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‘Liberians are ready for peace’

Church members in this West African nation are concerned but hopeful as authorities investigate claims of election fraud in the November presidential runoff.

By Erik Tryggestad
The Christian Chronicle

December 1, 2005
Church members in Liberia said that they were “disheartened” byprotests and threats of violence after the November runoff election forthe country’s presidency.
“Because of the latest political development, economic hardship hasengulfed the city,” said Washington Yan-whea, youth minister for theWest Point Church of Christ in the capital, Monrovia. “Transportationcost has heightened to the extent that common people are walking to goto their various homes outside of Monrovia.”
Churches are hopeful that an upcoming nationwide crusade will helprestore hope for the future in this West African country, recoveringfrom 14 years of civil war, Yan-whea said.
Liberians went to the polls Oct. 11 to choose from a list of 22candidates for the country’s presidency. The election, supervised by alarge force of United Nations troops, led to a runoff between the toptwo vote-getters, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and George Weah.
Weah, an international soccer star and a national hero among Liberia’syouth, received the most votes in the Oct. 11 election, but securedonly 40.6 percent of the runoff vote, compared to Johnson-Sirleaf’s59.4 percent. Supporters of Weah alleged that ballot boxes were stuffedwith fraudulent votes for Johnson-Sirleaf although internationalobservers said the election was fair.
“The alleged election fraud … is the central theme of discussion on every street corner in Monrovia,” Yan-whea said.
Weah called for another election and urged his supporters to remaincalm. Nonetheless, some of them took to the streets, chanting “No Weah,no peace.” The United Nations responded by banning protest rallies asit began the investigation into the accusations.
“Many Liberians, including the church, are against George’s decision,”said George Tengbeh, minister for the Weala Church of Christ, nearMonrovia. “There is not one person in the church that wants (a)re-election. Liberians are ready for peace and do not want to go backto war.”
Martha J. Pyne, a longtime church member in Monrovia, said she isconcerned that, if violence resulted from the election, theinternational community could withdraw from Liberia and the countrycould descend into another armed conflict.
The civil war, which began in the late 1980s, claimed more than 200,000lives in Liberia. Churches lost ministers and members in the fighting,and many were scattered throughout the region. Today many continue tolive in refugee camps in nearby countries, including Ghana. Churchmembers in Ghana have ministered among the refugees and establishedchurches in some of the camps.
More than 2,000 church members are expected to attend a Nov. 28crusade, Yan-whea said, including Ron Pottburg of Cedar Park,Texas-based World Bible School and Ken Bolden of West Monroe, La.-basedWorld Radio. Both ministries have an office in Monrovia. Isaac Daye, aminister in the nearby Gambia, also is scheduled to participate.
“Liberians are anxiously waiting for Jehovah God’s intervention into the alleged voter fraud,” Yan-whea said.

Filed under: International

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