Liberia: Justice Ministry Denies ‘Weah Step Down’ Campaigners Permit, Says Plan is Treasonable

According to Justice Minister Frank Musah Dean, the Constitution of Liberia has no provision that supports the ‘Weah Step Down’ Campaign (file photo: June 7, 2019 Save the State Protest)

Monrovia – Liberia’s Justice Ministry has warned organizers of the December 30 “Weah Step Down” campaign that the plan is “unconstitutional and bespeaks treason,” while stressing that the government has no legal authority to grant permit for the conduct of the pending protest. 

In a December 2, 2019 letter addressed to the Council of Patriots, Minister Frank Musah Dean cited several Constitutional provisions, arguing that the planned protest is in violation of the law. 

Cllr. Dean’s letter was in response to a November 11, 2019 communication from the COP. In that letter, the COP was seeking permission from the government to hold a massive anti-government protest.

The COP is credited for organizing the largest mass protest against the Weah-led government on June 7, 2019. That protest dubbed Save The State called on the government to take several actions including curbing corruption and fixing the economy.

But there was disenchantment amongst the COP after the group claimed the government was insensitive to the plight protesters and warned of further anti-government protests.

As news of the December 30 protest spirals, there are also mixed reactions amongst many Liberians.

And with a rather strong comment coming from the Attorney General about the holding of another protest, the debate will further heighten in the coming days.  

Wrote Cllr. Dean in the opening paragraphs of his letter to the COP: “We have taken due cognizance of the several public pronouncements emanating from the hierarchy of the Council of Patriots (COP), characterising the assembly as the beginning of a “Weah Step Down” campaign. 

“We are further aware that, in preparation to execute your planned objectives, you have solicited and received funding from individuals both within and without Liberia, some of whom may not be citizens of Liberia.”

Citing Article I of the Constitution, which gives inherent power to the people, the Attorney General stressed that the people are to decide the leadership of the state through elections, adding that “there is no provision for “Weah Step Down” Campaign in the Constitution and/or statutory laws of Liberia”. 

He continued: “You will note that His Excellency George Manneh Weah was duly elected President by the people of Liberia, certificated on January 4, 201 8 and inaugurated on January 22, 2018 for a six-year term. Any removal prior to the expiry of the six-year term of the President may occur only by impeachment, as provided under Article 62 of the constitution.”

He then described the plans of the COP as treasonable and violates Article 76 of the Constitution.  

“Your mobilization of individuals and resources, both within and without Liberia, to execute your “Weah Step Down” campaign is unconstitutional and bespeaks treason, an offense against the internal security of the state,” Cllr. Dean wrote.

Article 76 of the Liberian Constitution describes treason as a crime against the state and shall consist of levying war against the Republic; aligning oneself with or aiding and abetting another nation or people with whom Liberia is at war or in a state of war; acts of espionage for an enemy state; attempting by overt act to overthrow the Government, rebellion against the Republic, insurrection and mutiny; and abrogating or attempting to abrogate, subverting or attempting or conspiring to subvert the Constitution by use of force or show of force or by any other means which attempts to undermine this Constitution.

“Your mobilization of individuals and resources, both within and without Liberia, to execute your “Weah Step Down” campaign is unconstitutional and bespeaks treason, an offense against the internal security of the state.”

– Cllr. Frank Musa Dean, Minister of Justice/Attorney General, Liberia

Meanwhile, the Justice Minister has said that the government remains committed to the protection of the rights and civil liberties of all citizens, as enshrined in the Constitution but he then denied the COP’s request for permission to hold the pending protest.

“Given the facts and circumstance herein described above, we are without legal authority to grant you permit, protection and or approval to undertake an act which is indisputably in clear violation of the Constitution and statutory laws of Liberia,” the letter added. 

The Justice Minister added that “individuals comprising the leadership of COP will be held personally, individually and collectively culpable and liable, under the law for consequences associated with their actions”.

At the same time, the Alternative National Congress (ANC) has refuted speculation that its political leader Alexander Cummings is supporting the “Weah Step Down” campaign. The ANC, an opposition political party that supported the June & protest, has denounced its support for the pending protest. 

In a press statement released on Monday, Aloysius Toe, the National Secretary-General of the ANC, said the party is aware that “the CDC-led government is purposely spreading vicious propaganda and lies, with intent to frame our Political Leader.”

The party referenced media reports by Freedom FM and Hot Paper newspaper in which the party claims allegations were made that its Political Leader was planning to overthrow the government through the December 30th Step Down Protest. 

“These media campaigns come in the wake of information circulating in the communities and on social media of the government’s plan to arrest key opposition leaders including Mr. Cummings, on treason charges, before or during the ‘Step Down’ campaign. Our Political Leader wishes to make it categorically clear that this is not about fear of arrest. However, he would like to clarify for the records that while we support the rights of Liberians to protest their grievances, he has never and will never support a coup or any unconstitutional removal of a sitting President,” the release stated, while terming the allegations as “complete nonsense.”

“The ANC says it is a shame that while its Political Leader is busy helping the people, investing in businesses to keep the economy afloat, etc., the government is busy sponsoring silly stories about a fake coup plot just to divert public attention from its piss-poor performance and bad governance. 

“While we expect these lies and chicanery to continue given the people’s reception of Mr. Cummings as the alternative, we will no longer respond to them. Notwithstanding, we’d like to remind our people that our history is replete with such misguided behavior from a ruling government using fake coup plots to get rid of formidable opposition leaders.”