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Liberia: Avoiding the Guinea Catastrophe – Rising Levels of Intolerance Against Free-Speech, Protests

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TALE OF TWO NEIGHBORS: In recent days, the government of Guinea effectively banned street protests for more than a year, citing threats to public security. Security forces have tear gassed those who defy the ban, and arrested dozens of demonstrators. Similarly, in Liberia, police, earlier this month, used teargas to disperse striking students of the Monrovia Consolidated School System, who took the streets demanding unpaid salaries due their teachers.

THE ECOWAS COMMISSION this week expressed concerns over recent developments in the Republic of Guinea, characterized by rising political tensions and violence resulting in loss of life during demonstrations on 14 and 15 October 2019.

THE PRESIDENT of the ECOWAS Commission, in a statement this week, urged all the parties to restrain and encourages the taking of measures to prevent an escalation of tensions and violence that could affect the peace and stability of the Republic of Guinea and the sub-Region.

OVER THE PAST year, Liberia, Guinea’s next-door neighbors, have also been bombarded by protests. Students, teachers, nurses and doctors have taken their turns at protests against the George Manneh Weah-led government. 

MURMURS HAVE been in the air for days now that civil servants and civil servants could be next in line to protest.

WHAT THE TWO countries have in common is rising levels of intolerance for free speech.

IN RECENT DAYS, the government of Guinea effectively banned street protests for more than a year, citing threats to public security. Security forces have tear gassed those who defy the ban, and arrested dozens of demonstrators.

SIMILARLY, IN LIBERIA, police, earlier this month, used teargas to disperse striking students of the Monrovia Consolidated School System, who took the streets demanding unpaid salaries due their teachers.

IN GUINEA, the strikes are being propelled by a recent announcement from President Alpha Condé about whether he will revise the constitution and run for a third term in 2020 presidential elections. A coalition of opposition parties and civil society organizations have said it will use “all legal means” to oppose any constitutional change.

THE WATCHDOG GROUP, Human Rights Watch has come out to say that, it is more important than ever to protect the right to peacefully demonstrate.

CORRINE DUFKA,  West Africa director at Human Rights Watch said in a statement recently:  “Banning protests denies political parties and other groups a legitimate way to express their opposition to, or support for, the government’s plans and policies.”

IN GUINEA, Since July 2018, however, opposition parties and the FNDC have accused the government of instructing local authorities to prohibit all protests. They said that none of their protests have been authorized in this period and showed Human Rights Watch examples of 20 letters they said they received from local authorities prohibiting protests.

IN LIBERIA, President George Manneh Weah raised eyebrows this week when he appointed a party loyalist as Deputy Minister of Defense for Operations. 

TALE OF TWO NEIGHBORS: In recent days, the government of Guinea effectively banned street protests for more than a year, citing threats to public security. Security forces have tear gassed those who defy the ban, and arrested dozens of demonstrators. Similarly, in Liberia, police, earlier this month, used teargas to disperse striking students of the Monrovia Consolidated School System, who took the streets demanding unpaid salaries due their teachers.TALE OF TWO NEIGHBORS: In recent days, the government of Guinea effectively banned street protests for more than a year, citing threats to public security. Security forces have tear gassed those who defy the ban, and arrested dozens of demonstrators. Similarly, in Liberia, police, earlier this month, used teargas to disperse striking students of the Monrovia Consolidated School System, who took the streets demanding unpaid salaries due their teachers.

THE APPOINTEE, Mr. Tarplah Z. Davis,  who carries the name Zoely Zoe on the social medium Facebook, used a Facebook live to openly expressed his disgust for critics of the President and planners of protest in Liberia.

DAVIS THREATENED to “kill” would-be protestors of the ‘Weah Step Down Campaign’ and critics of the President. “The symbol of everything that I have worked for personally is in Liberia. And I told people, anybody tries my property, I will kill them. I have said it and will continue to say it openly,” Davis said.

HIS APPOINTMENT WHICH has been backed by the youth wing of the ruling party and the presidential press secretary puts the Weah-led government’s intolerance for free speech on full display, prompting fears that a Guinea scenario is on the horizon.

IN A STATEMENT TUESDAY, the youth declared: “We see Mr. Davis’s nomination as a national call to duty and have no doubt that Mr. Davis will execute his national function as deputy minister of operations.”

THE PARTY’S YOUTH also went the distance by accusing Mr. Benoni Urey, head of the All Liberia Party(ALP) of training youths to overthrow the ruling CDC government.

SAID THE PARTY’S youth: “We are fully aware of the game being played by Mr. Urey and Joseph Boakai to derail our peace. Mr. Urey is noted for abusing young people and turning them into child soldiers and combatants as he did during the regime of former president Charles G. Taylor which we want to embark on similar endeavor of using young people like the Cummings Youth Movement to destroy the sanctity the CDC created in the opposition and turn them into possible child soldiers. As we speak, information in our domain suggest that the act of Mr. Urey sponsoring those young people against Mr. Cummings is because he, Urey and Mr. Boakai had asked Mr. Cummings to purchase arms and ammunitions to create instability in the country. But Cummings has refused to yield to such request and he Urey and Boakai are calling Cummings Traitor.”

THE CDC YOUTH LEAGUE continued: “We want to denounce hidden plans by Mr. Urey and Mr. Boakai to create instability in our country through undemocratic means and caution both political leaders to respect the populous mandate of the Liberian people.”

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH recently documented at least four occasions in 2019 when the security forces arrested demonstrators opposed to a new constitution or broke up protests that were held despite the ban and has recommended that the Guinean Government ensures respect for freedom of assembly.

