Liberia: Protesters to Be Back

Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor

-failed to present petition

Thousands of protesters marched before the Capitol Building, the seat of the Liberian Legislature on Friday June 7 to demand several reforms within the barley 2-years old regime of President George Weah, but failed to present their petition, promising to return to the streets after a press conference on Monday June 10.

The protest, first of its kind since the end of the back to back civil wars in Liberia was peaceful.

The Weah government and organizers of the much heralded June 7 protest had earlier reached an agreement that they (protesters) would have presented their petition to Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor, the estranged wife of jailed former President Charles Taylor, but the latter was reported ill and could not make it to the capitol to receive the petition.

The Government at the eleventh hour designated Justice Minister Musa Dean, who was accompanied by Foreign Minister Gbehzongar Finley and officials of ECOWAS but the protesters insisted that it was either President Weah or his Vice President- that was after they demanded that some students who were arrested ahead of the planned protest be released.

But Justice Minister |Dean said the students would be released to their lawyers and not to the planners of the protest.

An official of the Council of Patriot (COP) Boakai Jaliba told this paper that there was no need keeping protesters on the streets over the weekend. He said they asked protesters to go home and would return following their press conference on Monday.

Mr. A. Darius Dillon, a senatorial candidate for Montserrado County and an official of the June 7 Protest organizing group told this writer that they are demanding reforms in all sectors of government. This include rule of law, security, health, education and agriculture.

"We have a list of demands. We have identified problems and we have proffered suggestions for the way forward. It is with no choice," Mr. Dillon said.

Contrary to what many fear that protesters would not leave the streets until their demands are met, Mr. Dillon said upon presentation of their petition, for an example the issue for the establishment of a war crimes court, they (protesters) don't expect the president or the government of Liberia to build a war crime court or implement same on the same day but would demand a definite decision on the issue.

Mr. Dillon also explained that another demand is a reform within the economy. "The President needs to tell us a clear definite position on the economy where are we, where we're going, short term, medium term and long term."

"What is the government doing to mitigate the rising inflation? We want concrete answers. He must declare his assets and publish it so we know what he worth before becoming president- we have seen him acquiring all of these material possessions, almost richer than the country." Dillon added.

Mr. Dillon also said protesters are demanding a definite position of the president on the removal of Justice Kabineh Ja'neh, something he said has undermined the independence of the Judiciary.

However, Mr. Dillon diverted a little from the protesters demands to take a swap at the president for his recent pronouncement that anyone who insults him henceforth will not walk away free.

Mr. Dillon said it was ridicules for a president who parades as the champion of free speech to at the same time issued such statement which demonstrates dictatorial tendency.

"That's dictatorial, undemocratic. The president speaks with one thing on one side of his mouth and speak with another on the other side. The President cannot be speaking as someone who champion free speech and at the same time suppressing free speech." He said as politicians "when our conduct is being described and we term that as an insult then it's something else."

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