Liberia opposition calls for mass protest
Monrovia - Liberia's main opposition has called for a mass protest Monday, on the eve of a run-off election which candidate Winston Tubman is boycotting over fears the process will be flawed.
Tubman, who set the country on edge with his call for voters to stay away from Tuesday's run-off presidential election, said he wants his supporters to stage a "peaceful protest" on Monday.
A vigil outside his Congress for Democratic Change headquarters on Saturday and Sunday drew only a handful of people, far from the tens of thousands which spilled into the streets ahead of the first round polls on October 11.
The boycott call raised tensions in the last days of an election campaign which fizzled out on Sunday as the CDC was absent and a last tour through the capital by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf failed to draw the crowds.
Addressing the populous Red Light market district, the Nobel Peace Prize winner praised her country's eight years of peace after a brutal 14-year conflict which left some 250 000 dead ended in 2003.
"I know that nobody in this country, no matter what the talk or rhetoric, nobody really wants us to go back to war," she said.
Tubman claims the first round, in which he placed second with 32.7% of the vote, was flawed by irregularities, and he has refused to take part in the run-off until he is satisfied the process will be transparent.
Sirleaf got 43.9% in the first round and has since won the support of key smaller parties such as that of Prince Johnson, a notorious former warlord who was filmed ordering the torture of military dictator Samuel Doe and who scored nearly 12%.
The election has been billed as a chance for the country to cement its fragile democracy and the international community has condemned Tubman's boycott call.
"We are very concerned. It's a bad signal ... political leaders must be prepared to win or lose," the head of the African Union observer mission, Speciosa Wadira Kazibwe, a former Ugandan vice-president, told reporters.
The United States on Saturday said it was "deeply disappointed" by the boycott call, calling Tubman's claims of fraud "unsubstantiated".
West Africa's political bloc Ecowas said it "deeply regrets the retrogressive tone" of Tubman’s statement and urged all involved "not to miss this historic opportunity of consolidating democracy and peace in the country."
Unity Party supporter Lucy Moore said that just two days before the election, she was both happy and sad.
"Happy because I know we are going to win no matter what. Sad because we are going alone to the polls."
Ciafa G Clarke, 29, an economics student and Tubman supporter told AFP that if the vote went ahead, "the vast majority of the people will not recognise the regime."
UN leader Ban Ki-moon has urged the rival sides to maintain calm and "not to resort to violence despite political disagreement and to ensure that the peace in Liberia is maintained".
Liberia, Africa's oldest independent state, was founded by freed American slaves in 1847 and is still scarred by the 14-year civil war which shattered infrastructure and the economy.
Sirleaf, who is hailed abroad for her role in rebuilding the nation, has said she wants a second term to rebuild the "broken country" which is still heavily reliant on an 8 000-strong UN peacekeeping mission.