On the eve of elections in Liberia, tensions grew high as a protest against the incumbent president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, turned deadly.
Violence broke out in Liberia’s capital of Monrovia at opposition party headquarters. Opposition opponents from the Congress for the Democratic Change party (CDC) headed by Winston Tubman have accused Sirleaf of buying votes and using government money to fund her campaign.
The opposition is calling for supporters to boycott Tuesday’s vote due to “irregularities” and today’s deadly protest appears to have been a rally to gather supporters to boycott the election.
Security forces opened fire on demonstrators leaving a man in his early 20’s dead and several others wounded. Security forces also fired tear gas into the crowds at the CDC headquarters.
Tensions have been particularly high in the days leading up to the vote between Tubman supporters who believe that Sirleaf’s policies have shortchanged them and done little to improve their lives, and those that support Liberia’s Nobel Peace Prize winning president.
Liberia remains one of the most underdeveloped countries in the world and every two in three Liberians live in destitute poverty. Nevertheless, those who support Sirlef credit her as a force of peace-building in the country that has managed to wipe clean $5 billion in debt and attract millions of dollars in foreign aid to the war ravaged country.
Last month, Sirleaf’s administration changed the head of the electoral commission in following allegations by Tubman that the head of the commission was biased towards Sirleaf.
Nevertheless, Tubman has maintained that the elections will not be fair and is pushing his supporters to boycott the election all together. A CDC boycott would essentially leave Sirleaf running alone, cutting the credibility of a victory.
International observers reject allegations that the election has been rigged in favor of Liberia’s current head of state.
Following today's violence, Tubman’s running mate, George Weah, told the Associated Press that the incident proves the need for a rescheduled runoff.
He said, “With what happened I don’t think holding the election tomorrow is the right thing to do.”
Sirleaf defeated Weah in 2005 following a devastating 14-year civil war that finally ousted former leader Charles Taylor.
Sirleaf recently won the Nobel Peace Prize and is Africa’s first elected female president. Sirleaf won the award along with two other women, Leymah Gobwee and Tawakkul Karmen. All three have been central figures in promoting peace and gender equality in their countries.