-Terms action as ‘reincarnation of Doe’s military regime’
The recent decision of the administration of the University of Liberia (UL) to ban political activities on all of its campuses is an orchestrated plot or a making of President George Manneh Weah and his ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), the vanguard Student Unification Party (SUP) has intimated.
SUP Chairman Carlos Tingban Edison, at a press conference in Monrovia on Wednesday, said the party considers such action as being influenced and engineered mainly by the CDC-led government and pro-regime stooges, which is not just unjustifiable but thoughtless, undemocratic, and a recipe for mass civil disobedience and uproar across Liberia.
Mr. Edison also noted that the rash, ill-informed and unwarranted move is a vicious crackdown on those cherished ideals of our nation’s thriving democracy.
“Our thriving democracy is under attack and those democratic gains made so far are fast diminishing under President George M. Weah – a Head of State who has grossly violated almost all of our laws, including our Constitution, in less than a year,” he said.
The UL administration on Friday, January 11, 2019, announced with immediate effect the suspension of all student groups and campus-based political activities on all its campuses, until further notice. Accordingly, no political group shall assemble or hold meetings or engage in any political-related activities on any University of Liberia campus during this period of suspension, the UL statement said.The suspension affects political/solidarity marches, political gatherings, the wearing of symbols and emblems depicting and promoting campus-based political groups, student protests, among others.
The University in a statement said any student who is involved in any activity that disrupts normal university exercise shall be expelled.
But the party, at its Wednesday’s press conference, called on the university and government to abandon what it termed as “a premature plot and feeble gimmick which may soon backfire and degenerate into unintended consequences.”
“With outright discontent and disillusionment, SUP vehemently cautions and calls on authorities of UL to immediately reverse or revoke its unlawful decision to suspend political activities at UL,” he said.
In this 21st century when freedom of speech, freedom of association, and political freedom have become indispensable democratic values, it is unreasonable and inconsiderate for any university or regime to callously SEIZE the political rights of over 19,000 conscious students, he added. “However, the action taken by the UL administration to clamp a lid on student politics is not anything new in the annals of student politics at the state-run university—as several governments in the past have tried it but only with ephemeral success,” noted the Daily Observer in its January 15th editorial.
These infamous actions go as far back as the reign of Liberia’s longest serving President, William V.S. Tubman.This latest ban, it is believed, reechoes Liberia’s gloomy past and there are enough signs to prove that dictatorship is virulently evolving.
The UL administration’s actions continues to receive a barrage of condemnation from the public as well as prominent and eminent Liberians. Former prominent student leader Professor Alaric Tokpa was among those who initially condemned the ban.
Prof. Tokpa, who is also former head of the Political Science Department at UL, said that the interference of university authorities with the legitimate and constitutional rights of students to associate, speak freely, and take actions in their own interest and the interest of the larger Liberian society, is a trait of dangerous dictatorship.
“Dictatorships atomize society and reduce it to very small units by removing organizations and institutions from between individuals and government. In that way, the government is able to brutalize and destroy individuals without hindrance or any difficulty,” he stated. According to him, this is exactly what the dictatorship did to the Liberian student community in the 1980s.
The latest “government-influenced resolution” pronounced by the UL administration, many, including SUP Chairman Edison, believe does not only disenfranchise emerging leaders of the country from participating in politics but grossly violates these sacred Laws and Statutes which guarantees political freedom and free speech—some of which include:
The 1952 Charter of UL
The 2012 Student Handbook of UL
The 1986 Constitution of Liberia
The 1986 African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights
The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The ban, which the Chairman further termed as indefensible and anti-democratic, also abrogates/invades Article 15 and Article 17 of our 1986 Constitution.
Chairman Edison said the decision to ban student politics was precipitated by the ascendancy of Martin K. N. Kollie to the Standard Bearer position—a move that has since invoked fear within the Weah Administration.
“Since Martin Kollie was elected as our standard bearer through a democratic process, there has been increasing contradiction and uproar, especially fueled by pro-regime elements and renegade groups.
“The root cause of this illegal ban is the fear of comrade Kollie ascending as President of ULSU. The government is unsettled by his resilient courage and prowess. Upon hearing his ascendancy as Standard Bearer, GoL has been uneasy and belligerent,” Edison said.
The commotion on the campuses of the university last Friday that immediately led to the ban, according to Edison, was orchestrated by thugs and renegade groups hired by Monrovia City Mayor Jefferson Koijee, Minister of State for Presidential Affairs Nathaniel McGill, Representative Acarous M. Gray, and Finance Minister Samuel D. Tweah, the brother of Attorney Norris Tweah under whose signature the release to ban student political activities was issued.
“After consistently attacking the Media, these guys have now turned to the student community,” he said.
“It is glaring that SIM, STUDA, ‘FENSA’ and CDC LINSU have become hired guns of this pro-poor government. SUP will not accept any further provocation in such manner. While we remain peaceful and proactive in pursuing this matter which serves as a recipe for democratic disorder and national upheaval, we want to call on all international bodies, especially the UN, AU, US Embassy near Monrovia, ECOWAS, and EU to promptly intervene,” he also noted
SUP called on the UL Board of Trustees, the National Legislature, the Liberia Council of Churches, the National Muslim Council, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Justice to step in before this situation goes out of hand. “It is our right to participate in politics – it is our right to assemble and associate – it is our right to speak freely – it is our right to critique. And no one can take these rights from us or freeze our political freedom, not even UL or GoL. We will defend these fundamental rights to death,” he said.
Meanwhile, the UL Administration’s suspension of student political activities for whatever reasons is, according to political pundits and observers, more likely than not to engender popular resistance from the student body, which could result in a standoff between UL authorities, the government and the student body. The pursuit of such a policy is replete with conflict-inducing potential as has been in the past.