Liberia: 'Weah Step Down' Protest Organizers Vow to Remain in the Streets Until June 7 Recommendations Are Implemented

The International Monetary Fund in Washington, D.C.

Monrovia — The Council of Patriots (COP), organizers of the planned December 30th 'Weah Step Down' campaign, has somersaulted over their previous decision to stage a peaceful protest demanding the resignation of President George Manneh Weah for his government's failure to resuscitate the country's economy and prosecute his closed associates accused of corruption.

The group is headed by firebrand talkshow host Henry Pedro Costa.

COP's decision to change the nomenclature of the protest comes just barely 19 days to December 30th, the day set aside for the staging of the peaceful assembly.

The group's lead founder, Costa, had previously vowed to ensure that President Weah steps down from power because he is 'unable' to steer the affairs of the country.

But addressing a news conference in Monrovia on Wednesday, the acting chairman of the Council of Patriots (COP), Mohammed Ali, disclosed that the December 30th protest is intended to ensure that the Liberian Chief Executive acts upon the recommendations submitted by COP to the government during the June 7 'Save the State' protest.

Thousands of Liberians on June 7 staged a peaceful protest in Monrovia, demanding the resignation of top government officials, and calling for government's actions in addressing the economic constraints and challenges confronting Liberians.

Ali is also the Assistant Secretary General of the former ruling Unity Party (UP).

According to him, citizens will remain in the streets beginning the end of December until President Weah, amongst other things, fires and ensure the prosecution of Nathaniel McGill, and Samuel Tweah, Ministers of State for Presidential Affairs and Finance and Development Planning respectively.

He maintained that those who allegedly squandered the US$25m intended to mop up the excess Liberian dollars on the local market continue to walk freely.

Ali noted that the prices of basic commodities on the Liberian market are skyrocketing on a regular basis, while the Weah led-government continues to 'unlawfully' slash the salaries of civil servants.

"We are assembling to ask our government to implement the counts in the petition we submitted on June 7. Let me make it very clear that we will not leave the streets until the government can begin acting on them. There are things in the petition that can be acted upon with a clip of a finger. For example, we talked about the prosecution of those that squandered the US$25m that was meant to mop up excess Liberian dollars from the economy, the issue of the L$16b still lingers on. We asked the government to thrash this CTNG on containers that is increasing the hardship on our people," he stated.

Ali maintained: "As you will notice, if you go on the market, the prices are increasing consistently. Fire Samuel Tweah for stealing US$25m, sack Nathaniel McGill for his involvement into this entire corruption scandal with the National Housing Authority. There are lots of things the President can do; tell us what are the plans you have to resuscitate the economy; revive the entire harmonization thing because you are unlawfully reducing civil servants salaries. Are those difficult things for the President to do? No,"

Information Minister 'Lied'

The Government of Liberia (GOL), through the Minister of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism, Mr. Lenn Eugene Nagbe, has persistently denied receiving a petition from COP during or after the June 7 protest.

Though the petition was not hand-delivered to a representative of the government during the protest, executives of the COP claimed that their petition was delivered to the three (3) branches of the Liberian government days after the peaceful 'Save the State' protest.

Ali accused Minister Nagbe of not being sincere on the receipt of the group's petition, advancing several recommendations to government.

"The Minister of Information lied. If you say the petition was not given on June 7-it does not equipped to the petition was not given. This petition was duly delivered to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, President Pro-Tempore of the Liberian Senate and delivered to the Executive Mansion and signed for on June 11. It was signed for-we have copies in our archives. Ministers of Information are noted for lying and the Minister of Information lied," he noted.

No crime

Ali believed that though the COP wants government to act on suggestions and recommendations contained in its previous petition, persistent calls from executives and members of the group, including lawmakers, and leaders of other opposition political parties for President Weah to step down, do not amount to a crime against the state.

According to him, it is the constitutional right of every citizen to call for the resignation of anyone regardless of status in the Liberian society.

"Every Liberian has the right to ask anybody to step down, including the Council of Patriots. It is their right. Let's not make it today to look like when somebody asks President Weah to resign than they have committed a crime. There is no crime in asking somebody to resign," he added.

