By T. Q. Harris
We make no apologies for our democratic credentials and support for the universal declaration of human rights. Our unwavering respect, endorsement, and reverence for the Liberian Constitution — particularly, its stance on the individual rights which include freedom of expression and the right to petition the government — is uncompromising. Now the prevailing circumstances in our country have yet again presented an opportunity to stand for our conviction. We must seize the moment.
Liberia can least afford a disruptive protest which could further exacerbate the already dismal economic condition and plunge the nation into another round of chaos that could possibly lead to the loss of lives and properties. Instead of stoking the flames of violence, we ought to engage in peaceful, sincere, and constructive dialogue to derive workable solutions as a way of reducing tension. Reflecting on the 14 years carnage that visited our nation, from which we have yet to recover; Liberians should have learned that dialogue is a more acceptable means of problem-solving, rather than pursuing confrontation, violence, or war.
Therefore, we hasten to call for the cancellation of the planned December 30th mass protest, given that its sole purpose, as stated by the organizers, is to forcibly demand the immediate and unconditional resignation of H.E. President George Weah. Obviously, this is not in the best interest of the citizens, and it threatens the peace and stability of the country.
Where citizens assemble peacefully for the purpose of expressing dissatisfaction with the performance of government and demand a change is one thing. And where the collective demands the resignation of a democratically elected president, whose actions are consistently inimical to the state is understandable. But when a disenchanted segment of the population announces in advance plans to orchestrate provocative activities intended to cause ungovernability and bring down the constituted Government of Liberia, we find this unacceptable, intolerable and reprehensible. The danger such actions pose to the larger population, neighboring countries, and the Sub-region compels all peace-loving Liberians to oppose and resist any such gathering. Hence, we will not stand idly by and watch a repeat of our recent history.
Therefore, we call on Liberians of all persuasion, including the organizers of the December 30th protest to come together and cobble workable solutions that will avert the looming disaster which the country cannot afford.
Let there be no misunderstanding; for we would be remiss attempting to sugar-coat the realtime facts by saying, “all is well” socially, politically, economically, and that Liberia is rising. Such a statement will be an egregious misrepresentation of the facts and a massive distortion of reality. There is no arguing the Weah Government has underperformed, as a result, the people of Liberia are experiencing enormous hardship and are struggling to survive in a terribly dysfunctional system.
However, the difficulties Liberians are encountering did not begin with President Weah, and surely the sudden removal of his Administration is not a panacea. Removing President Weah from office at this time will not fix our problems and could very well worsen the situation.
Moreover, it must be understood that the call for President Weah to step down is a call for the removal of the entire Government of Liberia in midstream. This, however, is in no way a justification for the Liberian people to remain tolerant and condone incompetence, widespread corruption, or disregard for the rule of law. But before attempting such an aggressive undertaking, we must first consider the full ramification of a “regime change” and not allow ourselves to stumble into a major disaster unprepared. Truly all power is inherent in the people; and the people have the right to replace their leaders when deemed necessary. However, experience instructs that decisions of this nature must not be taken emotionally, because it is the very people that usually suffer the most whenever changes at the Presidential level are not carefully contemplated and properly organized.
Incendiary rhetorics from both sides – those in favor and those opposed to the December 30th protests – are laced with much venom, which is unhealthy and dangerous for our fragile democracy. In this Take-No-Prisoner approach to win hearts and minds, organizers of the protest exude unbridled, unconscionable and gluttonous urge for State Power, so much so that it seethes through their utterances and is evident in their body language. On the other hand, diehard supporters of the Weah Administration often spew vicious invectives and threats, leaving no room for compromise. We must lower the temperature.
Taking charge of the situation
As President and Commander-in-Chief, H.E. George Weah during this critical moment must be resolute and direct with his chief lieutenants – line ministers, deputies and others to ensure that all directives are executed accordingly. It is widely believed that Presidential appointees are at the center of the problem, and unless this is corrected tension within the country is unlikely to subside. Calls for a reshuffle of officials of government have been largely ignored, but this cannot continue much longer. The Liberian people are becoming restless with the passage of time.
Perhaps the President should become more of a hands-on leader and not hesitate – if necessary – to micromanage the day-to-day activities required of his administration. Because, if the situation continues to deteriorate and something unfortunate should happen that negatively impacts the country, it is President Weah who will bear the greatest responsibility. Mr. President, please take charge.
There is much that the Weah Administration must do in order to address the myriad of problems facing Liberia, which have given rise to widespread discontent and consistent calls for mass protests. Going forward, the President might consider becoming the government’s chief communicator, constantly providing updates on the Administration’s progress and calling upon the citizens to remain calm, while giving assurances of projects that will improve living conditions.
President Weah must also acknowledge the right of citizens to protest peacefully and his Administration should provide protection for protesters. Yet, in the same breath, he must cite the differences between a legitimate expression of grievance by the people and an attempt at “regime change”. The President must also state emphatically that neither he nor the majority of Liberians will support any provocative action intended to reverse the hard-earned peace that could thrust the nation into chaos.
In conclusion, the focus at the moment must be on keeping Liberia safe, peaceful, and productive. To this end, President Weah should at the earliest invite to a conference the organizers of the December 30th protest, as well as other key stakeholders, so that we together can find common ground and commit to building our country.
To the President, we offer our services to help in ensuring that the people of Liberia enjoy peace of mind this Holiday Season and usher in a safe and prosperous New Year.
And to those calling for “regime change” on 30th December 2019, we say, let us reason together and resolve our differences through dialogue for the good of our common patrimony. It is evident that unnecessary confrontation, violence, and war have rendered nothing but pain and suffering to our people.