Liberia - calls for protests

2011-11-22 22:22

Monrovia - Liberia's main opposition party, the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), called on Tuesday for more protests in the West African country, two weeks after it boycotted a presidential vote that saw president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf win a second term in office.

The CDC, led by Winston Tubman and former international footballer George Weah, pulled out of the second round of voting after citing "fraud and irregularities" in the first round. But Tubman's name still appeared on the ballot paper and the election went ahead as planned, with Johnson-Sirleaf winning more than 90% of the vote.

Addressing CDC supporters, Tubman said more demonstrations were planned for next week, after a string of protests and a funeral parade that took place in Monrovia on Monday. The parade honoured those who were killed when riot police fired on CDC supporters at a rally on the eve of the second-round vote.

"People thought we were going to fight, loot or cause trouble," Tubman told local media after Monday's parade, adding that he is calling for peaceful demonstrations.

Election observers who were in Liberia for the poll said the vote was largely free and fair, with the Carter Centre saying the process was "conducted transparently and in general accordance with Liberia's obligations for democratic elections".

However, the group found some evidence of irregularities in one part of Liberia - the county of Grand Gedeh, a traditional opposition stronghold that skirts the Cote d'Ivoire border. There, the group noted that the ruling party won more than three times as many votes in the second round as it did in the first.

In several instances, "observers reported seeing consecutive ballots with similar markings." In another, turnout varied by as much as 400% at polling stations within the same precinct, the report said.

While the findings "do not affect the outcome of the presidential run-off election as a whole, they nonetheless raise serious questions about the integrity and transparency of the electoral process in Grand Gedeh County," it added.

An independent commission has launched an investigation into the opposition rally that turned violent on November 7. The commission, headed by nun and university head Sister Mary Laurene Brown, is investigating the events that led to the deaths of three people.

But Brown, who is a friend of president Johnson Sirleaf, has been criticised by local media and analysts for being too close to the leader to lead an independent assessment.

"People are free to make their own judgements," Brown told dpa, "but there is no proof that I am biased. People have to focus instead on what is coming out of the inquiry."

The Carter Centre, which says "the process of nominating commissioners has not been transparent," is calling on the government to "swiftly act on the commission's recommendations, so that those responsible can be held accountable."