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Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Country on the Brink

As the presidential run-off election approached, feelings escalated and there were some instances of violence around the city.  On the eve of the run-off, the opposition party hosted a rally that ended in bloodshed.  Depending on which report you read, between one to five people died with the Liberian National Police acted to break up the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) rally.

Despite the fact that the incident happened just a mile or two from my school compound, it did not really faze me.  At no point did I feel threatened or worried.  In fact, it wasn’t till that evening that I realized how volatile the situation was and how it could come down the street toward me.  

The empty canister still
smelled like gunpowder.
The scorched earth outside our compound
The security guards at the compound showed the director and me an empty canister.  It must have contained a flash or tear gas.  Regardless of what it was, the canister was dropped by a UN helicopter outside the school walls to disperse a crowd that was gathering there.  The canister caused about 15 yards of grass along the wall to catch fire.  Thankfully, the canister didn’t land inside the fence; it was only feet away from our generator!

Like I said, I didn’t realize any of this commotion was taking place.  I can always hear sounds from outside the wall.  People and music from the streets seem to echo within our walls.  The only difference I had noted that day was an abundance of helicopter noise.  They seemed to be circling the compound…and now I understand why.

Since that incident on Monday, November 7, there have been a few other acts of violence around the city.  Someone’s house was burned, a few businesses were ransacked, and a radio-station was razed.

As results from the run-offs came in, there are posted here.
UP is the Unity Party.
CDC is Congress for Democratic Change.
The CDC called for a boycott of the elections.   It was no surprise, therefore, when the incumbent President Ellen Sirleaf Johnson won by a landslide – like 600,000 to 60,000.  Unfortunately, the prior day’s commotion deterred many from going to the polls.

One of "Mama" Ellen's campaign signs
Every once and a while there are rumors.  The riots that were supposedly going to happen when the CDC buried the shot man did not happen.  November 21 was supposed to be “Black Monday,” a day marked with many petrol bombs.  When rumors of these events fly, people stay home.  They pray for the best but prepare for the worst.  Those are the days when only a few of my students show up for school.  I cannot blame the parents that keep their kids at home.

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