Police Took Backseat during UL Protests?

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The British Government says the Liberian National Police "has very limited capability to prevent or detect crime, or to provide emergency response in any part of the country," and warns its citizens to avoid public demonstrations and protests. Flashback: Protesting University of Liberia students set a tyre ablaze on Tubman Boulevard, Capitol Hill, between the university and the Foreign Ministry, which houses the office of President George Weah.

As UL students shut down a major economic corridor in two strategic locations for hours on Feb. 2, uniformed police officers were scarce

Last Friday’s protests on both campuses of the state run university was staged by aggrieved students chanting their revolutionary slogans and disrupting normal activities at the university.  The protest, which begin at about 9.32 a.m., also obstructed the free movement of vehicles, while many business centers were closed in fear of the protest.

The latest protest which, according to a campus release, was staged by a group of students calling themselves the Students Unification Party (SUP) and other student based organizations, was intended to draw the attention of the Liberian Government and to demand the immediate resignation of the president of the university, Dr. Ophelia Inez Weeks.

At the university’s Fendall campus the student group set roadblocks preventing vehicles from plying the highway from Kakata to Monrovia. During the commotion at least four officers from the Liberia National Party(LNP) paid a short visit and left; however, the presence of PSU and ERU officers was not felt as during previous demonstrations at the state run university.

When the Daily Observer newspaper contacted the LNP, its spokesman, Sam Collins, noted that sometimes the security strategy changes as the situation unfolds, adding that the LNP’s short visit was intended to engage with the student leaders and the UL administration on the main campus.

UL Students block the Paynesville-Kakata Highway at Fendall Junction

According to a release dated February 2, 2018, Dr. Weeks reiterated in a meeting with students on January 31 that the 8,000 affected students would not be allowed to complete their registration process, and as long as she remained president of the University, only 2,000 students would be allowed, a development which intensified the student’s action on Friday.

Dr. Weeks, according to reports, previously stated that students who had already deposited their fees into the University’s account during the closure of the process, would have their fees refunded.

SUP, in its release, stated on Friday that it believes that such unilateral decision by Dr. Weeks to disallow these students from acquiring higher education at the state run university is unreasonable and unjustifiable.

Rejecting 8,000 plus students from pursuing higher education is in violation of Article 6 of the 1987 Constitution and Article 26 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights; her action also contradicts the pro-poor agenda of the new government which guarantees equal  access to education for all citizens, the released noted.

It may be recalled that previous protests by UL students prompted the University of Liberia Board of Trustees to mandate the UL Administration to unconditionally reopen the process for approximately 10,000 students who could not complete due to the tedious nature of the registration process or as a result of system failure and a poor electronic data processing unit.

Meanwhile, during the protest in Fendall, Bong County District #3 Representative J. Marvin Cole pleaded with the aggrieved students. “I have come here today from Gbarnga to talk to you to please open the road; we have understood your plight. As I speak to you, I just got a communication from the president’s office that they were in a meeting with the UL Administration, and I can assure you that at the end of the meeting this will be resolved,” Rep. Cole pleaded.

Following Representative Cole’s intervention, the aggrieved students headed by student Siafiah Kanneh told his colleagues that if the process is not reopened on Monday, they would be left with no alternative but to continue the struggle until their plight is addressed.

Mr. Urey tried to understand the UL students’ concerns and urged them to clear the road

Meanwhile, following the  latest protest, the Government of Liberia has assured the University of Liberia of its readiness to resolve the institution’s registration problem which led to student protest on two campuses of the university and parts adjacent on Friday.

In a release issued on Sunday, the Liberian Government made an assurance to digitize and automate the university’s entire registration system and provide resources to upgrade the its ICT infrastructure to enable students and faculty to perform regular academic functions digitally. The decision was made at an emergency meeting of the Board of Trustees of the University of Liberia on Saturday, February 3, 2018 on the Capitol Hill campus.

According to a release by the UL Administration, attending the Board meeting as special guests were high profile government officials, including the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Hon. Nathaniel F. McGill; the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Hon. Samuel D. Tweh, Jr; the Legal Advisor to the President, Counselor Archie Bernard; and Minister of Education-designate, Prof. D. Ansu Sonii.

A UL Protester placards his demand to the president of the institution

Furthermore, UL President Dr. Ophelia Inez Weeks is excepted to meet with student leaders from various campus-based organizations today, Monday, February 5, 2018 on the University’s Fendall campus.

Dr. Weeks will today provide information on the outcome of the Board meeting, as well as address other issues affecting the institution. She will be joined by the Minister of Education-designate Professor Sonii, who will also address student leaders.

For nearly two and a half months now the campuses of the University of Liberia have been in a state of turmoil with students demonstrating in demand of the extension of the registration process which was officially closed by authorities of the University of Liberia in November 2017.