Fear & Loathing Over June 7 Save The State Protest In Liberia

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DEPENDING ON WHO’S TALKING – or who’s listening, the upcoming June 7 Save the State Protest in Liberia could either spell doom or mark a rebirth for what organizers under the banner of the Council of Patriots hope could lead to a rude or reawakening of the George Weah-led government. 

MEMBERS OF COP are hoping that the protest will unravel President Weah’s government to realities many of his key advisers are preventing him from seeing – the true picture of those languishing at the bottom of the economic ladder and the ever-rising US dollar exchange rate on the verge of hitting 200LD to US$1.

SUPPORTERS OF THE PRESIDENT fear those planning the June 7 demonstration are sore losers from the 2017 presidential elections who are envious of the ruling party’s ascendancy to power and will stop at nothing to see power slip away.

THE BUILDUP AND momentum leading to the protest has generated a lot of buzz both domestically and internationally. 

LAST WEEKEND, Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas, the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa, expressed concerns over the capacity of the security apparatus in Liberia to contain the June 7 protest, if it should last for more than a day. 

WHILE EXPRESSING optimism, the UN Envoy hopes that the protesters would come out on June 7, express their discontent and present their petition to the government in a very peaceful manner. “This, he said, is the most acceptable way of conducting protest.”

SPEAKING TO FrontPageAfrica in an exclusive interview, before leaving last Saturday, Dr. Chambas said: “I have mentioned that state capacity is a genuine issue here; Liberia is only rebuilding its security forces after the civil war in the past 12-13 years, that’s a very short time. So, any protest of a long duration will task the effort of the security forces and they may not have the means to effectively police and ensure the safety of protestors for a long duration. It’s just a logistical issue. Nothing to do with whether they want to do it or not”.

WHILE IN MONROVIA, DR. Chambas held discussions with both President Weah and members of COP as well as leaders of the opposition. 

DR. CHAMBAS’ visit is part of ongoing efforts of the UN, ECOWAS and the African Union in mediating between the Government of Liberia and the Council of Patriots, organizer of the planned mass demonstration slated for June 7.

CONTRARY TO WHAT some have been speculating in recent days, the UN envoy dismissed suggestions that international stakeholders are trying to have the protest cancelled, telling FPA that the international community’s interest is not looking to have the protest called off, declaring that it is the constitutional right of protestors, but such protest, he said, must be done in a civil and peaceful manner.

IN THE COMING days, according to Dr. Chambas, a delegation from ECOWAS is also due in Monrovia to continue engaging both the Liberian Presidency and members of COP to ensure that the gathering on the 7th of June is peaceful and orderly.

FOR DR. CHAMBAS and the UN, the West African sub-region has seen a lot over the past two decades striking a nerve on critical issues of peace and security. “When there is this kind of situation where there seems to be a standoff, it is of concern to all of us,” the envoy noted.

DR. CHAMBAS said international stakeholders have to take into consideration that some elements with a different agenda could try to infiltrate the peaceful demonstration and we have to be sensitive to that. “I am even talking about elements necessarily from Liberia, but we live in a region – West Africa – where we have concerns for terrorism and other internationally organized crime so, I think those should not be minimized.”

FOR MORE THAN a decade Liberians witnessed worst of times. The rice riots of April 14, 1979, the coup of 1980 which brought to an end the reign of William R. Tolbert and the True Whig Party and ushered in the military government of Samuel Kanyon Doe. Doe’s nearly a decade-old reign ended prematurely as a brutal civil war ensued.

ALL THIS have paved the way for some genuine and valid fears by some who feel things could get out of hand on June 7 as it did on November 7, 2011 when hundreds of protesters clashed with the police and United Nations peacekeeper, leaving at least one person dead the day before a presidential runoff that the then opposition has vowed to boycott.

TO THE CONTRARY, critics of the Weah-led government say, the party, as an opposition was involved in numerous protests, some totting caskets to illustrate the demise of the administration of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

WHAT MAKES TODAY’S opposition any different, some are wondering?

IN THE MIDST of an economy in decline and a volatile business climate, many see the June 7 protest as an opportunity for those experiencing hard times to make their voices heard. 

SADLY, the intricacies of a post-war nation on the rebound from war and still struggling to restore its economic and political sanity despite a successful democratic transition, mirrors in a rather unique way, the fears and loathing author Hunter S. Thompson sought to portray in his famous novel about a pair of misfits journeying through Las Vegas as their initial journalistic intentions devolve into an exploration of the city under the influence of psychoactive substances.

IRONICALLY, LIBERIA, Africa’s oldest republic, has been on a rather complicated journey of protests, wars, chaos, anger, distrusts and greed –  of its own, buoyed by historical events lacking a somewhat clear understanding as to why – or how the nation continues to spiral in a whirlwind of upheavals mired in a recurring state of political and economic uncertainty. 

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