By Hannah N. Geterminah and David S. Menjor
The protesters are gradually swelling in their numbers, amid the huge presence of joint security, including riot police, officers of the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency (LDEA), Liberia Immigration Service (LIS), the National Security Agency (NSA) and other security personnel on the principal streets of Monrovia. Earlier this morning, the atmosphere in the city was likened to a public holiday with sparse traffic between Duport road, Paynesville up to 12th street, Monrovia, where the police placed a road block to redirect traffic to Jallah Town. The Jallah Town road is where heavy traffic begins, bound for central Monrovia. Cars are not using the Tubman Boulevard after 12th street, leading to the Executive mansion and Capitol. The main gates to public buildings on Capitol hill, including the Temple of Justice and the Capitol, are closed. All schools, including the University of Liberia, as well as businesses in central Monrovia are all closed, which could result in the loss of millions of dollars in government revenue collection. People are seen in smaller gatherings listening to their radios, while others tune in to social media news feeds on their mobile devices.
In spite of the initial low turn out of the protesters, even by-standers appear to be adding to the protest numbers. Howbeit, Council of Patriots chairman Henry P. Costa remains optimistic of the protest achieving its aim.
Costa, told journalists earlier today that the CoP and its supporters will not leave the street until the President responds to their petition, which was submitted in June 2019. he added that the group is not detered by the initial low turnout, as the Government has instill fear in citizens. “We’re going anywhere, we’re right here. We will not leave until the president responds to us. The president has already had impact because things in the capital has still.”
The CoP, organizers of the protest, had earlier demanded that the President “step down” due to what they referred to as his inability to manage the economy and govern the country. However, after much intervention by Liberia’s international partners, with led to the cooling down of the stalemate between the government and the CoP, the CoP reframed its protest message, calling on President Weah to “step up” and address the demands of the people as expressed in the CoP’s petition from June 7, 2019.
The protesters, through their leaders, have said they will remain in the street until their demands are met. However, Information Minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe has told the public that the government has agreed to allow the COP stage a peaceful protest just for a single day.
Also conflicting statements released Sunday, January 5, 2020 within the the Unity Party and the Liberty Party, respectively, may have also contributed to the initial low turnout of the protest on January 6.
On Sunday, Unity Party chairman and executive member of the CoP, Wilmot Paye, issued a statement effectively distancing the party from the planned protest. Shortly afterward, Mo Ali, Assistant Secretary General for press, publicity and outreach, issued a statement saying that “The entire Executive Committee of the UP and party faithfuls still affirm and support, as declared by its Standard Bearer, Amb. Joseph N. Boakai, any peaceful gathering of any group of Liberians as provided for by the Constitution of Liberia. The UP, encourages Liberians from all walks of life to help ensure the fulfillment of the country’s constitution including but not limited to the staging of peaceful assemblies.
“The UP also appreciates the Ministry of Justice commitment to adhere to those basic democratic principles and provide security for any and all Liberians who desire to assemble peacefully,” the UP official statement said.
A similar mixed-messaging emanated from the ranks of the Liberty Party as well, with one of its spokespersons issuing a two-page endorsement of the CoP’s protest. However, the political leader of the party, Senator Nyonblee Karnga Lawrence, denied any knowledge of the endorsement, even though her fellow executive member of the Liberty Party and colleague in the Senate, Abe Darius Dillon, is an executive member of the Council of Patriots.
Not about numbers
The protesters have started gathering in the street singing, “George Weah da rouge we will talk it today and this kind of stealing we never see it in Ellen time…”
Senator Dillon said, “the latest protest is not about numbers because all of those who stay home do so as another form of protest and we that are brave to get in the street are here to Express our frustration to the government and demand response from the government about June 7 petition because the government is in possession of our quest that is the reason why they always talk about it.
Next protest: the Legislature
He said the LP political leader, Senator Karnga Lawrence, did not distance herself from the protests…. the COP is not about political parties that is why I, an Executive member of the LP and Senator, am protesting because I stand for the Liberian people not the government [which] I am a member of, or my party. After today, the next protest that will be led by me will be among my colleagues. I will call on Montserrado County and those that believe in Liberia to be in this capital building as a continuation of the protest. Many of the problems Liberia faces today come from this building.
“The government sent an incompetent person here and we from the Senate confirmed that person,” Sen. Dillon told journalists at the protest ground at the Capitol. “When [the] President sent the ETON deal and plenty people in this building passed it, it shows we have problems in here. When one president destroys the judiciary by removing a sitting associate justice and the plenty people did it even against their conscience shows they have problems. The few of us that are standing tall will be very resilient and resolved and call our people to put the Lawmakers on their feet, because 80% of the problems comes from us. If you have a strong Legislature, you will have the President doing the right thing, not violation of the Constitution; because if the President wants to do bad work, we have the right to stop it.”
He said the President had a long meeting with the legislature and some of those things discussed involved lawmakers asking to the president to reorganize his cabinet because many of them are incompetent. According to Dillon, “the President responded was it was the Senate who confirmed them, which tells us that we are not working. The legislature needs to work for the country, not the government,” he said.