Liberia: Dialogue and Resistance: the aftermath of June 7
The June 7 demonstration has now proven to everyone that things are not going well in Liberia.
By Abdoulaye W Dukule, [email protected], Contributing Writer
A small group of people put their energy together and organized the biggest demonstration in the history of Monrovia.
Saying that it was a public relations disaster for the Weah administration would be an understatement. Nobody wants to be in the same category as the last batch of autocratic regimes on the continent. But that is what the administration did by shutting down the internet. In these days and age, nobody tempers with the Internet. That simple action has put the Weah administration among those regimes considered as “undemocratic.” It also reminds Liberians of the Doe and Taylor eras.
President Weah has decided to call for a national round table to solve Liberia’s problems. Does that mean the Pro-Poor Agenda not working?
The Council of Patriots (COP) who organized the June 7 demonstration responded positively to the call of dialogue but demanded the resignation of the Minister of Finance and the Governor of the Central Bank. This is a faux-pas.
There is another faux-pas. In as much as it was able to mobilize thousands and shut down the city for a day, COP does not speak for all Liberians. It’s not up to them to decide under which conditions a national dialogue should take place. This is a much bigger issue that calls for the involvement of all stakeholders.
Rather than ask for the resignation of Tweah and Patray, COP should ask the President to make public his assets and demand that his appointees declare theirs. This is a real issue, which deals with breaking the law, subverting the Constitution. In a way, people who have not declared their assets should not be allowed to stay in government. Focusing on the firing of two persons as a solution to the current economic stagnation and the political confusion is like trying to cure cancer with a bandaid.
A national dialogue must look at structures and systems not at individuals. Tweah and Patray are part of structure. As long as those structures remain, the result would be the same no matter who is appointed. One cannot keep taking the same road and expects to end somewhere else.
Liberians have been blindsided many times in recent history because they fell for messianic figures who end up disappointing every one because there is no such thing in politics as a Messiah.
Back in 1993, after Octopus, some people came to Interim President Amos Sawyer with a plan to “eliminate” Charles Taylor. Dr. Sawyer refused to go along, saying that Liberia’s problems were much bigger than Taylor. He said something to the effect that after the killing of Presidents William R Tolbert and Samuel K Doe, we were still facing and talking about the same issues. He said we must go beyond personal issues to look at what is wrong with what we refer to as Liberia as a nation. But of course, leadership matters, above all.
There are some 20 young people languishing in jail because of their association with Representative Yekeh Koluba. That issue is now taking a life of its own. People are talking about “political prisoners” that include university students. The administration may find lots of laws to indict anyone but arresting people ahead of a demonstration is called witch-hunt. Those young people must be set free.
The President has an obligation to publish his assets and get his appointees to do the same. If he cannot abide by that singular law, there is no reason to trust anything he can promise. There is no pick and choose when it comes to the Constitution. The Code of Conduct was first crafted back in 1992 by Dr. Amos Sawyer when he was interim President but it didn’t pass the legislature until recently under the Sirleaf administration. It’s the first step towards integrity and transparency in public governance. The Code of Conduct is the most important constitutional issue facing the administration. This is the first step of gaining back some confidence.
The President must stop this fixation about Representative Yekeh Kolubah. The more they go after him, the more popular he will gets… because conditions are getting worse and the number of disenchanted grows by the day, as the Liberian dollar keeps climbing.
However, a most important action the President needs to take for his own sake is to fire the person who suggested that they should shut down the internet during the demonstration. That person caused more damage than President Weah can ever begin to imagine. “Creeping dictatorship and corruption” in the international media are not epithets that can be washed away easily.
The effects of June 7. 2019 will be felt for a long time to come. The administration has every reason to ensure that there is no repeat. The next one could lead to unpredictable consequences.
The big question: how sincere…?
And, one can also say that the Petition from COP does reflect everything that is going wrong today in Liberia. The administration could spare the country a lengthy and most likely debate and follow the list of grievances of COP.
But what if the dialogue were meant to save time, a distraction?