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November 07, 2011

Liberian Opposition Blames Police for Deadly Clashes, Vows to Boycott Election

by James Butty

Congress for Democratic Change spokesman George Solo says police used live ammunition against unarmed CDC supporters

An official of the opposition Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) has accused members of the Liberian National Police of killing and wounding CDC supporters.

George Solo, CDC spokesman and deputy campaign manager, said there were at least two confirmed fatalities Monday.

All attempts to reach Liberian police for their comment failed.

Solo said the police ARU unit used live ammunition against CDC supporters who had gathered in front of their party’s headquarters to attend what the party called a vigil for the preservation of democracy in Liberia.

“As we turned the car around, moving into the party headquarters, the ARU guys were behind us firing, and I’m talking about live rounds, and they followed us into the party headquarters and continued to shoot at the crowd with live ammunition,” he said.

Solo said there were at least two confirmed fatalities.

“We have two bodies, but we also have four, five, six claims of death. We’ve got stories of people being shot on the beach and bodies taken and transported to who knows where,” Solo said.

The spokesperson for the U.N. mission, Yasmina Bouziane, also confirmed two fatalities from Monday’s confrontation.

“Most unfortunately, there are reports from people on the ground, and now confirmation of two casualties, with a few injured, including some U.N. personnel who were on the ground, slightly injured,” she said.

Bouziane said UNMIL was investigating Monday’s deadly clashes.

“The mission truly deplores the loss of life and, of course, has called upon all parties, supporters and all Liberians to really exercise maximum restraint and to ensure that peace is maintained in Liberia,” she said.

Some accounts said police took action when CDC supporters began throwing stones at the police.

But, Solo said the CDC supporters threw stones at the police only in retaliation for what he called unnecessary police violence.

“When innocent people are being shot at and they are running toward the fence, they came back, and there are a few pockets of people that threw stones, but why do [you] even have live bullets in your guns?  Why are you shooting unarmed people?  And, if a few come come back to throw rocks at you, to create space, how do you compare rocks with bullets?” Solo said.

The Press Union of Liberia reported in an email late Monday that Liberian police had shut down two pro-opposition radio stations in the capital, Monrovia.

The email from Press Union president Peter Quaqua, quoting employees of LOVE-FM, said police walked into the radio station, cut short a newscast and asked all employees in the building to get out before locking the main entrance.

The Press Union said a live program was similarly disrupted at KINGS-FM, and the station forced to end its broadcasts and the doors sealed after the private security was made to surrender their keys.

KINGS is owned by CDC founder and vice presidential candidate George Weah.  Power-TV had earlier videotaped the bloody clashes between CDC supporters and the police.

Solo said the police went to the stations to get hold of the videotape of the violence.

“As I speak to you now, radio stations that are balanced in their reporting like KINGS-FM, like LOVE-FM, and Power-TV are being closed.  The security apparatus are there right now.  We are receiving calls [from] journalists being threatened to give up tapes of the incidents, obviously because they do not want evidence because the entire incident was recorded,” Solo said.

He said Monday’s developments further deepened the CDC decision not to participate in Tuesday’s run-off election.

“When innocent lives can be taken away like they are animals, when life, which is innocent, [is] disregarded in terms of human value, why should we re-engage in this process?  Do we want to send a message to our people that the process is more relevant than their lives?  No, we will not engage in this runoff,” Solo said.