At long last, the tension which seemed to have gripped the nation has subsided, at least for a while, probably until the next promised demonstration. In the run-up to December 30, fears of violence were high as it appeared neither side (both organizers of the protest and the government) was prepared to budge amidst rising threats of violence. Late last week for example, a group of thuggish elements believed to have been acting at the behest of the CDC stormed the Fiahmah market, firing tear gas and sending marketeers running helter-skelter.
Adding to the fear and rising tension was the threat of a counter demonstration by a self-styled group, the Independent Council of Patriots and it was by all accounts intended to convey the impression that the public was in solidarity with the government. Additionally, rants by CoP leader Henry Costa suggesting his preparedness to counter violence with violence only served to heighten public fears of violence erupting and spilling over into widespread violence and anarchy.
Fortunately, the intervention of the international community reminding all sides that having spent so much resources, both human and material, to restore peace and calm to Liberia, it was not prepared to see Liberia slip into another vicious cycle of violence replete with deadly but unforeseen consequences for the Liberian nation.
This newspaper has consistently warned against the politics of brinksmanship in a country still scarred by conflict. But it appears that there were no lessons learnt from fourteen years of bitter conflict, judging by how both government and leaders of the CoP have raised the ante and heightened prospects of a return to the violent past.
This is why, apparently, there appears to be great reluctance on the part of the international community to countenance calls for President Weah to step down as was earlier demanded by the CoP. There may be several reasons for this. Diplomatic sources have told this newspaper that, should President Weah step down, he will be succeeded by his Vice President whose close links to disgraced convicted war criminal and former President Charles Taylor, now serving a long prison term in a British jail, is a non starter.
Moreover, according to the Constitution, the third person in line of succession is the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Bhofal Chambers, who has been linked to illegal manipulations of the budget and misdirecting the resources therefrom to personal purposes, while the President of the Senate has been linked to the granting of an illegal concession agreement awarding mineral exploitation rights of the entire southeast to a bogus gold mining company in which he is a shareholder.
Similarly placed is the Chief Justice, whose handling of the impeachment case of Associate Justice Kabineh J’aneh seriously dented the credibility of the Supreme Court Bench and, therefore, public approbation of his succession appears unlikely should such a scenario ever unfold. Thus, it suggests that the call for President Weah to step down would mean a call for the entire government to step down and such a dilemma would entail a sort of interim arrangement, which will require support from the entire community. And since that may not be readily forthcoming, the prospects of intervention by the military may be enhanced.
But all things considered, the international community would do well not to undermine public trust by creating the impression that it supports the violation of the constitutional rights of the Liberian people to freely assemble and petition their government or to even call on the government to step down.
This is an inalienable right of the Liberian people. The Constitution of Liberia specifically provides in Article 1 as follows: “All power is inherent in the people. All free governments are instituted by their authority and for their benefit and they have the right to alter and reform the same when their safety and happiness so require. In order to ensure democratic government which responds to the wishes of the governed, the people shall have the right at such period, and in such manner as provided for under this Constitution, to cause their public servants to leave office and to fill vacancies by regular elections and appointments”.
Further, in Article 17, the Constitution provides the following: “All persons, at all times, in an orderly and peaceable manner, shall have the right to assemble and consult upon the common good, to instruct their representatives, to petition the Government or other functionaries for the redress of grievances and to associate fully with others or refuse to associate in political parties, trade unions and other organizations”.
As a final word, this newspaper must caution President Weah to tread softly. Public rants by Rufus Neufville of the Independent Council of Patriots accusing the government of paying bribes to the Council of Patriots to call off the December 30 protests is an indictment of the entire government, including President Weah.
The looming question is why would the Government choose to pay such an amount to the Council of Patriots when it has been unable to pay salaries of civil servants. Neufville’s accusations is but an accusation against President Weah and, rather than helping the cause of the government, it has tended to undermine its legitimacy because it feeds into statements by CDC Chairman Mulbah Morlu which have since gone viral on social media.
President Weah is therefore advised not to feed into Rufus Neufville’s diatribes. He should bear on mind that “a house divided against itself cannot stand” is an old saying dating way back into time. Through time empires have fallen largely as a result of internal bickering and strife. Even tightly knitted families are known to have experienced such strife. The same could be said of this government and, should President Weah ignore this truism, he will be doing so at his own peril.
Proverbs 16:18 says “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall”. According to the Free Dictionary, it means if you are too conceited or self-important, something will happen to make you look foolish”. President Weah should avoid this.