Gunfire in Monrovia on eve of presidential runoff

Liberian riot police use tear gas to disperse opposition supporters. FILE | AFRICA REVIEW  

Gunfire erupted Monday in the Liberian capital, Monrovia, one the eve of Tuesday's presidential election runoff when police attempted to break up an opposition rally.

Reports say at least one person has died with a number of others injured.

Hundreds of supporters of the opposition Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) party had gathered outside the offices of the party.

But the police, backed by UN peacekeepers, would not allow the rally saying it was unauthorised.

The opposition supporters are said to have exchanged fire with the police.

The standoff came hours after the UN security Council added its voice to concerns over statements by the CDC urging a boycott of the runoff election.

The 15-member Council said Sunday it was also "deeply concerned" over threats received by staff of the national electoral body and urged all stakeholders to ensure a successful completion of the electoral process.

"The members of the Security Council call on all Liberian stakeholders to exercise maximum restraint and work together to maintain confidence in the electoral process," said the Security Council statement.

The Council also endorsed the earlier stance taken by regional bloc Ecowas opposing the boycott.

Win or lose

Opposition candidate Winston Tubman of the CDC has called on Liberians to boycott the poll while hinting at mass action if the election went ahead.

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf released a counterstatement on Saturday urging Liberians to ignore the boycott call.

On Sunday, the US joined the growing global condemnation of the stance taken by the opposition CDC.

A US State Department statement said it was “deeply disappointed” by the decision of the CDC and warned that “resorting to violence is unacceptable”.

Mr Tubman has lately been seeking to clarify his position, saying his party did not ask “for a total cancellation” of the poll.

He told the BBC on Monday that they only wanted it to be postponed to a later date to allow for enough time to effect the changes they demanded.

But both the election commission and the President have vowed to go ahead.

Meanwhile, the head of the international election observer mission in Liberia, former Ugandan vice-president Specioza Kazibwe, has described Mr Tubman’s boycott call as a “bad signal” for an emerging democracy.

“This is regrettable as the international community has had every reason to believe that Mr Tubman was well placed to promote peace and democracy in Liberia,” she told reporters in Monrovia on Sunday.

“Political leaders must be prepared to win or lose.”

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