Liberia: Call to Sanction Protest Leaders

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

A conglomeration of youth and student - based groups is profiling key figures leading efforts to hold the pending June 7 protest for their alleged roles in Liberia's brutal past, announcing plans to ask the United Nations to issue serious travel bans against the targeted individuals.

"And mind you, I personally with a history of peace, I'm going to be engaging the United Nations along with my colleagues, asking for travel ban on some of these guys," Federation of Liberian Youth (FLY) president Amos Williams told a joint press conference in Monrovia Wednesday, 15 May.

In a joint statement read by Mano River Youth Parliament (MRUYP) Liberian office Speaker Mohammed A. Massaley, FLY, MRUYP and the Liberian National Student Union (LINSU) profiled Bomi Sen. Sando Johnson, Margibi County Sen. Oscar Cooper, Businessman Benoni Urey and Montserrado County Rep. YekehKolubah as individuals that have no moral rectitude to demand a protest to save the state.

The joint statement by FLY, LINSU and MRUYP came Wednesday after a dialogue between President George Manneh Weah and June 7 protest organizers Council of Patriots (COP) ended in deadlock on Tuesday, 14 May in Monrovia.

The group questions COP's wisdom of insisting on staging a protest despite being called to a dialogue with President Weah, seeking answers to what the actual motives of the protesters are.

In an attempt to convince Liberians to disembark from the June 7 protest, the group narrates that Sen. Sando Johnson was a strong supporter of imprisoned former President Charles Ghankay Taylor who headed the rebel faction- National patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) that allegedly burned several towns and villages in Bomi, causing several deaths.

The group also cites Sen. Oscar Cooper as another associate of warlord and former President Taylor.

Further, the group says Benoni Urey as staunch supporter of the NPFL was also indicted by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) recommendations for alleged economic crimes, while Rep. YekehKolubah also allegedly operated as combatant in the Liberian civil war.

According to LUNSU, FLY and MRUYP, Rep. Kolubah served as a police officer and stalwart of the infamous "SOD" during the regime of imprisoned former President Taylor.

The group claims that the targeted individuals in the COP are always associated with un-nationalistic, unpatriotic and counterproductive undertakings "to cause chaos at the detriment of the ordinary people."

Reading the joint statement, MRUYP speaker Mohammed Massaley cautions the ring leaders of the June 7 protest and all concern to disembark from the process because Liberia's peace is fragile and the economy unfavorable.

He recalls that the infamous April 14, 1979 Rice Riot turned violent, claimed the lives of several Liberians and eventually toppled President William R. Tolbert's regime on 12 April 1980.

"But let us send this caveat that anyone who jeopardizes our peace and precipitates chaos while their wives and children are peacefully living in the US and other countries shall not go with impunity," Massaley warns.

He observes that most of the ring leaders of the June 7 protest are key members of major opposition political parties here, but his frustration is that these parties are silent while their partisans allegedly instill fears in Liberians.

For his part, FLY president Amos Williams recalls how he grew up during the days of war in Liberia saying, he does not want this to have this experience again.

"We'll be calling for them to be placed on serious travel ban as a way of deterrence for them," Williams stresses.He says they are calling for peaceful dialogue instead of protest, warning against reverting to the past.The group announces that it is working with young people in the communities to spread peace messages.

Allegations of corruption, the poor state of the economy and a US$25m mop - up exercise are among many other reasons why opposition and critics of President Weah's regime are saying they will protest and make demands for some reforms here.

Panic has been growing among Liberians over the pending June 7 Protest, prompting suggestions from different quarters of the society for a dialogue between the government and the protesters.By Winston W. Parley

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