Competing Rallies During Pres. Weah’s Speech at the United Nations
New York City, USA – Tensions heated the already humid New York City air as opposing groups of Liberians sought to make their voices heard by President George Manneh Weah and the United Nations. On one side of the street were Liberians from around the U.S singing praises to welcome President Weah on his first official visit to the U.S since taking office. On the other side of the street were Liberians covered in fake blood shouting cries for justice for the over 250,000 lives lost in the Liberian Civil War and a return of the missing $LD16bn bank notes.
Report by Adrienne Tingba
The day started with protestors from around the world calling on their various governments to act on different issues dear to them. In the midst of the present countries, Liberia was the only country with two groups rallying on conflicting interests. Members from opposing groups at both rallies did not greet one another at the rally, and rather pushed the other away if one made an appearance at the other.
This divide between the groups was made more apparent when members of the Liberian delegation to the UNGA, including Minister of Information, Eugene Nagbe, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gbhezongar Findley, among others, greeted the group welcoming the President with smiles and selfies, while completely ignoring the group calling for the establishment of war and economic crimes court. The Justice for Humanity rally did not falter, but rather made their boos louder as each member of the delegation turned a blind eye to them while running toward their “welcomes” and “thank yous” with smiles and hugs.
Requests to see the President grew louder with each selfie taken with a minister, only to be met with smiles, handshakes, and no answers. “Where is my President?” one shouted. “He is still inside, but he will come,” said Nagbe. “Hon. Nagbe, we want you to talk to the people,” said the group’s organizer Mr. Sammie Garbleh, to which Nagbe responded, “I know. I am walking around the block to come talk with you all. I am not leaving.”
As the group waited with eyes glued to the road, there was no other sighting of Nagbe at either rally. Hopes of meeting President Weah were dashed as both groups realized after over 6 hours of waiting, that he would not show up. Smiles from the welcoming rally grew faint with this realization, leaving shortly after in buses paid for by undisclosed sources.
On the other side of the street, protestors were brought to tears as they recounted their experiences in the Civil War and their reasons for assembling.
“I am here to demand justice for the missing 16 Billion dollars. I am here to demand justice for my children raped during the war, and for the ones who continue to be raped now because we refuse to give them justice in the country,” said Fatu Rimbert.
Moving to the other side for comments, this interviewer became the interviewee as questions poured in from the group. “Why don’t you have a t-shirt on, are you with the opposition? I will not speak to any opposition person” said one voice. Few people were open to speaking with New Narraties/Front Page. Speaking on why he came from North Dakota to welcome President Weah to the States, Wilfred Giple said, “I know deep down that he is a great man. He has been a great leader to our country as a Footballer, as a Peace Ambassador, as a Senator, and now that he is our President, I look forward to seeing him do even more.” Giple was one of the many Liberians present thanking the President for his accomplishments.
“I am so excited to be here today. I been with this party since 2005, and I’m thankful today to the President for giving other young people the opportunity to work in the government, and the opportunity for people to do things to help themselves. I am just so happy,” said Austine Jaleiba.
The rallies, mainly the welcoming rally, were attended by several Liberian government officials both with and without the delegation. Several declined to speak on the issues being raised by the Justice for Humanity group on their call for an end to impunity in Liberia. One official, who did comment, however, was the Special Aid to the President, Mr. Sekou Kalasco. Speaking on behalf of the President on the establishment of a war crimes court, Kalasco said, “I can assure you that this President stands for justice and accountability, and to provide adequate services to the people.” Kalasco hinted that the president may be contemplating more action on the issue. “Keep your ears open on the issue of crimes committed against humanity and against the Liberian people,” he said.
The Justice for Humanity group argued that the ears of the Liberian people have remained opened for the entire duration of the 15 years of peace the nation has enjoyed.
“The Liberian people have always wanted war crimes court. In 2005, in 2011, and in 2017, the CDC campaigned that they will establish a war crimes court. That’s why I joined the CDC, and that’s why I voted for them. Now, they have decided to backtrack, so I am here calling for action,” said Christmas Sailey, the organizer of the Justice for Humanity group. “The only way Liberia can have true justice and reconciliation is to bring war and economic crimes court, or we will continue to see various crimes of rape, embezzlement, corruption, and murder because of our culture of impunity. It is our generation who will bring the change to impunity,” he said.
The President, in his speech to the UN GA did not address the voices of the masses in protest for the establishment of a war and economic crimes court, or in search for the nation’s missing LD16 Billion which still remains unaccounted for, with no clear explanation from the Liberian government.
This report was a collaboration with New Narratives as part of its West Africa Justice Reporting Project.