Ali maintained: "We are not going to use any force; we have absolutely no capacity to use any force. We are assembling peacefully to ask the government, not only the President-but he is the head of government and so, we will mention his name, to ask the government to address the grievances that were raised in our petition of June 7. As long as they cannot be addressed, we will remain on the seat of government".

Worst economic situation

The acting Chairman of the Council of Patriots (COP) believes that the Liberian economy is worsening under the CDC led-government of President Weah.

He termed as 'inept and incompetent' those heading the Economic Management Team (EMT) of Liberia, adding that, the December 30th protest is intended to alert President Weah that he is taking the country on a dangerous path.

"We are already in one of the worst economic situations in this country. It can only get worst. You have bunch of inept and unqualified people heading the Economic Management Team of this country. It's not going to get any better unless President Weah gets serious to lead this country. The protest is only there to make him to understand that he is doing all of the wrong things to dump this country into a very deep hole," he added.

Ali furthered: "The President and his government have consistently refused to listen to the cry of the Liberian people. We will be going into the streets; we will not be scattered all over, we will assemble at the seat of government on Capitol Hill".

Response to IRCL

Sometimes ago, the Inter-Religious Council of Liberia (COP), through its President, Rev. Kortu K. Brown, called for a dialogue between the COP, the government of Liberia and other political parties.

The call made by the Council was in line with its "End of the Year Engagement Initiative", which was recently endorsed and launched by its National Executive Committee.

But according to Ali, the IRCL must concentrate on calling on the government to desist from squandering the country's resources for the benefit of a selective few, instead of being 'functional only when citizens intend to assemble peacefully' to express their grievances.

"We respect the IRCL and its members a lot; but we call on them to ask the government to stop stealing our resources for their personal benefits-to begin to investigate the acquisition of private properties. What we are more disappointed in is the fact that this Inter Religious Council that we so respect has never called on the government to look into the petition that was submitted by thousands of Liberians to the Government of Liberia, on June 7" he stated.

Ali continued: "We do not think that the IRCL should only be functional when group of citizens want to assemble in a peaceful manner to ask their government to address grievances. We are asking the IRCL to in fact join us on December 30th for every one of us in a very peaceful manner to ask our government to address the worsening economic situation, the unpaid civil servants salaries and the many other wrongs that the government is doing. We think that's the right way for the Inter-Religious Council to proceed. The Liberian people are resolved to come out on December 30".

Nothing treasonous

The COP believes that its decision to stage a peaceful protest on December 30 does not in any way amounts to treason.

The Ministry of Justice has warned the organizers that their move intended to call for the stepping down of an elected President amounts to treason, and as such, leaders of the protest would be held liable for any unlawful actions.

But Ali called on authorities of the Ministry to "retract such threats and false allegations against peaceful Liberians".

"We want the Liberian people to know that there is absolutely nowhere in our communication where we mentioned that we are embarking on a campaign to ask the President of Liberia to step down or resign. But even if we did, we still will not be in violation of the laws as there is no law that forbids any citizen from asking public servants, including the President to resign for a just cause," he indicated.

He claimed that the government's response to the COP's request for security during the protest was based on 'rumors and gossips'.

Reacting to CDC's Morlu

On Tuesday, the Chairman of the ruling party, Mulbah Morlu called on President Weah to launch an immediate investigation into the acquisition of real estate properties by some government officials in the CDC led-administration.

He also underscored the need for the Liberian leader to resuscitate the country's declining economy and ensure the timely payment of civil servants' salaries.

But Ali noted that the call made by the ruling party is 'repetitive'.

"The CDC and their chairman-the bunch of them deserve no praise for what they said yesterday. Let us not be under the illusion. They probably are just coming to the realization that all along what the COP and members of the opposition community have been saying are all true. And so, they thought to be repetitive to what we been saying over the past one and the half years," he maintained.

Meanwhile, the acting COP Chairman has termed as 'thrash and gibberish' reports that executives of the group requested US$70,000 to abort the December 30 protest.

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