Liberia: Day-Two of Anti-Rape Protest Ends Chaotic as Protestors Accuse Mayor of Monrovia of Violent Disruption
MONROVIA – The peaceful protest against the alarming increase of reported rape cases in Liberia was going peaceful in the capital until some men believed to be associates of the Monrovia City Mayor, Jefferson Koijee, allegedly disrupted the protest after forcing their way through a blockade set up by the protestors in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which currently hosts the offices of President George Weah.
The City Mayor has, however, denied being associated with the disruption of the protest, noting that he is a supporter of the protest against rape.
Wednesday marked day-two of the protest and the protestors were bent on not delivering their petition statement to any official of government besides the President who prides himself as the feminist-in-chief.
Though the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection was designated by the President on Tuesday to receive the petition, the protestors believed she had not done much in her capacity as Gender Minister and could therefore not regard her as the rightful recipient of their petition.
The protest which has received a very massive turnout both on day-one and two, was triggered by the several heartbreaking reports of rape from various parts of the country with less being heard about justice for the victims.
The protest was organized by The Affiliation of Women and Child Rights Advocates.
Hundreds of men and women dressed in all-black with placards carrying anti-rape inscriptions set up a blockade on the street before the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Capitol Hill and remained determined not to leave until their petition was received by President Weah. The President, however, did not show up again.
The blockade caused terrible traffic as all vehicles heading to central Monrovia were obliged to use Jallah Town Road.
However, at about 2:30pm, three vehicles which came out of the compound of the Monrovia City Corporation – a Ford Jeep with plate number A511256, Infinitive Jeep, Plate number A66093 and Toyata Jeep belonging to the government of Liberia marked LB 1005 forced their way through the protesting crowd against the advice of the Liberia National Police.
“All those cars belong to the Mayor and he is the one who sent those guys to on us to disrupt our march. You couldn’t hear what they were saying? The normal CDC slogan and beret they were wearing. I even know the guy who is heading the group; Boima is from the youth league. I am saying this because I know him and I am from the CDC as well, but I don’t support that foolish act they carried out here today. Nonsense!”– Francis Munibah, Protestor
The three vehicles were seen being escorted by some men known to be associated with Monrovia City Mayor Jefferson Koijee. One of the men was the ranking member of the CDC Youth League, Boimah A. D Sawyer. Mayor Koijee is the chairman of the ruling party youth league.
The vehicles were prevented by the Liberia National Police riot unit from moving into the crowd, at which time the men headed by their team leader Boimah A. D Sawyer retreated, regrouped and came back and started throwing stones at the police and protesters.
They were chased by the police into the community and then on the beach behind the Pan African Plaza opposite the Monrovia City Hall.
The men resurfaced in front of the Monrovia City Hall throwing jibes at the police and at the same time preventing journalists from recording them.
A FrontPageAfrica reporter covering the protest was bullied by the men. His backpack containing his laptop, money and other belongings was taken from him. According to the reporter, some personal items were missing from the bag after it was returned to him.
Many of the protesters expressed disappointment in the men and pointed fingers at City Mayor Jefferson Koijee for masterminding the violence to disburse the crowd.
One of the protestors, Cyna Johnson, described the act of stoning as ungodly; she, however, blamed Mayor Koijee for sending men to disrupt the peaceful gathering.
“This is very ugly on the part of the Mayor; in the first place, the cars you saw trying to force their way are all cars associated with the mayor and they came from the City Hall. All the guys driving that those cars are all his boys we see around him every day,” she alleged.
Another female protestor, Madia Kamara described the act of rape as devilish and urged officials of government to join the fight and stop the act against babies, girls and even boys.
“If what we are hearing about our Mayor that he sent those hooligans and sycophants to disrupt our peaceful march then it’s bad. If it is true, then I can safely say that the mayor is a promoter of rape and he needs to be questioned for his action,” she expressed.
“All those cars belong to the Mayor and he is the one who sent those guys to on us to disrupt our march. You couldn’t hear what they were saying? The normal CDC slogan and beret they were wearing. I even know the guy who is heading the group; Boima is from the youth league. I am saying this because I know him and I am from the CDC as well, but I don’t support that foolish act they carried out here today. Nonsense!” Francis Munibah expressed in anger.
Mayor Not Involved?
“The mayor is of those who is supporting the protest. As a matter of fact, the mayor along with the Mayors Association had a press conference wherein they endorsed the protest. So, I don’t know why people would think it would be the Mayor’s intention to send people to disrupt the protest that he supports.”Mr. Pekeleh Gbuapaye, Head of the Press and Public Affairs department at the Monrovia City Corporation
Speaking to FrontPageAfrica, Mr. Pekeleh Gbuapaye, Head of the Press and Public Affairs department at the Monrovia City Corporation distanced the mayor from the act.
He said none of the vehicles that forced their way through the crowd do not belong to the mayor.
He noted that though people seen on the scene disrupting the peaceful protest may have been seen with the mayor on some occasions does not validate the allegation that he instructed them to carry out the act.
“The mayor is of those who is supporting the protest. As a matter of fact, the mayor along with the Mayors Association had a press conference wherein they endorsed the protest. So, I don’t know why people would think it would be the Mayor’s intention to send people to disrupt the protest that he supports,” he said.
He insisted that Mayor Koijee does not support violence and he would subsequently call on the Liberia National Police (LNP) to investigate the disruption of the protest.