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‘Listen to the People’: Why UN Secretary General’s Plea on Protests Resonates

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A WAVE OF PROTEST is sweeping across the world putting the backs of rulers and leaders, turning a blind eye to their people, to the wall.

ANTOINIO GUTERRES, secretary-general of the United Nations, addressing on going dissent against governments in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, said much of what is unfolding is due to “disquiet in people’s lives” now sparking protests around the world.

SAID GUTERRES: “It is clear that there is a growing deficit of trust between people and political establishments, and rising threats to the social contract.”

IN THE SAME vein, the UN boss called on protesters around the world to commit to nonviolence as they seek change while urging world leaders “to listen to the real problems of real people”. “The world is also wrestling with the negative impacts of globalization and new technologies, which have increased inequalities within societies. Even where people are not protesting, they are hurting and want to be heard.”

THE CDC-led government and those sympathetic to Mr. Weah must ensure that he understands the dynamics of what is happening as time runs out on his window of opportunity to get things right, not just for himself, but for Liberia as well.

ACCORDING TO Guterres,  people now taking to the streets, simply want their human rights respected, including the right to have a say in the decision-making process. 

MOST OF THE global protests are drawing similarities to recent unrests in Liberia and ongoing unrests in next-door Guinea.

IN PLACES like Ecuador, the government backtracked and suspended its fare hike in an effort to quell the protests. But the protests have continued, growing to take in wider audiences.

IN LEBANON, plans to tax WhatsApp calls prompted wider protests about economic problems, inequality and corruption. Protesters argue that while they are suffering under an economic crisis, the country’s leaders have been using their positions of power to enrich themselves, through kickbacks and favorable deals.

IN EGYPT, Protests against alleged government corruption are also taken place in Egypt. The rare demonstrations in September were prompted by a call from Mohamed Ali, an Egyptian businessman living in self-imposed exile in Spain, who accused President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and the military of corruption.

IN HONG KONG, demonstrators have been taking the streets over a bill that would have allowed criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China in certain circumstances. Hong Kong is part of China but its people enjoy special freedoms and there is a deep sense of fear that Beijing wants to exert greater control.

Like fellow protesters in Chile and Lebanon, the mass action in Hong Kong led to the withdrawal of the controversial legislation, but the protests themselves continued. Among their demands, protesters now want complete universal suffrage, an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality and amnesty for demonstrators who have been arrested.

THE RECENT PROTESTS by students of the Monrovia Consolidated Schools System(MCSS) and the June 7 protests in June should serve as a wake-up call for the George Manneh Weah-led government to change its approach to governance and the way it is going about doing things.

AND THE WAVE continues to grow, in Barcelona, Spain, thousands took to the streets to express anger over the jailing of Catalan separatist leaders. The separatists were convicted on 14 October of sedition over their role in a 2017 referendum outlawed by the Spanish courts and a subsequent declaration of independence.

SIMILARLY, YOUNG PEOPLE across the world are joining in on the act with school strikes and protests inspired by a 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, leading to millions taking to the streets last month to join a global climate strike led by schoolchildren, from handfuls of demonstrators on Pacific islands to mass rallies in cities like Melbourne, Mumbai, Berlin and New York.

WHAT ALL THESE variations of protests have in common with Liberia and Guinea are people’s dissatisfaction with authority, the arrogance of power, corruption, greed and nepotism that has become the norms. 

THE OBSESSION of modern leaders with mediocrity and maintain the status quo remains a serious dilemma for many unhappy with the way things are going.

PRESIDENT WEAH must realize on whose backs he rose to power and how quickly those same people have tendencies to turn their backs when things are not going their way – or not what they bargained for.

WHILE SOME, including FrontPageAfrica, are against protests that would lead to a government stepping down, allowing free speech and creating the environment for people to express their disgust with government is a must.

THE RECENT PROTESTS by students of the Monrovia Consolidated Schools System(MCSS) and the June 7 protests in June should serve as a wake-up call for the George Manneh Weah-led government to change its approach to governance and the way it is going about doing things.

OBVIOUSLY, THE WAY, which appears to be mimicking governments of recent past, has not been working for the government so far – and is unlikely to work, any time soon. 

THE ONLY ALTERNATIVE for President Weah is the revisit the pro-poor brand that brought him to power.

PRESIDENT WEAH must realize on whose backs he rose to power and how quickly those same people have tendencies to turn their backs when things are not going their way – or not what they bargained for.

PRESIDENT WEAH must realize that Liberia is not immune from what is unfolding in other parts of the world. 

IF HIS government continues to turn a blind eye to the people, refuse to listen and remain stubborn to their demands and wails against graft and greed, they too will see the light and take a page from those currently on the streets in cities around the world.

THE CDC-led government and those sympathetic to Mr. Weah must ensure that he understands the dynamics of what is happening as time runs out on his window of opportunity to get things right, not just for himself, but for Liberia as well.

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