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December 04, 2011

Liberian Panel Blames Protesters, Police for Pre-Election Violence

by James Butty

Commission Chair Sister Mary Laurene Browne says accepting the truth and mistakes are keys to genuine reconciliation and nation building

The woman appointed by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to look into the November 7 pre-election violence says, to achieve reconciliation, Liberians must learn to accept the truth.

Roman Catholic Sister Mary Laurene Browne says, only then can they build a better nation.  Browne’s Commission of Inquiry submitted its report to President Sirleaf last week.

She says provocation by supporters of the opposition Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) coupled with police response allowed the situation to get out of hand.

“The fact that the CDC called for a march, or a rally, and the rally spilled onto the nearby street is what was unlawful.  And I think this helped to provoke a situation between them and the police,” she said.

Browne said one person was killed, not three as claimed by the CDC when police fired into the protesters.

“We heard, but the thing is we have no proof that more than one person died,” Browne said.  She said her commission is still probing allegations that the police fired on protesters, although the police denied it did.

“Well, the police are saying that they did not fire live rounds into the crowd. So, that part is still being investigated.  But, we do know that the police did fire and that is the part of the investigation that is still ongoing,” Browne said.

Sirleaf fired Police Director Marc Amblard following the incident.  Browne said Amblard’s sacking was based on the recommendation of her commission.

“That was based on the recommendation of the commission because, from all indications, the lack of coordination and not being pro-active fell to the police, and being the head, obviously, the head bears the greatest responsibility,” she said.

CDC presidential candidate Winston Tubman told VOA last month he believes he and his vice presidential candidate, George Weah, were targeted for assassination during the violence near his party’s headquarters.

Brown said her commission found no evidence to substantiate the assassination allegations.  She said Liberians must always face and accept the truth in order for genuine reconciliation to happen in the country.

“For reconciliation to truly be genuine, each one of us, wherever we are, must face the truth and accept the truth to be able to move forward, in facing who we are as a people, where we’ve come from and what we’ve done with ourselves, for ourselves, and where we’ve made mistakes, accept those mistakes and then be able to put those behind us and then try to forge a better nation,” Browne said.