Tension brewed yesterday, the third day of the National Constitution Conference (NCC), in Gbarnga, Bong County, when a Muslim group stormed the conference hall, protesting against one of the 25 proposed amendments that should have been brought to the floor for a vote by delegates.
The conference later resumed after seven hours of closed door discussions among heads of the delegations from Liberia’s 15 counties.
The item, which was part of a preliminary summary of views of Liberians, expressed during the consultation meetings in 73 Electoral Districts and the Diaspora says, “Liberia should be declared a Christian Nation.”
The conference should have set the pace for the amendment of certain provisions within the 1986 Constitution, of which item 24 was no exception.
The preliminary summary was taken from the people by the Constitution Review Committee (CRC).
It started while the delegates were having their breakfast, when a group comprising of men, women and children attempted to march to the conference hall and started shouting “Allah Akbar, Allah Akbar.” (God is Great, God is Great). They held up placards with messages such as: “We are one people and nobody is going to divide us. No equality no peace.
“I am a Muslim and a Liberian. Do I need to be treated like second class citizen?” one placard read.
They were demanding that the issue that was agreed during the CRC’s nationwide consultations should not be discussed.
The protesters were prevented by CRC staffers from entering the hall.
Yesterday’s protest was very peaceful with no reported casualty or vandalizing. However, armed riot police of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and those of the Liberia National Police were seen patrolling the conference hall.
What was most surprising was that a majority of the protesters were not accredited by the conference organizers, to participate in the voting process, neither were they qualified to enter the hall.
Addressing journalists during their protest, Alhaji Bility, who claimed to be the group’s spokesperson, said, “Liberia, our country, is a secular state and we are going to prevent anyone changing it to a Christian nation.”
“We have been living here peacefully and nobody is going to turn this country to a Christian state. We are going to protest against any decision of such from this meeting,” he maintained.
Counter Bility’s statements, Rev. Jornah Woiwor, spokesman for the Liberia Restoration to Christian Heritage, insisted that they would make sure that item 24 would be voted upon by the delegates.
“This process will go on peacefully and nobody is going to stop us,” he said. “This is what our people asked us to do and we’re going to adhere to their request to turn Liberia back to a Christian nation,” he contended.
“Nobody here is representing secularism. Our Muslim brothers here have the right to exercise their franchise. Are they not saying that they are a secular (group)?” he asked.
“There is no possibility for the process to stall, said Rev. Woiwor, adding, “we believe in the judgment of the CRC.”