The message from the mediators, including the UN and the Interfaith Mediation Council should send a clear message to those advocating the use of violence against participants in the planned December 30 protests that violence will not be tolerated is welcome. This newspaper has from time to time reminded President Weah to take charge and lead rather than allowing others to do so at his detriment.
Statements by President Weah during his radio appearance with the LBS managing director Ledgerhood Rennie and John Kollie suggesting that he is not prepared to talk with organizers of the December 30 protests was ill-advised because it conveyed a distinct impression that he is leaning in the direction of hardliners whose advice has been one of confrontation.
The violence at the Vamoma House unleashed by thuggish elements widely suspected to be members of the CDC is considered by many to be a foretaste of what may likely unfold come December 30, 2019. The danger is, should such violence be repeated, it may provoke a counter reaction from the public, which may not necessarily be peaceful and which could degenerate into open violence and general lawlessness if care is not taken to avoid the likelihood of such a scenario unfolding.
While supporters of this government have of course riled those calling for restraint and the avoidance of violence, it behooves President Weah to prevail upon his supporters to exercise restraint and refrain from violence. The message also goes out to the Council of Patriots to prevail on their supporters to exercise restraint and avoid responding to provocations. Similarly, the Liberia National Police is called on to remain true to their professional ethics and refrain from partisanship as has been amply demonstrated on several occasions since the ascendancy of this government.
It must not be forgotten that it was partisan behavior of the Liberia National Police in 1979 that largely provoked the intervention of the military on the side of the protesters that served in no small measure to undermine the legitimacy of the Tolbert government and eventually led to its fall. Fast forward to 2019, talks of violence is once again in the air. Those mindlessly espousing the use of violence are doing so either in ignorance of history or theirs is deliberate and calculative based on false assumptions and presumptions that they can sanitize the political landscape and maintain their hold on power.
As President Weah has publicly declared that he will contest and the next elections and win hands down, his supporters or at least some of them have seen this as a license to indulge in unlawful actions including the use of unbridled violence against perceived opponents. However, with the economy in such bad shape as it is with public sector employees going unpaid for months against the backdrop of a plummeting Liberian dollar against the US dollar, it appears very unlikely that President Weah will achieve such victory at the polls except, of course, there is a repeat of the 1985 elections that guaranteed President Doe’s “victory”.
But 1985 was over 30 years ago and perhaps the lessons learnt may have been forgotten; thus it becomes the duty of this newspaper to warn all and sundry, especially the national leadership, of the dangers of treading such a path. The posture of the military in 1979 when they came out into the streets siding with the protesters which induced the intervention of Guinean troops at the behest of the government of Liberia and saw the military returning to their barracks imparted a lesson which was apparently ignored by the national leadership. Thus, it was by no means surprising that the military intervened in politics and deposed the Tolbert government only one year later.
President Weah must do all he can to maintain a leash on those who believe that the might of their guns will ensue their longevity in power. This newspaper is not unaware of the existence of many illegal armed groups in Monrovia where they may likely come to head in the event of any eruption of violence.
As underscored by the Daily Observer on several occasions before, President Weah, besieged as he is with a plethora of economic problems, would do himself well to avoid his government being drawn into open and violent confrontation with protesters including the political opposition. In this regard, the killing of President Samuel Doe, the deposition and exit of Charles Taylor and the jailing of Chucky Taylor virtually for life should prove instructive.
Lest it be forgotten, the billions of dollars spent by the international community to restore peace in Liberia will not be allowed to go down the drain.
So those with ears, let them hear!
And so those with ears, let them hear!