Monrovia Under Siege: Paranoia, Pandemonium Grips Liberia’s Capital on Eve June 7 Protest
Monrovia – Monrovia, the Liberian capital woke up Wednesday morning to reports that the home of Representative Yekeh Korlubah (Independent, District No. 10), the fiery, controversial and key critic of President George Manneh Weah was under siege by armed security personnel.
Rodney D. Sieh, [email protected]
“It is alleged that the President, Ministers of State and Justice are fully knowledgeable of this development.”Attorney Samuel Kofi Woods, Veteran Human Rights Activist.
His peer in the national legislature Rep. Edwin Melvin Snowe, a Liberia Representative to the ECOWAS parliament and the ECOWAS Ambassador Mr. Babatunde Asijomo were forced to arrive on the scene to escort the lawmaker to the headquarters of the Liberia National Police where authorities expressed interest in questioning him about an incident that took place two days ago during which the lawmaker was attacked by rowdy supporters, allegedly from the government as he left the SkyFM radio station where he had just appeared on the 50-50 Talk Show hosted by T. Max Jlateh.
In the run-up to Friday, June 7 protest, the Liberian capital is in a state of paranoia from a government unsure about what to expect and pandemonium and fear from a people fearing that authorities are creating an artificial state of emergency to deter them from showing up on Friday.
“This is the doomsday scenario that this government wants, we must not play into their hands. They want to create a scenario where people will get confused again and they will not come out for this protest,” said the opposition leader.Mr. Benoni Wlfred Urey, Chairman, Opposition UP, LP, ALP, ANC Alliance
On the campus of the University of Liberia, the nation’s highest institution of learning, police officers have besieged the student community where supporters of Carlos T. Edison, Chairman of the Student Unification Party (SUP) is said to have been arrested.
Police sprayed teargas in a bit to deter protesting students who set up road blocks against news about the arrest of the their chairman.
The standoff comes just a day after the government placed a ban on student campus politics, a move seen by students as an attempt to weaken their resolve ahead of the June 7 protest.
Urey Laments ‘Dooms Day’ Scenario
The state of fear, whether artificial or real has the city on edge.
Mr. Benoni Urey, head of the alliance of opposition party, appearing on the Henry Costa morning show Wednesday morning, said that those planning to protest Friday should not fall into what he described as a game the government is playing to keep protesters away. “This is the doomsday scenario that this government wants, we must not play into their hands. They want to create a scenario where people will get confused again and they will not come out for this protest,” said the opposition leader.
Mr. Urey explained that he learned of the siege of the lawmaker’s home on his way to the studio. “On my way here this morning I received a call from Honorable Yekeh Korlubah, informing me as chairman of the collaborating political parties that his house has come under siege by the National Police of Liberia and a few after that I told honorable Yekeh to remain calm.”
Attorney Samuel Kofi Woods, who escorted the lawmaker to the LNP headquarters, along with a team of lawyers, following the standoff at his home explained to FrontPageAfrica that although Rep. Korlubah wrote a statement, the police authorities insisted that he appeared in person.
Attorney Woods explained that around 7:30 am the lawmaker was taken to the LNP headquarters upon the intervention of the ECOWAS Ambassador, Mr. Babatunde Asijomo and Rep. Snowe.
“This happened after an early morning police siege on Yekeh’s Residence,” Attorney Woods explained.
Attorney Woods said while at the station, the lawmaker was asked to write a statement of his activities during the early hours of Wednesday morning. “The Police Inspector General alleges that someone was found unconscious in the compound of Hon. Yekeh and the person alleges that Hon. Yekeh ordered his flogging to being unconscious. Yekeh denies and asserts that it is a smoke screen to have him denied and undermine the June 7 protest.”
Attorney Woods continued: “Yekeh wrote a statement but the Police insisted on an oral interrogation to which his lawyers objected. The lawyers (Cllr. Laveli Supuwood, Cllr. Bryan Howard and Attorney Samuel Kofi Woods, II were present and challenged the Police indicating that their client will not engage in any act of self-incrimination and therefore will exercise his rights to remain silent.”
Woods Hint at Government Paranoia
Attorney Woods explained that the police is consulting to determine the next course of action. “It is alleged that the President, Ministers of State and Justice are fully knowledgeable of this development,” the veteran human rights activist said Wednesday.
Attorney Woods says the arrest of the lawmaker comes just a few days after riots on Broad Street left some Liberians wounded and several unexplained deaths have occurred without investigation.
Attorney Woods also decried the recent election-related violence in District 13. “Rep. Korlubah was attacked in his district 10 without any investigation and several other developments….the question is Can a sitting Law Maker be arrested and/or detained under the circumstances? What does this mean for respect for the rule of law of law in Liberia? Is the Government in panic /paranoia of June 7 planned protest? News abound that civil servants are being paid and the Police has received a bag a price and 10,000 LD each.”
For Urey, a lot of mixed feelings are in the air. “We have mixed feelings. As one who’s been in the been in the vanguard of this struggle to change our country, as ECOWAS and others – I can remember for 1990 until today, we’ve been in such a prominent peace in this glorious land Liberia. We have been in jail, for our country, our parents were jailed for this country, our relatives jailed and beaten for this country, killed for this country and we are not happy to see our country going down the way it is.”
