The battle lines are drawn in sand and, from all indications, the country appears once again set to experience another episode of violence except, of course, by some miraculous happenstance or divine intervention, it is averted. Already, the Solicitor General of the Republic of Liberia Syrenius Cephus has publicly pronounced that indictments have been issued to have organizers of the December 30 protest, including popular talk-show host Henry Costa, arrested.
Whatever the outcomes of such action by government against the protesters will be remain uncertain. What appears clear, however, is that there is seething mass anger brewing against this government largely as a result of the current economic situation, which the public believes is self-wrought by corrupt and self-seeking officials. The government is increasingly becoming isolated and this is a fact which President Weah should know or be aware of.
His case is not helped by dissension within the ranks of his own party — never mind insinuations and suggestions by some party officials that the CDC is going to weather the storm and resolve the matter. Information available to this newspaper suggests that President Weah has for all parted company with the likes of his party chairman Mulbah Morlu, party stalwarts and zealots, Acarous Gray and Thomas Fallah.
Just how far-reaching the implications the current feud may have on unity within the ranks of the ruling CDC is unclear. But the adage that a house divided against itself cannot stand should be well considered by President Weah as head of the nation. Moreover, with the rapidly deteriorating economic situation hovering close to economic collapse, President Weah should consider well what he is up against with civil servants and ordinary Liberians facing prospects of a bleak Christmas.
Reflecting on 1979, the Liberian government at the time could boast of a standing army with a strength of over 3,000 men and women equipped with light and heavy weapons including armored vehicles and a limited aerial capacity. It also had a standing Police force much better trained and equipped as compared to today. More importantly, the nation’s economy was definitely not on the brink of economic collapse as it is now.
Even more importantly, yesterday’s youth were not steeped in the gun culture and had no prolonged exposure to violence as compared to now with thousands of youths who have combat experience. Reports of hundreds of men (irregulars) undergoing training and being provided arms have been rife for some time. While government officials have been quick to deny this, confirmed reports including video recordings of an ex-rebel general issuing orders to Police officers and directing assaults on student protesters have gone viral on social media, thus dismissing any claims to the contrary.
As it appears the level of polarization is growing by the day. What government officials apparently fail to realize is the fact that the vey security forces on which this government is depending are also feeling the economic pinch including their families. Hate speech being propagated on Freedom FM is only serving to inflame the situation. Granted that Costa is arrested on arrival at the airport, he will have to be brought to trial which is certain to drag on for some time. Can this government afford this kind of drama in the face of increasing economic hardships?
It may be very easy to announce or effect the arrest of Henry Costa and send December 30 protesters scurrying for safety. However, what the aftermath will be or may be is uncertain. At the end of the day this government will have to account for its actions. And whether such strong-armed measures being proposed and bandied in the public will resuscitate the economy, strengthen this government or lead to its downfall are possible scenarios to contemplate.
President Weah will do himself well to reconsider the hateful and inflammatory rhetoric being bandied on Freedom FM, especially by talk-show host Oliver Kyne. That this government is besieged politically and economically is obvious. Charges by his supporters that the commercial banks, especially LBDI, are playing politics with the money supply is laughable because it is a known fact that the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), is not releasing Liberian dollar banknotes to the various commercial banks.
Lastly, President Weah, in consideration of his own political survival, should call a halt to action by a group the self-styled Independent Council of Patriots who have threatened to stage a counter protest on December 30, 2019. It is a recipe for chaos and the important question is who stands to benefit or lose. In 1979, hardliners led by the late Justice Minister Oliver Bright virtually coerced President Tolbert into approving the use of violence to quell public protests.
Similarly, did strong man and Justice Minister Joseph Jefferson Chesson rant that President Tolbert could dance in the streets with his guests all the way to the Unity Conference Center near Hotel Africa and nobody would dare throw even a firecracker. At the end of the day with over 200 protesters lying dead, President Tolbert would express rueful regret. And just a year later, he was deposed and 13 of his officials publicly executed.
President Weah now finds himself at a crossroads. Ultimately, he will have to decide which of the roads to take. President Doe with all his military might and power found himself at a crossroads in 1989 when rebels first struck. Trusting in his military might, he threatened to fire destructive weapons against the insurgents and wipe out the entire Nimba.
At the end of the day, he found himself at the feet of Prince Johnson, begging for mercy which would never come. President Weah indeed stands at a crossroad.The words of Robert Frost in his poem “The Road Not Taken” rings out loudly.
“…………I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference”.