“The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
Sad to say but, President Weah has missed the boat, a golden opportunity to address the concerns of his people for JUSTICE. And gleaning from his comments referring to some protesters as people with ulterior motives, which he cited as reasons for not meeting with them (protesters) to receive their petition, it appears that President Weah has become stricken by a psychosis of fear, a fear of his own people.
The people who turned out for three (3) days protesting against the scourge of rape and its rising incidence were, in the opinion of the public and of this newspaper, doing so against not only the rising incidence of rape but also the lack of JUSTICE, both retributive and restorative, for victims in face of virtual impotence and or paralysis of state authorities to address the problem.
The people also turned out because they felt driven to desperation to act against rape and they felt and rightly so, that mass protest action intended to draw the attention of officials at the highest levels of government was the way to go. And they had hoped, but in vain, that their President would have given their action receptive attention.
Instead he snubbed them, preferring instead to dispatch surrogates as he has done on every previous occasion of such nature. President Weah is and should not be under the illusion that people are out to harm him and because of that he has sealed himself in a cocoon. We maintain this view on reliance of historical facts that bear strong semblance to today’s.
So many times, for example, was former President Ellen Sirleaf, advised by her security to avoid meeting protesters directly. But, being a leader very often implies readiness to face danger, take risks and confront one’s adversaries. Such was one distinguishing “KROBAH” like quality of former President Sirleaf that appears so glaringly lacking in President Weah.
For those readers unfamiliar with the word KROBAH, it comes from the Kru language and it is said to be a Chieftaincy title conferred on a leader possessed with warrior like qualities. And there are several examples of the former President one could cite in this regard.
The case of the AFL widows who camped with pots and cooking utensils at the Johnson and Broad Streets intersection that closed off access to Bushrod Island and paralyzed traffic in Central Monrovia is just one case in point.
Rather than dispatching the Police Riot Squad to teargas them and disperse them, she went there, met and discussed with the women and eventually persuaded them to call off their action and talk it over. She did the same when protesting students barricaded the route to her office at the Foreign Ministry.
Against the advice of security, she alighted from her vehicle and walked to the students and engaged them. This was to the consternation of security and Police officers who had previously been engaged in scuffles with the students in an attempt to remove and douse their barricades of burning tires.
What this goes to say is that President Sirleaf acted in such ways obviously she realized that people were angry and wanted JUSTICE. Moreover, they wanted to be heard by their President as the leader of the nation.
And to her credit she did give them a listening ear. Just why President George Weah, the popularly acclaimed and admired football hero will not do the same because the people want to harm him is simply unfathomable.
It was not surprising therefore that former President Sirleaf as well as former Vice President Boakai were so warmly received by the protesters when they turned up to express solidarity with them.
For goodness sake, President Weah is also a father of at least two daughters. Is this the kind of world he wants for them to grow up in, where women and girls remain at the mercies of predatory men who are out to destroy their lives, with a 95 percent chance of going scot-free? Mr. President, don’t think for once that, because your daughters live abroad and are not Liberian citizens, they may be safe from the gruesome acts of violence and abuse that women and girls endure every day in Liberia. These cases are not unique to Liberia. And God forbid that your daughters should have such gruesome experience before you are convinced that you should heed the concerns of Liberian women and girls and take appropriate action. And for a president who was overwhelmingly voted into office, why are you suddenly refusing to meet the very people who made you president?
Informed sources have told this newspaper that it is President Weah’s crop of advisors including security who are responsible for inducing such pattern of behavior by constantly reminding him that some people including opposition figures are out to get him and by meeting with them shows weakness on his part.
President Tolbert was similarly fed such lies and that can probably explain why he ignored pleas from public crusader Albert Porte who fell to his (Tolbert’s) feet pleading with him in vain to refrain from the use of force and violence against those planning to stage a public protest demonstration on April 14, 1979.
The Daily Observer has often reminded President Weah of that chapter of our history to help enable him make sense of current unfolding developments. This becomes even more compelling given what appears to be a gradual slide into our violent past. The people’s cry for JUSTICE cannot be and should not be treated lightly or with benign concern.
Given our collective experience of war and conflict, there appears to be little inclination on the part of Liberians to return to the past. However, the patience and tolerance of the people should not be taken for granted.
Violence or threats of its use will never and has never succeeded in stopping a determined people fighting for a just cause. The fight against rape and its rising incidence is a fight for a just cause. President Weah would do himself well to align with this cause and fight rather than denigrate its organizers or participants.
A great river with a mighty force has its beginnings in a tiny spring in the rocks, it is said. Now, it is just a tiny spring, some may say. But do not doubt that tomorrow it could become a great river flowing with a mighty force and sweeping downstream everything in its path.
The night now awaits the dawn!