Information filtering into the offices of this newspaper suggesting that the international community, including ECOWAS, the UN, the US Embassy and those of Sweden and the United Kingdom and others, have written the Government of Liberia (GoL) urging it to respect the Constitutional rights of the people to freedom of assembly, is indeed welcome.
Their intervention in the would have been December 30 protest, according to observers, served to stave off what had threatened to be a bloodbath. It was indeed timely, for it had appeared at the time that both sides were headed for a showdown whose outcomes were uncertain but were widely believed to have been laden with a potential for violence.
But judging from the weekend raid by state security officers on the Tropicana Beach Resort, sending beachgoers and hotel guests scrambling and cowering in fear despite assurances from President Weah that peace will be ensured, has left the public wondering whether such assurances mean unrestrained action against suspected or perceived political enemies without thought about the consequences.
Once again, this newspaper finds itself constrained to warn this government that the weekend raid at the Tropicana Beach will only serve to undermine whatever trust Guarantors of the Peace have been seeking to foster between the GoL and organizers of the protest now rescheduled to January 6, 2020. The Daily Observer is aware and reliably informed that Monrovia is once again becoming awash with arms and proliferated with criminal gangs, some of who are believably clad in official state security uniforms.
From a historical perspective, Monrovia has always been the major conflict flashpoint for the simple reason that all the various factions have been based in Monrovia and, given the fact that factional military command and control structures have maintained a sort of loose coherence through their various commanders, there are sufficient reasons to suspect that old alliances could take shape in the event of an outbreak of random political violence in Monrovia.
And the consequences could be just deadly and politically destabilizing as the events of April 6, 1996 can attest and which cannot be ruled out. From all indications, the culture of impunity has served to embolden hardliners on both sides who seem prepared to face-off and this must never be allowed to happen. President Weah, above all, has the chief responsibility to prevent this from happening.
According to sources, unsavory characters such as the notorious Generals Power and Noriega, including criminal gang leaders such as the self-styled notorious criminal “Man Devil” and others, have been hired at the instance of Minister of State, Nathaniel McGill. He is alleged to be the mastermind behind such a scheme, obviously intended to maintain a grip on power at all costs, never mind the implications or rising public discontent against a backdrop of ever-increasing economic hardships.
Thus, Monday, January 6, 2020 will prove to be a litmus test of how things will proceed going forward. Comments made by the Chairman of the Independent National Human Rights Commission on the conduct of state security forces on December 30 are troubling and the need for urgent remedial action to mitigate a potentially explosive situation appears to be lost on state security particularly the Liberia National Police. Its partisan approach to law enforcement, which it makes no secret of, constitute cause for concern and this should not be lost on the international community, particularly the guarantors of the 2003 Accra Comprehensive Peace Accords.
Again, the final word goes out to President Weah. His disposition and his utterances in private or in public as well as the actions of his partisans, supporters and state security forces would no doubt, to a significant extent, determine the course of things going forward as of Monday, January 6, 2020. Swearing that he would publicly slap Henry Costa in the face were he not President is regrettable. In the final analysis, he will certainly take blame for whatever may go wrong. If he is not aware of this, then just what will make him aware is anyone’s guess.
The word should also go out to USAID, whose duplicitous flirtations with this government is helping more to stoke the flames of conflict through actions that rouse public anger. The USAID for example as well as the Kroll investigators cannot claim that they were not aware of the actual situation surrounding the missing billions, Kroll produced a report which left the public in doubt not knowing what to believe.
And now USAID has once again stepped forward with big money to pay expatriates to conduct a similar exercise requiring expertise which is available locally. In the eyes of the public, the Presidential Investigation Team(PIT), performed credibly unlike the Kroll which like the proverbial mountain labored but brought forth a mole hill because it failed to establish responsibility of the actors when it knew who the culprits were. Such duplicitous behavior by the USAID has to stop. It must stop.
Who says the IMF, for example, was not all along aware that, during the Sirleaf administration, CBL officials were deliberately not recording official monetary transactions and that the state of the nation’s finances was in very bad shape? The printing of excess Liberian dollar banknotes without Legislative approval was done under her watch and who says our benefactors were not aware? They must have been. It is like an adult watching a little child playing with fire and doing nothing to stop it until the child gets burned before feigning a rescue attempt intended to mislead the public into believing otherwise.
The suggestion proffered by financial analyst J. Yanqui Zaza to physically count the money held in the CBL’s vaults is, in the opinion of this newspaper, a practical step to take, given such widely bandied suggestions by officials of this government urging the printing of new Liberian dollar banknotes. Sixteen billion disappearing into thin air is by no means an ordinary event. Counting the money held in the CBL’s vaults is the way to go and it will surely help to ease the current tension and restore some credibility to this government.