Against all odds, the chairman of the Council of Patriots (COP), Henry Costa, on January 6 proved his strength to breakaway groups, individuals, and the nation at large, despite the disappointment he encountered lately.
The protest was scheduled for December 30, 2019 but, with the intervention of the international community, it was postponed as negotiations ensued for a new date that would be agreeable for both the Government of Liberia and the COP. Meanwhile, the postponement created the impression that the protest would would lose the momentum that was expected on December 30.
However, as the protesters gradually converged on Capitol Hill on the morning of Monday, January 6, the crowd swelled beyond expectation so that Costa and his COP would have no regret not having official representations from any of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) which had, by now, pretty much declined to declare their support for the protest.
It can be recalled that on June 7, 2019 Costa in conjunction with the CPP and a lot of aggrieved Liberians from various political persuasions, gathered at the Capitol Hill in a protest against the Weah-led government for bad governance. However, after the peaceful protest that attracted a huge crowd, many individuals and groups withdrew; Senator Oscar Cooper of Margibi, Senator Sando Johnson of Bomi County, Rufus Neufville now of the Independent Council of Patriots, the Alternative National Congress (ANC) and the so-called Economic Freedom Fighters of Liberia being the to start pulling out.
On Sunday, January 5, Wilmot Paye, chairman of the former ruling Unity Party, advised its members on the eve of the protest to stay away from the protest. The Liberty Party, however, issued a statement of support for the protest, though its political leader, Nyonblee Karnga Lawrence, said she was not in the know of such a decision and therefore did not approve it.
In spite of these massive withdrawals, some coming at the 11th hour before the protest, the CoP commanded hundreds of supporters on Capitol Hill, demanding the government to address their petition from June 7, 2019.
A highly elated Costa was very optimistic that the protest would achieved its aim. Costa told journalists on Monday morning that the CoP and its supporters would not leave the street until the President responds to their petition, which was submitted in June 2019. He said the group is not deterred by the initial low turnout as the Government has instilled fear in citizens.
Disappointment encountered by Henry Costa and the CoP could have brought serious setbacks in the hosting of the just ended protest on January 6. The intervention of the diplomatic community to halt the protest from being held on the originally scheduled date was enough to instill weakness in many people who thought to participate.
The last encounter with the UP and LP was also enough to draw away people from taking part in the protest. Moreover, public sentiments had shown that protest does not have a positive impact on Liberia, recalling the 1979 Rice Riot as a classical example. Earlier, many had predicted that the protest would bring war and therefore the COP should abandon its planned protest.
Despite the odds, Costa, Senator Darius Dillon, Representative Yekeh Kolubah, and others who resolved to bring to fulfillment their goal on January 6, braved the storm and commanded thousands of supporters on Capitol Hill, thereby making Costa especially a popular crowd-puller.
Since becoming a strong critic of the Weah Administration in 2018 after a brief period of amity with the government, Henry Costa has attracted the public so much that on two occasions huge crowds have welcomed him from the United States, hailing him as their “hero”. In May 2019, supporters and admirers of Costa converged in a huge number at the Roberts International Airport to welcome him from the United States, ahead of the June 7 protest. He received the same rousing welcome on December 19, 2019 while returning to have the protest that just ended on January 6, in chaos.
Meanwhile, the protest causd businesses, schools, and normal movement of civilians to come to a standstill, thus making the day to appear like a public holiday, albeit with looming threats of violence. Usually, heavy traffic congestion is experienced every morning during the weekdays, going in and out of central Monrovia, but on January 6, the main thoroughfare, Tubman Boulevard, showed sparse traffic.
The police set a roadblock on 12th street, preventing vehicles and people from moving along the Tubman Boulevard to the Foreign Affairs Ministry that currently hosts the Executive Mansion. Vehicles and pedestrians were using the Jallah Town route to enter central Monrovia to transact business or perform duties.