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False! No pre-marked ballot papers discovered in Foya, Lofa County

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Claim: The commander-in-chief of the Economic Freedom Fighters of Liberia (EFFL), Emmanuel Gonquoi, said, “Members of the EFFL arrested ballot boxes containing pre-marked ballot papers in Foya, Lofa County.”

False! No pre-marked ballot papers discovered in Foya, Lofa County

Verdict: False! According to the police, no ballot box or pre-marked ballot papers were seized in Foya, Lofa County, and EFFL cannot provide evidence to back its claims.  

Full Text 

Late Monday afternoon on Nov. 13, 2023, various posts claiming that ballot boxes containing pre-marked ballot papers in favour of President George Weah were arrested by members of the Economic Freedom Freedom Fighters of Liberia (EFFL) went viral on the internet. Some of the posts can be seen here and here.

Following the viral posts, the commander-in-chief of the EFFL, Emmanuel Gonquoi, in a press conference, took responsibility for the arrest, claiming that some unnamed sources tipped them off that a helicopter was due to transport ballot boxes containing pre-marked ballot papers in Foya and Zwedru. He claimed that the EFFL seized a few ballot boxes during the raid.

Mr Gonquoi’s comments about the seizure were made at 5:45 – 6:50 during the over 12-minute press conference.

In the conference, Mr Gonquoi claimed that his men turned over the seized ballot boxes containing the papers to the police detachment in Lofa County, and some were given to representative Francis Nyumalin of District #1, Foya, Lofa County.

Gonquoi claimed those electoral materials came on a flight, SN-B, as seen in the pictures below

False! No pre-marked ballot papers discovered in Foya, Lofa County

There were also serious alleged altercations between members of the EFFL and supporters believed to be of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), as seen in the picture below.

False! No pre-marked ballot papers discovered in Foya, Lofa County

Verification

To start with, DUBAWA contacted the head of the Economic Freedom Fighters of Liberia (EFFL), Emmanuel Gonquoi, who said that upon arresting the materials from those he claimed were members of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), he turned them over to the police in the county.

When quizzed on whether he has pictorial evidence, he said, “Our men who arrested the items’ phones were seized, and they were intimidated by the police, so we do not have any photo, but we only managed to do a video recording when the flight was leaving the scene.”

DUBAWA has sighted pictures and videos of the confrontation between the EFFL and the persons said to be poll watchers of the governing CDC. The pictures have been published on several social media platforms and online platforms. Some of the pictures have been posted above. However, none of the pictures indicated ballot boxes or pre-marked ballot papers.

Police Response

DUBAWA contacted Clement Ballah, the Police Commander in Foya district, Lofa county, but he denied seeing ballot boxes with ballot papers when his men arrived.

“My officers who went on the scene upon receiving the information of seized ballot boxes containing pre-marked ballot papers did not see any ballot boxes with ballot papers in them,” Commander Ballah said.

He added that two individuals were arrested and maltreated by men of the EFFL on account of being involved in a suspicious act. On the issue of the ballot boxes, he said: “Where is the evidence y’all say y’all have? Up till now, there is no evidence.”

When we contacted Representative Nyumalin via a telephone conversation, he could not deny nor confirm the allegation but noted that he would address a news conference on Tuesday.

Testimony by Journalist

Thomas Yollah is a journalist at Radio Tamba Taikor in Foya; he witnessed the incident. When contacted by DUBAWA, Yollah provided pictorial evidence of the helicopter and some men being manhandled by the EFFL, but no ballot box is seen in any of the pictures. Yollah said he did not see ballot boxes anywhere around the scene.

To further verify the claim, this Fact-Checker also contacted some stalwarts of the ruling Congress for Democratic Change that is being accused of electoral malpractice.  In response, CDC National Campaign Spokesperson Kanio Gbai Gbala called the claim “patently false”.

Conclusion

Based on the accounts provided, claims that pre-marked ballot papers were discovered in Foya, Lofa County, are false.  

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