After some hours of wait-and-see due to fear of what may happen during the protest planned for December 30, businesses resumed normal activities in Monrovia following an announcement by the Council of Patriots (CoP) that it would comply with the postponement of its mass protest as a result of intervention by the International Community.
“We are opening our shops and stores because the government has said that no protest today, Monday, December 30. We are seeing security officers moving around and know that they are prepared to protect our businesses,” said a businessman only known as Layee.
The CoP has also finally rescheduled the protest for January 6, 2020, against government date, which is January 5, 2020, at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium in central Monrovia. Henry Costa, chairperson of the Council of Patriots has vowed to put one hundred thousand people in the streets on January 6.
Early Monday morning, a team of Daily Observer reporters visited several commercial areas in and around Monrovia including Via Town, Freeport, Waterside, and Duala, and stores there were closed because of what businesspeople perceived the day to be. Following the postponement announcement, stores and shops gradually began to open for business, much to the relief of customers as the New Year fast approaches.
Some of the top businesses operating now include Sethi Brothers, City Builders, Petrol One, International Bank (IB), GN Bank, A-Z Corporation, United Motor Company, and Jungle Water Group of Investment and other businesses.
Beginning Sunday evening up to early Monday morning, there was a heavy police presence in the streets and vehicles were meticulously searched, going in and out of the City of Monrovia. Right after the postponement announcement, the police were recalled thereby allowing free movement and resumption of normal activities.
The new protest date is yet to be decided between the leadership of the CoP and Government of Liberia, most likely mediated the international partners. The international partners, in consonance with the government, had proposed Sunday, January 5, 2020, but the CoP leadership rejected the proposed date on ground that their supporters, some of who are Christians, go to church to worship on that day. They also rejected Friday if suggested, because it is also a day that their Muslim supporters worship. The CoP, therefore, has suggested Monday, January 6, 20120 as the new date for the protest.
The level of caution exhibited by the business community during times of protests and other political tension in Liberia remains quite high. Also, in spite of CoP’s track record of being able to organize and conduct a peaceful public protest in Monrovia, news about another group declaring intent to stage a counter protest at the same time as the CoP’s protest, indicated a greater risk for businesses to be open.
Also, early tension between protesters and the Liberia National Police on Monday morning had the propensity to spark violence when Police prevented protestors in large groups from entering central Monrovia. On the outskirts of Sinkor, supporters of Montserrado County District #10 Representative Yekeh Kolubah, a member of the Council of Patriots, were prevented by officers of the Liberia National Police from accompanying him to central Monrovia, where the CoP was hosting a press conference.
The Liberia National Police Deputy Director for Operations, Marvin Sarkor, told journalists that there was no information available to the police that people were protesting, and therefore they were prepared to disperse any gathering on Monday.
“We are not allowing people to assemble anywhere; so we have deployed our officers to ensure that people do not have any major gathering. We are in control of the Capitol Building (seat of the Legislature) the Executive Mansion and the Judiciary,” Director Sarkor said.
He said the LNP was not informed about any protest by the Council of Patriots or any group. “We want to call on the public to go about their normal businesses,” he indicated.
The leadership of CoP had earlier called for President George M. Weah to step down as the country experiences extreme economic hardship since he ascended to power for nearly two years. But the group has apparently abandoned the ‘step-down’ mantra, yet intensely demanding good governance from the ex-footballer who, they claim, has no regard for the rule of law, especially the Constitution. the CoP maintains that Weah “is not able to govern Liberia.”
Although complaints about economic hardship continue to roam in the public, many people feel afraid of hearing “Weah step-down” because they feel it has the propensity to spark up violence.