Liberia: Monday’s Planned Protest Paralyzes Normal Business, Working Activities In Monrovia

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MONROVIA – Normal working and commercial activities were paralyzed during the early morning hours of Monday, following the December 30 protest announced by the Council of Patriots (COP).

The Council of Patriots (COP), headed by fearless talk show host, Henry Costa vowed to stage the protest in demand of the full implementation of recommendations contained in its June 7 petition presented to the Government of Liberia (GOL).

Among other things, the group is calling for the prosecution of Finance and Development Planning Minister, Samuel Tweah and the former Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), Nathaniel Patray over the roles played in the controversial US$25 million mop-up exercise.

The group also wants government to find solutions to the immense economic constraints confronting Liberians.

On Monday, the COP somersaulted over its previous decision to stage the protest on Monday, following the reported interventions of the United Nations, ECOWAS, the United States Embassy, and the European Union (EU), through their respective representatives in Liberia.

Costa told a news conference in Monrovia that the COP intends to stage the protest on January 6, instead of January 5, as proposed by the Liberian government, through the Ministry of Justice.

Some citizens being asked by police to vacate the streets

The fear

Fear gripped scores of local and international business practitioners during the morning hours of Monday.

At the famous Duala market on Bushrod Island, which is one of the oldest shopping centers, several marketers abandoned commercial activities for the day.

The market is most often flooded with an influx of marketers and buyers trading different goods and services, especially during the festive season.

But multiple tables and business centers were seen either emptied or shutdown during the morning hours.

The area also appeared like a ghost town.

“I came to sell this morning because, I am not part of that protest. My friends didn’t come to sell today because of the protest-just see around me. I came to sell because if I sit down, I will not get money to feed my children,” Fanta Kromah, a 21-year old mother of two (2) children stated.

Elsewhere, many stores owned by Lebanese and Indian nationals were shut down during the morning hours of Monday in Clara Town and Vai Town respectively on the Bushrod Island.

Few other stores trading dry goods remain partially open to sell to their ‘handful’ of customers.

“We have not opened our store yet because we are still observing. We waiting to hear from the people who get this country. Anytime we hear about protest, we have to take precaution,” a Lebanese national who preferred not to be named stated while standing in front of his closed store in Vai Town.

Down Waterside and Mechlin Street, two busiest commercial areas in Liberia during the festive season, appeared like a holiday on a regular Monday morning.

Traders and buyers were scared at these two (2) commercial areas. 

Customers’ fatigue

The pronouncement of the protest also created customers’ fatigue.

Many of the few marketers complained that as a result of the pronouncement, their goods were being purchased as a very ‘slow pace’.

They claimed that many people were not going to the market to purchase ‘things for their homes or to buy their children things,’ because of ‘fear’.

“Since 7 this morning I been here. It’s almost 10 o’clock now. Nobody has even asked for one of my rubber bowl or tub. If it was other day, by now maybe five or six persons finished buying from me. But many people are not coming to buy things for their homes or their children because-maybe they are afraid too,” a lady who only identified herself as Finda noted.

Transportation

Though the negative effects of the December 30 protest pronouncement made by the COP remain huge, the pronouncement was also characterized by some positive gains.

One of those positive gains is the decongestion of traffic on the Bushrod Island, Central Monrovia and other areas.

Most often, commuters traveling to and from these areas have to sit in huge traffic for hours before reaching their destinations.

But the pronouncement eased the traffic congestion and contribution towards the scarcity of vehicles on the streets.

Most of the vehicles spotted were commercial vehicles and tricycles commuting passengers to and from their respective destinations.

Few private vehicles were also seen.

“At least no traffic today. When today was going to be a normal day by now, traffic heavy here,” an elderly woman sitting in a tricycle stated. 

Security

Officers from the Joint Security Force of the Liberian government including the Liberia National Police, Liberia Immigration Service (LIS), Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency (LDEA), among others, were spotted providing security at various entry points, particularly at the premises of Roots FM of Mr. Henry Costa.

The officers prevented road blocks as a result of the influx of supporters of the COP.

They also disallowed the gathering of the supporters in smaller groups during their stay at the Roots FM premises.

Following the climax of the COP news conference, supporters of the group were asked to vacate the premises, avoid standing around the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), and other nearby areas.

The mandate from the officers did not go down well with some of the supporters of the COP, most of who were in high gear to form part of the ‘peaceful assembly’ on Monday.

“This country is not a police state. We can’t be standing here and you say we should move from here; we more from here and go to the other side-you say we should move again. Liberia is for all Liberians. Why the police do not want us to move freely in our own country? We are already downhearted today-these people should not be increasing our anger,” Moses Wiah noted.

The commercial area of Water Side in Monrovia

Banks

Commercial banking institutions operating in Liberia, including Global Bank, GN Bank, Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI), among others carried out their normal banking activities, but in a more tactical manner.

Security officers assigned at those banking institutions were increased.

Customers disbursing or saving at those banks were not permitted to troop into the banking halls in large numbers. 

The December 30 planned protest, which is now a history, created fear among local and foreign business owners, international partners, government officials, civil servants as well as employees of other private institutions and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) operating in Liberia.

Some civil servants, whether in good health or not, were compelled to go to work at various government ministries and agencies for fear of being dismissed by their bosses on allegation of supporting the December 30 protest.

FrontPage Africa had gathered that ministers and other top officials of various governmental institutions earlier threatened to dismiss any civil servant/employee who failed to show up for work on December 30.   

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