Liberia: CSO Groups Against July 31 Protest

A coalition of three civil society organizations has distanced itself from the impending July 31 protest, terming it as untimely and a naked political attempt by unscrupulous people to stain the image of Liberia.

At a press conference Friday, July 12, the Chairman of the Council of Patriots, Mr. Henry P. Costa announced July 24 as the date for COP's second protest on grounds that government has failed to heed or implement demands contained in their June 7 protest petition.

COP has since moved the protest date to July 31, 2019, following the issuance of a statement by United States Ambassador to Liberia Christine Elder, in which she described the date of the protest as misplaced.

In a release issued over the weekend, the three CSO groups, Democratic Watch Forum (DWF), Center for Pro-Poor Development (CPD), and Citizens United to Save Democracy (CUSD) called on all of their members and chapters in the fifteen political sub-divisions of Liberia, as well as all well-meaning Liberians and foreign residents alike, to stay away and denounce the so-called nationwide protest to "save the state".

The group averred that it respects the fact that any Liberian or group of Liberians can exercise their right to assemble as guaranteed by Article 17 of the 1986 Constitution, but Liberians must be reminded by events in other African countries where political actors are taking advantage of repeated protests to achieve political motives.

The CSO coalition expressed serious concern about the growing wave of tension and imminent instability as a result of too many politically driven agitations which are continuously being inflamed by the COP through its constant threats of mass protests.

The CSO coalition also expressed particular concern about Henry Costa's continuous attack and alleged incitement against some legal business institutions including Bittar Construction Company, Global Tracking and Maritme Solution, Sidani Group Holdings and Building Materials Center, among others.

Reflecting on the untold violence and devastation caused by the infamous 1979 rice riot, which left hundreds of innocent Liberians dead and millions of dollars' worth of properties destroyed, the civil society called on members of the COP to seek the path of dialogue and join other Liberians to jealously safe guide the peace and stability of Liberia.

The 1979 riot, the CSO coalition recalled, was a protest organized to be peaceful, but turned violent and claimed the lives of several Liberians and its aftermath eventually led to the toppling of the Tolbert's regime on April 12, 1980.

The CSO group further recalled that since 1979, "Liberia has witnessed many bloody protests including the November 7, 2011 murdering of CDCians in a peaceful rally at their party headquarters and the severe beating and wounding of MCSS students which led to the dismissal of former Police Director Marc Amblard in the regime of Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf", the NCSNL release added.

The group added that the peaceful nature of the June 7 protest cannot be a ground for endless protest actions in the country, considering the fact that the state security sector is seriously challenged and government cannot continue to spend the country's meager resources to augment public security anytime there's a protest.

Meanwhile, the civil society coalition has questioned the motive of individuals in the Council of Patriots for insisting to stage the planned June 24 protest when Liberians would be joined by high-profile foreign dignitaries, including heads of state of other sovereign nations; something which could be interpreted as an attempt to embarrass in the country.

The CSO group said while it acknowledges the right of the protesters to assemble under Article 17 of the Constitution, there is also Article 13 which provides for free movement and other provisions of the Constitution that necessitates the government to maintain the peace and stability of the state at all times, especially during mass gatherings and movement of people.

The CSO coalition is therefore calling on government, ECOWAS, UN, AU, and other local and international organizations to resolve the issues through the holding of serious dialogue to avoid the protest and allow Liberians celebrate in peace, the birth of the country.

In another development, the DWF, CUSD, and CPD Coalition has repeated its earlier position, welcoming the Draft Budget for Fiscal Year 2019/2020, terming it as a realistic national instrument truly anchored on the much embraced pro-poor ideology of President George Manneh Weah.

The FY 2019/2020 envelope is in the tone of US$532,906,966.00 (Five Hundred Thirty Two Million Nine Hundred Six Thousand Nine Hundred Sixty Six United States Dollars).

Speaking during the brief presentation ceremony at the Capitol Building recently, Minister Tweah reiterated President George Weah's commitment to fighting fraud, waste and abuse of state resources through the introduction of radical revolutionary approaches in the revitalization of the Liberian economy.

Minister Tweah emphasized significant efforts being made by government to pay domestic vendors in the amount of US$35 million, while at the same time tackling, among other things, the issue of huge wage bill.

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