Liberia: President Weah Wants Would-Be Protesters to Present Petitions in Liberia's Interest

Angry protester at the Temple of Justice (file photo).

His Excellency Dr. George Manneh Weah Tuesday, May 14 left nothing unsaid in wooing planners of the June 7 protests eschew the path of street protest and put their grievances on the table of dialogue for peaceful resolution in the interest of Liberia.

The president used his meeting with the "Council of Patriots", organizers of the June 7 protest, in the presence of national and international stakeholders to explore the fluidity of the Liberian sociopolitical landscape and how street demonstrations in the past had led to crises that brought untold suffering and misery upon the nation and its people.

"Protests have not helped us as a people and nation. This is why, since I began President, I often move very quickly to sit with organizers of protest not merely to hear what they want to be done but also to solve the problem they are confronted with," the President said, citing amongst other cases, the meeting with University of Liberia students that brought to an end the perennial registration crises at the state-university amongst others.

The Liberian Leader said while he respects citizens' right to assemble and protest, Liberia's history teaches that such pursuits have historically been problematic and never paid off for the country's development and progress.

He vowed to uphold every provision of the Liberian constitution without fear or favor, and that no one's rights under the law will be restrained or violated.

The President said during the meeting that the country under his stewardship would not revert to the ugly past, emphasizing that the best way to maintain the country's peace is for Liberians to continuously dialogue.

"We have had our bitter past," President Weah said. "At this present, let our past remind us that we must do everything to maintain the peace. This is why we have to dialogue."

He challenged the planners of the June 7 protest to put their grievances on the table for discussion and possible resolution.

Street protests, which others consider the mere exercise of a constitutional right, are costly, the President said, adding, "It will cost Government so much money to provide logistics and manpower to guard and protect protesters. All that money could be used to continue to build decent roads in our communities and do other things worthwhile and beneficial to our people."

"I urge you therefore to put your grievances on the table here for discussion, and my government will be kind enough to address them in the interest of peace, harmony and national development," the President continued.

President Weah said everyone knows that his administration gives time to listening to diverse opinions often expressed by Liberians through different mediums.

"Under my Leadership, this country will not be divided," he averred. "I listen to people. I respect the rule of law and the processes that give rights to people. And also promote civil liberty."

The Liberian Leader expressed utter disappointment over the failure of the leadership of COP to make known their concerns during one of the country's important holidays, the Unification Day, as to epitomize the sense of unification, unity and nationalism.

"Today is Unification Day and I thought we were going to listen to the COP presenting their concerns," President Weah said further. "Instead, they insist their protest will go on anyhow."

He added: "I am open to discussions and often go the extra mile hearing out people, even critics, not because of I am weak. I do these things because of my respect for humanity and fellow human beings."

He further assured the gathering that "we can't divide our own country. There is nothing inside of me that has any resemblance of a dictatorship. I am a man of peace and over the years and throughout my life I have committed myself to advocating for peace, protecting the peace and I seek not to bring division among people."

Though the COP did not adhere to their commitment to present their concerns during the meeting, President Weah said he was still open to continuous dialogue in the interest of the country.

He said should the COP still desire to go ahead with their protest on June 7 instead of dialoguing, his government will provide the necessary protection.

He instructed that they work with the Ministry of Justice to proceed with their protest.

"Though it will cause the government millions of dollars to provide logistical support to the security to protect your protest, we will have to do it," President Weah pointed out.

He said it was disheartening that the government would be spending huge sum of money on providing security for the protest when in fact the amount should be used for the construction of roads and the improvement of the livelihood of Liberians.

"I just want you to know that all these things affect the economy and cause distractions for students, business people and others in the country," the Liberian Leader indicated.

The President acknowledged challenges the economy is facing. He however reiterated his government's commitment to working to ameliorate the situation.

He disclosed that some of the economic challenges are at a result of drop in the prices of Iron Ore, Rubber and other resources the country depends on.

"We are working to revive the economy and we know it will not be a quick-fix," the President noted.

President Weah said since he took the mantle of leadership, he has made his priority to explain the unfavorable governance situations his government inherited, such as the broken economy.

He intimidated that street protest was not the best solution in prevailing national problems, particularly when his government is taking the appropriate measures.

Earlier, Council of Patriots (COP) thanked the President for inviting them to the meeting. Spokesperson Darius Dillon said COP was only at the meeting to request the government to allow the protest to go on.

The meeting was attended by Representatives of UN, AU and ECOWAS, the Liberia Council of Churches, National Muslim Council of Liberia, Traditional Council of Liberia, amongst others.

They attendees variously commended the president for convening the meeting and urged organizers of the protest to put the peace and stability of the country first.

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