reinforces the prevailing impression that these continuing violent actions perpetrated against the opposition are organized thuggery sponsored, either in whole or in part, by elements of the administration or the ruling party".

Mr. Cummings pointed out that he does not in any way believe that the incident in Zwedru was carried out by Grand Gedeans as stated in the communication from the Justice Ministry, but rather, it was an organized thuggery by the county superintendent, Kai Farley.

He added that any investigation into the violent protest in Grand Gedeh should include Superintendent Farley, rather than "a group of Grand Gedeans" as stated in the communication from the Ministry of Justice.

Superintendent Farley has denied his involvement or orchestrating the violent protest in Grand Gedeh.

"The Grand Gedeh incident is not an isolated case of violence against members of the opposition. It is a continuation of the trend of violence and intimidation against members of the opposition to include the District 13 incident involving Cornelia Kruah-Togba and Sen. Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, District 15 involving Telia Urey and others, Prime FM incident involving my Chief of Staff, Atty. Moriah Yeakula, Sen. Dillon's Victory celebration attack at LP Headquarters, the District 10 incident involving Rep. Yekeh Kolubah during a children Christmas party and the most recent Clara Town incident involving Sen. Dillon" Mr. Cummings added.

He indicated that all of these incidents were "surprisingly sprung on the peaceful people of these communities as they were going about their normal course of business, forcing some of them to become unwilling by-standers and in many cases, victims of the violence".

According to him, vast majority of Liberians are peaceful, and if given the opportunity or chance, they will offer protection for opposition candidates and aspirants as was done in Clara Town recently.

Disappointment

The CPP Chairman, however, expressed disappointment over the Joint Security Force, that is responsible for the maintenance of peace, and has a duty to respond to security threats to the nation, will take more than a week to constitute an Investigatory Board to investigate the incident after several local and international condemnations.

He added that the ministry has worsened the situation by establishing the Investigatory Board to probe the incident "without first working out modalities to conduct a full-scale investigation".

"Mr. Minister, I believe we owe a higher and more professional duty to entreat "a threat to the security and maintenance of peace" with a sense of seriousness, urgency and diligence than the letter presents. Under this administration, the incidents of election-related violence, threats of violence as well as intimidations of only opposition candidates and aspirants are not just increasing but also the response of the government is proportionately faltering, disappointing, and seemingly abetting".

Assurance

Mr. Cummings further assured that the opposition community in Liberia will not be easily frightened or intimidated.

He added that members of the opposition bloc are becoming "increasingly dissatisfied without confidence", to rely on the security agencies of the government to offer them protection and security which all citizens are justly and equally entitled in the wake of threats and violence on the lives of peaceful Liberian citizens.

"We see Liberians threatened with violence and in some cases get wounded and hurt, with growing impunity. All of the incidents cited herein are yet to be addressed with the release of an official investigative report or penalties therefrom. Announcing an investigation has become a mere bluff to quiet the wave of condemnation every time these incidents occur".

Mr. Cummings maintained that the opposition has no confidence in any investigation the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) led-government of President George Manneh Weah wishes to commence or institute.

"We are therefore calling for an INDEPENDENT investigation into the incident that occurred in Grand Gedeh County. Should you decide to commission an INDEPENDENT investigation or desire any information or have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me directly or my office".

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