Council of Patriots Faces Daunting Task to Sustain Pressure on Gov’t As US Ambassador Disapproves Pending Protest

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Monrovia – When the United States of America takes a position on Liberia’s political sphere, every Liberian has to heed – evident by the chronology of historical events that have shaped and reshaped the country.

From former US President George W. Bush 2003’s comment that stressed the importance of now-jailed Liberian leader Charles Taylor  “leaving Liberia now” to the recent May 2019’s statement by current US Embassy, which influenced the suspicion of Deputy Information Minister Eugene Fahngon, the United States of America has always subtly regulated major political decisions in Liberia.

The reasons are enormous: the entrenched historic ties cemented between the two nations dating back to the formation of Liberia and similarities in political and legal structures. Comprehensively, this has earned Liberia the nake name, “America’s stepchild”.

As a stepchild, Liberians have turned to the US for answers and interventions when they are in peril, although blaming the world’s superpower for being lackadaisical, overcontrolling and manipulative has not been shortcoming as well. 

‘Misplaced Intent’

So, when US Ambassador Christine Elder sent out an emphatic message on July 18, doubt was immediately cast over the Council of Patriots plans to stage another Save the State Protest on July 24, which will be just two days to the country’s 172nd Independence Day celebration. 

The top US diplomat questioned the planned protest, saying “the intent to do so during the week of July 22 is misplaced.” 

The COP has been a nemesis of the administration of President George Weah, pressuring his government to fix the economy and clamp down on corruption. They have amassed support from Liberians feeling the pinch of the harshness of a shrinking economy. 

The COP has always relied on the attestation of the international community to stage its protest. They did before the June 7 protest and drew attention from ECOWAS, foreign diplomats, and several international organizations in the country. Again, they are keen on treading the same path by calling on the international community to join their “long march”.

But the U.S. Embassy responded in the negative. Ambassador Elder’s comment has held COP at a certain standard, placing a massive onus upon the group to avert its well-publicized plan to stay committed to “national development”.

She wrote: “Particularly from a group carrying the banner ‘Council of Patriots’ and from a group which avows that patriotism remains central to their efforts, staging such actions as they have outlined, during independence celebrations, would instead convey a lack of commitment to national development.”  

The US Ambassador stressed that “events surrounding upcoming national celebrations should be devoid of partisan promotion or posturing, focusing instead on working together for the common good of the Liberian people.”

Relief For Government; Pressure on COP?

Before Ambassador Elder’s statement, the government was becoming edgy. The government is wary of enduring the ramifications of another protest – that the economy would be hurt and potential investors scared away. 

Now, with the statement from Ambassador Elder, President Weah and his government are now taking a respite and would probably restrategize against the COP and any other potential protest.

On the other hand, it’s now the COP that has a daunting task to salvage its relevance within the international community here in the country. And at the same time, keeps their objective palpable.  

Mo Ali, one of the leading members of the COP, responding to an FPA inquiry on late Thursday, said they welcome the US embassy’s position on their planned protest.

Writes Ali: “The Council of Patriots welcomes the statement from the US Embassy. We believe that our partners are working tirelessly in the interest of the country and we all must always applaud them for their contributions”

Ali’s comment is definitely a prelude to a more plethora of reactions in the next couple of days. However, making any Inference to Ali’s comment, who is also the Unity Party Secretary-General for Press and Public Affairs,  would ignite an unending debate, but some observers say the COP must recalibrate. 

All this is happening as the COP struggles to salvage its reputation following the breakaways of several top members. There have also been speculations about the expenditure of funds generated to hold the June 7 protest.

First, it was the Economic Freedom Fighters that broke ranks with the group and then another insider, Rufus Neufville opted to quit in order to form his Independent COP. He was dissatisfied with the inner workings of the group.

Also, this week vocal Bomi County Senator Sando Johnson declared that he was not supporting the planned June 7 protest. Johnson said, “the timing is not right” but also vowed not to do anything to thwart the process.

Said Johnson: “I have informed all executive and members of the COP that I would not support the July 24th, date for our next protest because in my mind it is not timing and vow not to do anything to undermine it, but will also not take responsibility for anything that might happen to the contrary before and thereafter.”

What Liberians Are Saying?

The statement by Ambassador Elder had ruffled feathers just as it has also eased tension; however, it depends on which side of the divide you are.

Social media has been buzzing with mixed reactions as talk radio also generate diverse angles of the public discourse.

On Facebook, Liberia most used social media, there have hundreds of reactions to the US Embassy’s statement. The have been 472 comments and 541 shares on the US Embassy official page with several commenters hailing the US Embassy’s stance while others expressed discontent.  

Posted D Myers Chedar: “Thanks to the US embassy for this brilliant piece/view which is shared by thousands of Liberians including me but lack the platform to make our voices louder. We are not ignorant of the economic challenges but believe a collective approach is essential in solving the problems than engaging in acts that will make the situation even worst. Liberia First!” 

Another person, Musa Willie  added: “I like how the US government is being proactive cuz when these guys who are actually in this just to make their personal points do some crazy stuff, it is the same Embassy we all will look up to for help. So it is better they make their points now!”

But just as some hailed Liberia’s traditional and long-time friend, others were disappointed in its decision to disapprove the planned protest.

Nelson Kangbleh Jallah, wrote on the Embassy’s page: “The US embassy near Monrovia doesn’t feel what the poor and ordinary Liberians go through on a daily basis in such a difficult economy!!! Therefore, the embassy needs to back-off!! What are we celebrating on July 26?”

And Chief-Sahr Dunner agrees with Jallah that the US is overstepping its authority. 

He claims: “The Ambassador thinks Americans have the right mentality to protest against President Trump any day of their choosing (inauguration or Independence Day) but not our people. Why? What an insult in the face. As much as we would welcome the support of the US government, this opinion of the ambassador does not seek the interest of the Liberians who want to have a peaceful protest…”

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