9 June 2019

Liberia: More Protests to Follow June 7

Photo: Government of Liberia
President Weah and cabinet (file photo).

Costa: "We will protest until our demands are met." -Costa declares

Henry Pedro Costa, one of the lead campaigners and chief propagandist of the Council of Patriots (CoP), organizers of the June 7 protest, has told his followers that June 7 was just the beginning of the protest, and more are expected subsequently.

Costa's statement comes against the backdrop that the June 7 "Save the State" protest ended on Friday after thousands of the protesters, who converged on Capitol Hill, peacefully dispersed without having achieved the expected objective of the protest, which was to present their petition to the President of Liberia.

His declaration came when the government failed to meet protesters' demand to free certain students of the University of Liberia, who were arrested and incarcerated over 48 hours before the day of the protest. The protesters had also decided not to read and present their petition to those officials, including Foreign Minister, Gbehzohngar Findley, Justice Minister Frank Musa Dean and others, who showed up to receive the petition on behalf of President George Weah, because they "were not elected officials."

Before then, Mr. Costa had disclosed earlier that they were not honoring the 3: p.m. deadline by the government to leave the street after presenting the petition, but would remain therein until the first set of their demands are met.

"Our first set of demand wants to see Finance Minister Samuel Tweah and Central Bank Governor Nathaniel Patray dismissed and turned over for prosecution; and that the president declare his asset to know how he got the many properties he has acquired in just one and a half years; we also want this President, George Gbekugbeh Weah, to get his Jamaican wife out of our national budget where she receives US$1.5 million in the name of charity," Costa said to the delight of his supporters.

He added, "Until these demands are met, we cannot leave from here, but to stay right here and it is the beginning of subsequent protests; the rest of the demands could be addressed in days to come, but these first three are the immediate ones."

A day earlier, there was no telling how well attended the planned June 7 "peaceful protest" would have been, since institutions, including some religious and civil society groups had cautioned people to stay away from the street to avoid trouble. Prior to the day of the protest, rumors had spread that there would be violence and bloodshed recalling the 1979 event that witnessed looting of properties and deaths of some "protesters."

Furthermore, officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP) besieged the home of tough-talking Montserrado County District #10 Lawmaker Yekeh Kolubah on Wednesday, June 5, to arrest him. However Kolubah's supporters prevented the LNP from arresting him until a delegation of the ECOWAS observers that came to monitor the protest, along with some of his colleagues from the 54th House of Representatives, accompanied him to the LNP Headquarters.

That same day, Rep. Kolubah's home was also searched on the order of the Montserrado County Attorney on suspicion that, as a former combatant of the Liberian civil war and stern critic of the George Weah Administration, the lawmaker may have been in possession of arms.

There was heavy security presence along the main Tubman Boulevard and some major streets in Monrovia. They were all in new uniforms and riot gear; and vehicles heading to and coming from central Monrovia were thoroughly searched by the joint security officers, assisted by boy scouts.

All these conditions built public sentiment that the protest may be marred by violence; nevertheless, the thousands of protesters, who made their way to the Capitol Hill dispelled the sentiment when they conducted themselves so orderly during the protest.

Many of the protesters were heard advising one another to avoid any act that may spark violence; and some intruders, who attempted causing trouble were turned over to the police without being treated otherwise.

A couple of speakers were also civil, but remained candid in their statements demanding to present their petition to President Weah or his Vice President, Jewel Howard-Taylor, both overwhelmingly elected by the people.

ECOWAS Ambassador, Others

ECOWAS Ambassador to Liberia, Babatunde Ajisomo, commended the protesters for "being very peaceful and confident in registering their concerns to the government." Ajisomo then pledged ECOWAS' commitment to peace in Liberia.

Benoni Urey, head of the collaborating political parties and political leader of the opposition All Liberian Party (ALP), called on the protesters to remain peaceful, but resilient in ensuring that their demands are met.

"This country is for all of us. No one owns this country more than the other, not the opposition political parties, but every Liberian owns Liberia, and therefore, the resources must be distributed fairly and should not be used to benefit a few group of people," Urey said.

Alternative National Congress (ANC) political leader, Alexander B. Cummings, motivated the protesters to believe in their own efficacies, and take responsibility for the country without compromising what is good for it.

Cummings, like Urey, called for a peaceful engagement, and urged protesters not to repeat what others did that "sent a bad signal out there about Liberia's governance system."

University professor and former student activist, Alaric Tokpah, cautioned the government not to take the power of the people and the Constitution of Liberia lightly, cautioning that doing so is an act of undermining oneself.

According to irrefutable sources, protesters were sharing views and admiring themselves for having a peaceful protest as they were leaving the Capitol Hill without any report of violence; and were challenging the ruling establishment that they were just starting.

"Until George Weah can meet up with our demands, we will still come in the street and we believe the next turnout will be bigger than this one, because the situation today (Friday, June 7) will tell scary people that we are not out for violence, but peace," two of the protesters said.

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