But Costa says “all is set” for December 30 protest
As December 30 fast approaches for the planned protest of “Weah step-down” with fear of violence beclouding Monrovia, the ECOWAS Commission and the United Nations Office in West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) have called on all parties to ensure that the peace and security of Liberia are maintained, sternly warning that anyone party causing violence to undermine and threaten the security of the country will be held to account.
The warning by the combined international bodies follows recent statement by US Congressman Chris Smith, who called on the government to provide security for the protesters to have a peaceful assembly without intimidation or violence from members of the CDC and the police; warning also that failure to do so the government will face sanction.
Dated December 27, 2019, the UNOWAS communiqué makes the position of the world and regional bodies clear that they are conscious of the rights enshrined in the Liberian Constitution, whereby the citizens are guaranteed the right to peacefully assemble and petition their government and to express themselves freely.
A delegation of UNOWAS, having visited Liberia and spoken with all stakeholders including President George Weah and the Council of Patriots, says it welcomes the desire by some members of the public to call off (cancel) the December 30 protest “if specific actions were taken in addressing some of the governance and economic issues which form the basis of the current tension in the country.”
The CoP’s planned protest is driven by what it describes as “bad governance” in the administration of President George Weah, coupled with rampant corruption and economic hardship facing the citizenry of the country. The group claims that all these social-economic issues are arising because the President is incapable to lead the country and therefore he must step down.
With respect to the economic crisis facing the country, characterized by scarcity of the Liberian dollar in commercial banks, spiraling inflation and high commodity prices, the government has endorsed the infusion of L$4 billion into the economy as a way of mitigating the situation.
However, the decision remains distasteful to the public, especially economic experts, as the whereabouts of the alleged missing L$16 billion scandal of 2018, as well as the US$25 million that was infused into the economy to “mop up” excess liquidity of Liberian dollars, remain in limbo.
It can be recalled that when the President had his first live interview on the state-run ELBC Radio recently, he said businesspeople are withholding the Liberian dollar in their houses, thereby causing scarcity of the local currency; a statement that also backs the opinion by pundits that printing additional banknotes is illogical because the government does not know yet how much of the Liberian dollar is in circulation.
Following a series of meetings with the President and some key government officials this week, the UNOWAS delegation said it “notes with pleasure the interest of the government in addressing the relevant issues aimed at calming the tension and calling off the protest.”
The delegation went further to encourage the government to establish, with the support of ECOWAS, the United Nations and its partners a platform for a sustainable and an all-inclusive dialogue for the peace, security and stability of the country and thereby eliminating undue recourse to demonstration and protest.
The delegation also notes with emphasis that it is taking seriously promise made by the government to provide details of the commitment made in the state of the nation address next January, and at the same time exhorting all parties to work towards calling off the “Imminent” protest in the general interest of Liberia and the sub region.
However, the chairman of the Council of Patriots, Henry P. Costa, has reassured that the pending December 30 protest will proceed as planned. According to him, for the President to decide to wait until the next State of the Nation Address in late January 2020 to address the critical national concerns that were raised by the CoP on June 7, 2019, is yet another confirmation that President Weah is not fit to run the country.
In a Facebook live video, Costa noted that the UNOWAS delegation said the protest can be called off “if the government takes specific actions in addressing the economic and governance issues in the country.”
As far as he is concerned, Mr. Costa said, the government has not taken any actions, and it has failed to address issues raised by the CoP on June 7 this year during a mass citizen protest that brought together over 5,000 people. Costa also noted that UNOWAS’ suggested in its statement.