Liberia: ‘No Room For Dialogue’

By Joaquin M. Sendolo

Telia Urey: “How can we dialogue when you almost caused our deaths?”

Says Telia Urey, as she blames police for neglecting her in District #15 violence

Amid frantic efforts by the Government of Liberia to tone down the tension from the near-murderous attack on Telia Urey and her supporters in Logan town on August 17, 2019, President George Manneh Weah has called for an investigation in the violence.

Meanwhile, almost all video footage clearly showing the Liberia National Police at the scene on August 17, in riot gear, but doing nothing to stop the attack against Telia Urey and her supporters, have been taken down (or hidden) from Facebook.

There have also been frantic efforts by the CDC to reframe its rhetoric by condemning the violence against the opposition candidate. The governing council of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) has condemned the attack, though without explicitly taking responsibility for any damage done.

In a statement issued Monday, August 19, the CDC praised its chairman, Mulbah Morlu, for “reaching out to Telia Urey to express condemnation” of the attack on her and her supporters in District #15.

However, Telia Urey told the Daily Observer that Morlu’s gesture was purely coincidental.

“We coincidentally bumped into each other and he asked to speak privately. He came to meet someone at my Fish Market complex and saw me sitting outside… He did apologize and condemn [the attack].”

However, Urey believes that, for the magnitude of the attack against her life and those of others that were with her, any apology from the CDC, its chairman Morlu or President Weah, should be contained in a public statement. This has not yet been done.

In addition to the investigation, President Weah has called for a dialogue with both sides following the attack.

However, the four collaborating political parties — the Liberty Party, All Liberian Party, Alternative National Congress and the Unity Party — through Senator Darius Dillon, have advised that Urey decline the invitation to dialogue.

Dillon, in his first press conference since being seated as Montserrado County Senator, said “… until President George Weah retracts openly that childish, reckless and unthoughtful statement that he made against Telia that, as long as he is President and his name is George Weah, that she would never be elected in this country. He should retract it. He put the lady’s life at harm’s way and her happiness and safety and danger with his people.”

Telia Urey, in her own words, says there is no room for dialogue.

“How can we dialogue when you almost caused our deaths?” she wrote on her Facebook page. “How can we dialogue when you’re trying to steal this election from us? How can we dialogue when you cannot acknowledge your wrongdoings? There’s no room for dialogue.”

“I turned it down,” Urey told the Daily Observer yesterday. “I will not be lured into any surface meeting which will be a PR stunt for his gain. If he’s serious about making peace, he can take action on his own.”

Apart from blame cast by the National Chairman of the Liberty Party, Lofa County Senator Steve Zargo, on President George Weah for allegedly orchestrating violence in District #15, Teila Urey says the Liberia National Police has proven itself unreliable to rely on for protection.

In a press conference on the day after her near-death experience in Logan Town, Ms. Urey called out her political rival, CDC candidate Abu Kamara, whose supporters, she said, carried out the attack on her and her supporters.

According to Urey, when the attack began with throwing of stones against her and the rest of those who had gone to consult with Kelvin Bayoh, one of the contestants in the district, the police was contacted. According to her, it took about twenty minutes for the police to reach the scene.

The Liberia National Police is a law enforcement arm of government under the Ministry of Justice, and it is responsible to save and protect all citizens without discrimination.

Ms. Urey said when the police in their riot gear arrived; they did nothing to stop the violence or protect her from the attackers, but stood supinely watching the violence as it took place. “The police stood there for about an hour and a half, while we were under attack,” Urey said.

“Are we protected? If we are protected, by whom are we protected?” she asked.

According to Ms Urey, a senior officer of the Liberia National Police with a code “105” was on the scene. She narrated that, when she asked the officer to assist her by using his government-issued vehicle to evacuate her and the others who were trapped in the building, which the attackers were threatening to set ablaze, the officer deliberately refused.

Live Facebook video footage from the incident captured Liberia National Police officers, clad in riot gear with batons and teargas guns, standing about fifty meters away, making absolutely no attempt to stop the violence.

A clearly embarrassing scene for the LNP, all but one of these footages have been taken off of Facebook.

Urey recalled that there had been previous attacks against her headquarters and her supporters since June, with a recent attack occurring at the National Elections Commission (NEC) wherein a pickup truck belonging to the Unity Party was vandalized. And even though one of the perpetrators was identified from Facebook Live video, the LNP have made no arrests.

This, Urey and other members of the four collaborating political parties believe is the partisan posture of the LNP, which disqualifies them to serve.

Ultimately, Urey believes that the attacks on her and supporters are direct results of a statement made by President George Weah at his CDC Headquarters that, “I am not speaking as President, but head of the Congress for Democratic Change. As long as I remain President, no Urey or Dillon will win an election here in Montserrado; we will flog this little girl.”

Some political commentators believe that the President’s promise to “flog this little girl”, as received by his die-hard supporters, could be more literal than figurative. In another view, some suggest that the President’s preface, “As long as I remain President…”, suggests that Weah plans to use his presidential power to do anything possible that would prevent Teila Urey from winning an elected post, even if it meant breaking the law or allowing the law to be broken with impunity.

Ms Urey in her statement during a press conference on Sunday, August 18, said, “Nobody owns District#15.  We will stand firm against the President, Justice Minister, and the Police; nobody will intimidate us, we are bigger than the President and the Justice Minister because we are the people they serve.  If they have forgotten, it is their job to protect us because now we are not protected.”

At the press conference, Benoni Urey, father of Ms. Urey, who once supported of the Congress for Democratic Change during administration of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, expressed the emotional stress he came under upon hearing that his daughter was being attacked at the point of death.

In his expression, Mr. Urey described President Weah as like a son to him and, Telia being like a sister to Weah, it was bad that Weah was seen to be condoning the perpetration of violence against his sister.

The opposition community has called on the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and other members of the international community to investigate the issue, promising not to engage into violence but to protect and keep the peace.

Source Daily Observer.

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