LIBERIA: LOSSES AND GAINS OF JUNE 7 MASS PROTEST
In my opinion, we didn’t lose or miss out on any opportunity on June 7 as being perceived in some quarters. The PEOPLE were heard so loudly through slogans, songs, battle-cries, leaflets, banners, posters and random interviews. What more does any honest or serious government need to hear in order to promptly act? Paper petition from COP which you have already tagged ‘unrealistic’ and ‘trashy’?
The REAL PETITION came directly from our PEOPLE. They were pragmatic, bold, honest and fearless on June 7. Above all odds, they alarmed with one voice and a collective purpose in pursuit of a NEW LIBERIA. What more do you need to hear from them? Lest we forgot that THE REAL POWER is with THE PEOPLE. COP was just a channel or vessel. “Vox Populi, Vox Dei” meaning “The voice of the people is the voice of God.”
Our Achievement (COP):
Peaceful Protest (Not even a single incident of violence was recorded)
Massive turn-out (Thousands came out to send a clarion message of dissent and displeasure)
The POWER of THE PEOPLE was shown and unchallenged (Article 1 was reaffirmed)
April 14, 1979 violent nightmare was finally laid to rest. The government and pessimists were proven WRONG
Protesters and Police Officers had a cordial relationship. Protesters even shielded police officers
No Law was broken (Protesters were law-abiding, responsible and civil)
All agreed protocols with GoL and International Partners were fully followed and adhered to
The yearning to end corruption, increasing hardship and creeping dictatorship was resounding and aloud
The World got to know how dissatisfied/displeased Liberians were through local and international media
There was unity in diversity – a strong affirmation of religious, democratic and ethnic tolerance was ignited and cemented
The demonstration of firm patriotism, solidarity and resilience coupled with a good weather
June 7 was like a ‘de facto’ holiday (businesses, schools and normal activities were closed in all major cities across Liberia in solidarity with protesters). Liberians including workers, students, teachers, nurses, drivers, marketers, farmers and peasants who remained home were also protesting in solidarity with those who came out.
History was on our side and posterity will positively judge all peaceful protesters for taking such a patriotic action on June 7 for a better Liberia.
Their Achievement (GOL):
The shutting down of internet especially social media sites on June 7 (a contradiction of the 2010 FOI Act and a crackdown on free speech – Article 15 of the 1986 Constitution)
The arbitrary arrest and subsequent incarceration of political prisoners including student leaders. For 7 days far beyond statutory period, our comrades were imprisoned. Insurance companies were threatened by government not to issue us bond (This is visible repression).
Numerous attempts by State Security to frighten and intimidate peaceful protesters on and before June 7
The breach of or noncompliance to agreed protocol for Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor to receive our Petition (It was a total disrespect or an affront to THE PEOPLE for GOL to have sent political appointees who work at the will and pleasure of the President to receive our petition). Did our people elect ‘political appointees’?
Intentionally preventing or blocking protesters from accessing protest routes by instituting stern security measures (National ID card check, removing tinted windshield, etc.)
The Loss of US$109,913 (L$17,781,180) for shutting down social media sites and US$650,000 on security just for June 7 (Source: Netblocks and DO)
Exposure of huge gap in our already weak security sector (low manpower and limited logistics)
Abrupt daylight drill in central Monrovia and night patrol by heavily armed security officers in populous communities to create fear and panic ahead of June 7 protest. Some of those “officers” dressed like terrorists which even threatened free movement and peace.
The illegal seizure of passports of some members of COP before and after June 7 Protest (The passports of Abraham Darius Dillon and Martin K. N. Kollie were ceased)
A huge number of civil servants didn’t come to work even though they were ordered by President Weah not to abandon their duties on June 7. Monrovia was like a ghost city on June 7
The unjustifiable ban of student political activities at the State-run University of Liberia after a well-planned disruption of normal academic activities by hired thugs and regime stooges ahead of June 7
Plan to infuse thugs and ex-Rebel generals among protesters failed mostly due to the huge turnout of peaceful protesters
The popularity of Weah and his government was challenged, and has certainly diminished as a result of greed and bad governance (The headlines of international media like CNN, BBC, FOX, VOA, etc. even made matters worse)
A disillusioned “popular” president was afraid to go and receive a petition from his own people who overwhelmingly elected him. Something may have gone wrong after 18 months. The Real Fact: The economy is bad while corruption and creeping dictatorship remain prevalent.
This was never THE CHANGE Mr. Weah promised. So, we The People, didn’t miss out on any opportunity. Do not be deceived or made to believe so. They, The Government, miss out on a lot. Hope they can learn from this big loss and begin to rethink by engendering concrete remedies in the best interest of our people.
The mass looting and extreme hardship are enough. Leadership is about service and not self-enrichment. There are too many lessons for this regime to learn from June 7. The June 7 Protest has given the Weah-led administration another chance to sincerely repent and shift gear without any further delay.
Anything less than this, the next protest would be a tsunami and history may not just be as kind as it was on June 7 to the Weah-led government.
Martin K. N. Kollie
Youth and Student Activist