Liberia: Protesters To Remain In Streets If Short-Term Demands Are Ignored
MONROVIA – Protesters have flooded the grounds of Capitol Hill in Monrovia, awaiting the official presentation of a petition to the government of President George Weah at 3 pm this afternoon.
Report by Alpha Daffae Senkpeni, [email protected]
Many of the protesters told FrontPage Africa that the decision to leave the street is based on “the President’s decision to meet our demands”.
Protesters say they have short and long-term demands. And one protester said amongst the short term is the “uncompromised dismissal of Finance Minister Samuel Tweah and Central Bank governor Nathaniel Patray.
There have been concerns about the number of persons in support of the protest as tension earlier flared about possible counter protest that may instigate violence.
But on protester said the crowd doesn’t matter.
“The number of persons that have turned out for the protest is not the issue, it can even be five persons but it shows that even when a minute portion of your citizens have concern it should be your concern,” said a jubilant Austin Williams of District 13, who says he will remain committed to a peaceful protest.
“We are saying that we are out for peace, we want to be peaceful and we are willing to compromise based on how the government will approach us.
“Liberians deserve better; we elected Weah. I voted for Weah and we expected that he will take the mantle of authority and change the lives of Liberia. But our economy is decreasing, so we cannot sit and watch our country go down the drain.”
Many mediators – local and international bodies – have called for a day protest, cautioning that a prolonged protest of many days may further cripple the already porous economy.
“The possibility will exist for us to go more than a day based upon the prevailing situation. The president has already disrespected the people who voted him. This president doesn’t want to stand before his people to receive their petition,” said Tommy Z. Tiah
Ahmed Sheriff of the Liberia education and accountability justice campaign, says he joined the protest to reecho the call for the prosecution of perpetrators of war and economic crimes.
He also agitated about the allotment of over US$1.5 million in the budget for First Lady Clar Weah.
Meanwhile, the protest has been peaceful so far but heavy police presence in the city has raised fear of potential violence as well. However, many of the protesters gathered on the grounds of the capitol say they are committed to a peaceful demonstrated.
“Those of us that risk our lives and defy the threat that when we come here there will be violence, we have disproven their perception. We are peaceful people,” said Myer Sayplay of West Point.
“We did not come to ask him to step down, we have come to ask you to reform your government, change the way you are running the state.”
Peter Larman also of West Point says he joined to express his discontent in the President, a man he campaigned and voted for in 2017.
“When you vote, you vote for a change and when the change can’t come you get frustrated,” says Larman.
“I personally voted for George Weah, but today I’m here because I’m dissatisfy… My thought was we can make a change for a hope but now I’m wholly frustrated.”
“The Liberia people voted this man because they saw their self in him,” exclaimed Norris Nepay, who walked along with friends from Logan Town to join the protest against “corruption, injustice and the bad economy.”
“We voted George Weah even though he was the least educated man in the race in terms of education. We knew that this man came from Gibraltar and we said if we vote this man we will have some level of transformation, on the contrary we are seeing this man becoming one of the most tyrannical regimes of our time,” he said.
Mo Ali, Assistant Secretary General for press and public affairs of the former ruling Unity Party, claims that hundreds of people who wanted to join the protest are being blocked by security forces.
Ali says he had to seek the intervention of ECOWAS to engage the police before hundreds of people were allowed to move to the protest ground.
“You see the officers all in the streets; in the morning hours they even started asking people for ID cards. Whoever presents ID cards to go protest,” Ali, who is also a senior member of the Council of Patriots – organizers of the protest – said amid roar of chants from protesters.
Meanwhile, Ali says the protest will continue “as long as the government does not address our grievances”.
“We are not saying government should address everything now but there are things that the president can do with the stroke of his pen,” he said.