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Tear gas fired as Weah supporters take to streets

[Liberia] UN peacekeepers stand guard at the National Elections Commission as 
Weah supporters march. [Date picture taken: 11/11/2005]
UN peacekeepers stand guard at the National Elections Commission as Weah supporters march (Claire Soares/IRIN)

United Nations peacekeepers fired tear gas at supporters of Liberian presidential candidate George Weah, as a protest against the election results spilled onto the streets of the capital, Monrovia, on Friday.

Hundreds of young Liberians, many wearing ripped T-shirts and flip-flops, marched from Weah’s party headquarters via the elections commission and on to the US embassy to voice their anger about a poll they say was rigged.

“Stones were thrown during this protest and tear gas was used by UN police to disperse the crowd,” said Paul Risley, the spokesman for the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). “Two individuals were injured and taken to hospital.”

With votes counted from 97 percent of polling stations across the heavily-forested West African country, former finance minister Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has 59.4 percent of the votes and an unassailable lead over Weah.

But the onetime AC Milan striker is insisting that Tuesday’s run-off ballot was rigged.

“There’s no need to cry. We have to be courageous because we have not lost the election,” Weah told his supporters on Friday.

His Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) party has now taken its complaint to the highest court in the land.

[Liberia] Supporters mob George Weah's convoy. [Date picture taken: 11/11/2005]

Claire Soares/IRIN
[Liberia] Supporters mob George Weah's convoy. [Date picture taken: 11/11/2005]...
Friday, November 11, 2005
[Liberia] Supporters mob George Weah's convoy. [Date picture taken: 11/11/2005]...
Supporters mob George Weah's convoy

“This morning, the CDC filed a writ of prohibition with the Supreme Court of Liberia to intervene and stop the counting process,” Sam Stevequaoah, his campaign spokesman, told a press conference.

“We have a stream of people out there bringing in new evidence… the complaints we have received include intimidation, harassment and prohibiting our polling workers from going into polling stations,” he said.

International observers have said the polls, designed to draw a line under 14 years of civil war, were generally free and fair.

But Stevequaoah said that the observers had only visited polling stations and so those perpetrating the fraud had simply done it when no-one was around to watch them.

Rejecting results

When asked if the fraud had been on a scale big enough to give Sirleaf an 18 point lead, Weah’s spokesman said: “Absolutely. The CDC continues to reject the results coming out of this election.”

The National Elections Commission said it had not been notified of any court ruling, and went ahead with a scheduled results update.

“To my knowledge, the Supreme Court has not asked us to stop the tallying,” Frances Johnson-Morris, the electoral chief, told reporters.

Tensions are mounting in the oceanside capital, where the scars of the 14-year civil war can still be seen. Bullet holes pepper walls and rocket damage still sullies the port.

Many businesses and street stalls in the centre of town closed early on Friday, saying they feared trouble.

And frustrations with the international community, until now feted as the bringers of peace and stability, are beginning to show.


Weah has a strong following among Liberia's former combatants...
Claire Soares/IRIN
[Liberia] A supporter of soccer star George Weah prepares for a rally. [Date picture taken: 11/11/2005]
Friday, November 11, 2005
Weah drops fraud allegations in interests of “genuine peace”
[Liberia] A supporter of soccer star George Weah prepares for a rally. [Date picture taken: 11/11/2005]
A supporter of soccer star George Weah prepares for a rally

“The United Nations is not neutral,” said George Trockon, who is 53 and unemployed. “The international community is in cahoots with Ellen. How can they say that the election was free and fair?”

Earlier in the day, angry Weah supporters had gathered on the dusty football pitch outside his party’s office. Some sported smudged war paint on their faces; others waved palm branches, a symbol of peace.

“We want David, we don’t want Goliath,” they yelled, punching the air. “No Weah, no peace.”

The 39-year-old soccer legend took to the stage to call for calm, but only after hundreds of supporters had left to march into town.

“While we are looking into the (fraud) case, I want you to remain calm,” he said. “The streets of Monrovia do not belong to violent people. In the name of peace do not go on the streets and riot.”

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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