Gbowee in tears over Liberia violence

2011-11-08 15:46

Monrovia - Joint Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee said on Tuesday she cried all night following eve-of-election clashes that left four opposition demonstrators dead but said Liberians faced a defining moment.

"It's a sad moment personally. Yesterday was a depressing one, I spent the whole night crying, trying to find a solution," Gbowee told AFP as she prepared to vote in the presidential run-off at the Mason School in Monrovia.

Dressed in a white t-shirt with "Violent Elections" emblazoned on the front and "No!" on the back, Gbowee praised voters who trickled into polling stations in the aftermath of Monday's violence.

"Liberians lived in fear for so many years and today people, regardless of the number of people ... have defied fear and intimidation and stepped out to vote."

"I think the elections process today is a defining moment for democracy in Liberia."

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who shared this year's Nobel Peace Prize with Gbowee and Yemeni activist Tawakkul Karman, is poised for re-election with challenger Winston Tubman boycotting the poll over rigging claims.

Tubman on Monday called supporters to his party headquarters for an unauthorised march where tensions between security forces and protesters spun out of control and at least four people were shot dead by riot police.

"How do we make it right?"

"Yesterday was an unfortunate incident .. it was a test of our democracy, the justice ministry said no but people came out, which was wrong, but the police were also wrong for firing live bullets.

"Two wrongs took place, the big question now is how do we make it right for Liberia."

Gbowee said she had spent all morning in meetings with Tubman's Congress for Democratic Change, and said she did not think there would be further violence.

"A lot of the disenchantment the discontentment you see is people having nothing to do and thinking they are being left out totally of everything that Liberia has to offer.

"We need to continue to have conversations with people."

Liberia is still struggling to emerge from the aftermath of a long civil war during which Gbowee gathered women together in Monrovia to pray and protest against the violence. She is credited with leading women to defy feared warlords and push men toward peace during one of Africa's bloodiest wars.