Urey: Weah Ordered Siege at Yekeh’s Home
Mr. Urey says he was happy to see Liberians gather at the lawmaker’s home Wednesday morning to show support as he appealed to those who did not vote for a Weah presidency to turn out on Friday. “Look, I’m happy that people have gathered at Yekeh’s residence and I want to use this opportunity to call on the 68 percent of our population that voted against George Weah to remain calm, remain collective patriotic. Do not create an alarming situation because this is exactly what the government wants.”
The opposition leader added: “We must not play the game according to their wishes, there’s no way anybody in this world can convince me that George Weah did not order those troops to Yekeh’s house. You know, we must be careful as a people. We must be careful because this country Liberia is all we have, we must protect it, we must guide it, we must love it. It’s the love that is missing. When you have people ordering police ordering armed me to go to the home of a member of the national legislative branch of government, barricading it and wanting to arrest him without an arrest warrant, this is what we are concerned about, the blatant violation of the constitution, rule of law and the heavy-handedness of this government against the people. But we want to use this opportunity to appeal to all of the 68 percent of those who did not vote for Mr. Weah in the first round of the elections.”
In the last 72 hours, street riots and now a chaotic scene around the seat of the national government appears to be presenting prelude to Friday’s protest.
Attorney Woods told FPA a short while ago that the government is in clear violation of Article 42 of the constitution which states that “No member of the Senate or House of Representatives shall be arrested, detained, prosecuted or tried as a result of opinions expressed or votes cast in the exercise of the functions of his office. Members shall be privileged from arrest while attending, going to or returning from sessions of the Legislature, except for treason, felony or breach of the peace. All official acts done or performed and all statement made in the Chambers of the Legislature shall be privileged, and no Legislator shall be held accountable or punished therefor.”
Govt. Denies Persona Non Grata for UN Diplomat
The events of Wednesday is being compounded by reports that the government is contemplating declaring Mr. Yacoub El Hillo of Sudan, Resident Coordinator of the United Nations Persona Non Grata, regarded as the most serious form of censure which a country can apply to foreign diplomats, who are otherwise protected by diplomatic immunity from arrest and other normal kinds of prosecution.
When contacted Wednesday, Foreign Minister Mr. Gbezohnga Findley says there is no truth to reports that the government is planning to declare Mr. Yacoub Persona Non Grata over fears that he is inciting the Council of Patriots to overrun the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the seat of the Liberian Presidency during Friday, June 7, Save the State Protest.
Responding to a FrontPageAfrica inquiry Wednesday, Minister Findley said he does not take instructions from Minister of State Nathaniel McGill as some are being led to believe. “The fact of the matter is this – I have spoken to all of the ambassadors in Liberia because we are engaged with the diplomatic community on this pending June 7 protest – so we are engaging all of them. So there is no truth to this, we are not planning to declare Mr. Yacoub Persona Non Grata.”
The Weah administration has adopted a lukewarm posture to the UN diplomat since his comments during a Unification Day meeting between President Weah and members of the Coalition of Patriots, organizers of the protest Friday.
During that meeting, the UN Resident Coordinator told the
gathering that the tete-a-tete between President Weah and members of COP should
send a clear message to the world that Liberians are using the force of logic
to solve our differences and not the logic of force, “because when that was
last tried in Liberia, we all know what happened here.”
48 Hours to D-Day
Said Mr. El Hillo: “We know today that under the leadership of President Weah, any Liberian and all Liberians want to fight for peace and not fight any other war, except perhaps the war of development and prosperity. So it is in this context we commend the spirit with which this event was organized, for the importance you attach to it by the presence of the entire leadership of the Government of Liberia, H.E. the President, H.E. Vice President, the leadership of the legislature and the cabinet, and that is again another reminder that peace is paramount, that peace is a priority.”
Mr. El Hillo, however, expressed confidence that June 7 would be peaceful. “We engaged the leadership of the Council of Patriots, we say June 7 is a good thing; June 7 is actually a demonstration that government of Liberia which of course understands that there is an enshrined right in the Constitution for peaceful protest, that’s why June 7 should actually be supported and June 7 should be allowed to take course and June 7 should be given to the people of Liberia to actually petition their government in a peaceful, orderly and organized way that is conducted in close coordination with the appropriate authorities in the country. I say this out of confidence that June 7 is going to be peaceful because the leadership of the Ministry of Justice, my brother Minister Dean, we have had several sittings in the last several months.”
With barely 48 hours to protest day, Liberians both at home and abroad are on edge. Political observers say the doomsday scenario lamented by Mr. Urey could prove to be pivotal for the survival of the Weah-led government. With the clock ticking and the government racing against time, Liberia’s international partners are also looking to see how things play out in the coming days. Whichever way it turns out, diplomatic observers fear that the aura of paranoia, fear and pandemonium signals a bad omen for Liberia’s immediate political future, coming against the backdrop of a brutal civil war, a deadly Ebola virus outbreak and an economy in decline, the cloud of uncertainty has many hoping for a peaceful outcome to Friday with memories of April 14, 1979 serving as a chilling reminder and putting a new generation on notice.