Liberia: Council of Patriots Divided Over Responsibility for ‘Acts of Violence’

The CEO of Orange Liberia is being interrogated by the Liberian security for his alleged involvement with Thursday’s violence in Monrovia. While the head of the Council of Patriots, Mr. Henry Costa currently in the United States claimed responsibility for the protest, the Acting Chairman, Menikpake Dumoe in Liberia condemned the act and said it does not represent what the Council of Patriots stands for.

Monrovia – Menipakei Dumoe, Acting Chairman of the Council of Patriots told FrontPageAfrica Thursday he did not support the burning of tires in the streets of Monrovia or any other part of Liberia, hours after early morning violence disrupted free movement on the Tubman Boulevard and the Old Road Community.

Report by Rodney D. Sieh, [email protected]

Mr. Dumoe, who has declared his intention to contest the Bong County Senatorial elections and was in the county when the incident unfolded Thursday said: “The COP we signed up for is one of peaceful agitation within the ambit of the law. I condemn any action by any group of citizens under any banner that would burn or threaten private and public property. I do not agree with government tariff policies but violent protests is not the way to go. We have not received any  information or directive from the Chairman of COP as acting chair and we are awaiting clarity but I will not support violence.”

Mr. Dumoe’s comment came hours after the leader of the COP Mr. Henry Costa claimed responsibility of the incident which led to the arrest of six persons and the calling in for questioning by the Security apparatus of Mr. Mamadou Coulibaly,  Chief Executive Officer of Orange Liberia, one of Liberia’s leading cellular networks.

Mr. Costa, declared on his show Thursday, hours after the incident, to declare: “The COP takes responsibility! We staged that and it is not over yet, it is happening in other places.”

The incident which stared shortly after 6:00 am, prevented motorists, commuters and residents of Old Road Community, Congo Town from moving as flames of fire were seen on the main street near the German Embassy, near the Zone 3 Police Deport in Congo Town.

By the time police arrive on the scene, the perpetrators were nowhere to be found.

Last week, Mr. Costa urged his supporters to brace for what he terms as another nationwide protest against the government’s plan to increase the surcharge on internet data.

Said Mr.  Costa: “This message goes out to every patriot out there. I am calling on you, we will not announce the date, this protest will take them by surprise. We want you to be on the alert. We will not stop protesting until George Weah announces that he will no longer go-ahead to do this diabolical thing – to increase the price of data from $2.00 to $6.00 cause our people may not be able to afford it,” said via phone during a press conference on Wednesday in Monrovia.”

“We will not tolerate any acts of lawlessness and violence; we have a democratic dispensation through which all can exercise their rights, but not through violence.”

– The Liberia National Police

In recent weeks, news of GSM companies increasing tariff on data have sparked public attention and Mr. Costa on many of his talk shows has expressed his disappointment,  terming the plan as one that is intended to silence the voices of the suffering masses

Mr. Costa, who is in the US, organized a teleconference last Wednesday and told his supporters: “We the Liberian people under the banner of the Council of Patriot have met and decided that we will ensure that he (President Weah) does not take our voice away.

The two leading cellular giants in Liberia,  Orange and Lonestarcell MTN have been at loggerheads with the government over the surcharge issue.

Early this month, Supreme Court Associate Justice Jamesetta Howard Wolokollie declined to grant Orange Liberia a Writ of Prohibition on the surcharge on voice call and mobile data bundle as the GSM Company remains adamant on adhering to the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) regulation.

Though the GSM Company, having lost an initial petition filed with the lower court and was awaiting a hearing into the appeal filed with the Supreme Court, filed for another Writ of Prohibition upon receiving an invoice from LTA as the implementation of the surcharge took effect in March this year.

The surcharge of US$0.008 for each minute of voice call and US$0,0065 for each megabyte of data was expected to take effect March this year – six months after the cancellation of the famous three days ‘free call’ and the introduction of a new floor pricing system.

The LTA maintains that the cancellation of the US$1 for a three-day ‘free’ call was canceled in order to make the GSM market more vibrant, eliminate dominance, and restore competition in the sector. The promo which had run for over three years was also affecting the government’s revenue generation in the sector.

“I certainly don’t support burning of tires in the streets of Monrovia or any other part of Liberia. The COP we signed up for is one of peaceful agitation within the ambit of the law. I condemn any action by any group of citizens under any banner that would burn or threaten  private and public property.”

– Menipakei Dumoe, Acting Chairman, Council of Patriots

Following the incident Thursday morning, the government called the Orange CEO  Coulibaly in for questioning. “I can confirm the CEO of Orange, Mamadou Coulibaly has been invited along with his lawyer by the security apparatus to assist in the investigation,” Minister Nagbe told FrontPageAfrica.

Minister Nagbe continued: “He is currently being questioned. Other arrests are being made. The Ministry of Justice will issue an announcement subsequently in regards to that. We want to urge all those linked to peacefully submit themselves to the police, they know themselves. We will not tolerate any acts of lawlessness and violence; we have a democratic dispensation through which all can exercise thier rights, but not through violence.”

The government had earlier warned that it would not tolerate acts of violence and lawlessness on the part of any group of people that seek to disrupt the country’s hard-earned peace. 

President George Weah later ordered Justice Minister Frank Musah Dean, Jr. to ensure that ALL perpetrators and their masterminds are arrested in order to face the full weight of the law.  “The government recognizes that Free expression and freedom to engage in political activities are guaranteed under the law, but violence will not be tolerated. Those orchestrating and engaging in such acts will meet the full force of the country’s justice system,” the government said Thursday.

Following Mr. Coulibaly’s pickup, the Liberian National Police arrested six persons in connection with the early morning violence.

In a statement, the LNP said strongly condemned the action and assured the general public that those involved will be made to face the full weight of the law. “Some agitators, claiming to belong to the self-style Council of Patriots, took to the streets in the early hours of June 25, 2020, causing damage to properties and harassing commuters with motives to cause chaos. The Liberia National Police has vowed to arrest other perpetrators of this senseless violence  and forward  them to court.”

The LNP says it will hold a major news conerence Friday, to provide more details on the violent action, while giving a road map of its next course of activities.