FOR THE WEAH-LED government, the glaring similarities bordering the lines of intolerance to free speech signals trouble ahead.

POSITIONS REGARDING national security is place for partisan appointees on the record for threatening critics of the President. 

LIBERIA’S HISTORY warrants that President Weah gives his appointment a closer look and Senators pay close attention to what is in play here.

PRESIDENT WEAH owes Liberia and his presidency that much by ensuring that the peace and security ushered by the international community is maintained at all cost.

THE WAVE of intolerance coming from the corridors of the presidency is not what Liberia needs now. This is why the President and his advisors must put the brakes on anything resembling what is unfolding in Guinea before it gets too late and things get out of hand.

THE ECOWAS COMMISSION this week expressed concerns over recent developments in the Republic of Guinea, characterized by rising political tensions and violence resulting in loss of life during demonstrations on 14 and 15 October 2019.

THE PRESIDENT of the ECOWAS Commission, in a statement this week, urged all the parties to restrain and encourages the taking of measures to prevent an escalation of tensions and violence that could affect the peace and stability of the Republic of Guinea and the sub-Region.

OVER THE PAST year, Liberia, Guinea’s next-door neighbors, have also been bombarded by protests. Students, teachers, nurses and doctors have taken their turns at protests against the George Manneh Weah-led government. 

MURMURS HAVE been in the air for days now that civil servants and civil servants could be next in line to protest.

WHAT THE TWO countries have in common is rising levels of intolerance for free speech.

IN RECENT DAYS, the government of Guinea effectively banned street protests for more than a year, citing threats to public security. Security forces have tear gassed those who defy the ban, and arrested dozens of demonstrators.

SIMILARLY, IN LIBERIA, police, earlier this month, used teargas to disperse striking students of the Monrovia Consolidated School System, who took the streets demanding unpaid salaries due their teachers.

IN GUINEA, the strikes are being propelled by a recent announcement from President Alpha Condé about whether he will revise the constitution and run for a third term in 2020 presidential elections. A coalition of opposition parties and civil society organizations have said it will use “all legal means” to oppose any constitutional change.

THE WATCHDOG GROUP, Human Rights Watch has come out to say that, it is more important than ever to protect the right to peacefully demonstrate.

CORRINE DUFKA,  West Africa director at Human Rights Watch said in a statement recently:  “Banning protests denies political parties and other groups a legitimate way to express their opposition to, or support for, the government’s plans and policies.”

IN GUINEA, Since July 2018, however, opposition parties and the FNDC have accused the government of instructing local authorities to prohibit all protests. They said that none of their protests have been authorized in this period and showed Human Rights Watch examples of 20 letters they said they received from local authorities prohibiting protests.

IN LIBERIA, President George Manneh Weah raised eyebrows this week when he appointed a party loyalist as Deputy Minister of Defense for Operations. 

THE APPOINTEE, Mr. Tarplah Z. Davis,  who carries the name Zoely Zoe on the social medium Facebook, used a Facebook live to openly expressed his disgust for critics of the President and planners of protest in Liberia.

DAVIS THREATENED to “kill” would-be protestors of the ‘Weah Step Down Campaign’ and critics of the President. “The symbol of everything that I have worked for personally is in Liberia. And I told people, anybody tries my property, I will kill them. I have said it and will continue to say it openly,” Davis said.

HIS APPOINTMENT WHICH has been backed by the youth wing of the ruling party and the presidential press secretary puts the Weah-led government’s intolerance for free speech on full display, prompting fears that a Guinea scenario is on the horizon.

IN A STATEMENT TUESDAY, the youth declared: “We see Mr. Davis’s nomination as a national call to duty and have no doubt that Mr. Davis will execute his national function as deputy minister of operations.”

THE PARTY’S YOUTH also went the distance by accusing Mr. Benoni Urey, head of the All Liberia Party(ALP) of training youths to overthrow the ruling CDC government.

SAID THE PARTY’S youth: “We are fully aware of the game being played by Mr. Urey and Joseph Boakai to derail our peace. Mr. Urey is noted for abusing young people and turning them into child soldiers and combatants as he did during the regime of former president Charles G. Taylor which we want to embark on similar endeavor of using young people like the Cummings Youth Movement to destroy the sanctity the CDC created in the opposition and turn them into possible child soldiers. As we speak, information in our domain suggest that the act of Mr. Urey sponsoring those young people against Mr. Cummings is because he, Urey and Mr. Boakai had asked Mr. Cummings to purchase arms and ammunitions to create instability in the country. But Cummings has refused to yield to such request and he Urey and Boakai are calling Cummings Traitor.”

THE CDC YOUTH LEAGUE continued: “We want to denounce hidden plans by Mr. Urey and Mr. Boakai to create instability in our country through undemocratic means and caution both political leaders to respect the populous mandate of the Liberian people.”

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH recently documented at least four occasions in 2019 when the security forces arrested demonstrators opposed to a new constitution or broke up protests that were held despite the ban and has recommended that the Guinean Government ensures respect for freedom of assembly.

FOR THE WEAH-LED government, the glaring similarities bordering the lines of intolerance to free speech signals trouble ahead.

POSITIONS REGARDING national security is place for partisan appointees on the record for threatening critics of the President. 

LIBERIA’S HISTORY warrants that President Weah gives his appointment a closer look and Senators pay close attention to what is in play here.

PRESIDENT WEAH owes Liberia and his presidency that much by ensuring that the peace and security ushered by the international community is maintained at all cost.

THE WAVE of intolerance coming from the corridors of the presidency is not what Liberia needs now. This is why the President and his advisors must put the brakes on anything resembling what is unfolding in Guinea before it gets too late and things get out of hand.

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