Liberia: #BringBackOurMoney Protesters to Receive “Full Protection” from Police
Monrovia – The #BringBackOurMoney protesters have been given the nod by the government of Liberia to assemble Monday, September 24, and carry out their peaceful march.
Report by Alaskai Moore Johnson, [email protected]
The go-ahead for the protest action was finally allowed Sunday, September 23, when officials of the government, including Justice Minister Frank Musah Dean, Police Inspector General Patrick Sudue and others, met with the main protest instigators — Martin K. N. Kollie, Concerned Citizens United to Bring Our Money Back (COCUBOMB), Emmanuel Gonquoi, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and Jeremiah Swen, Alliance for Transitional Justice in Liberia along with their lawyer Cllr. Tiawon Gongloe — at a local hotel in Monrovia.
Justice Minister Dean: “We are glad for this meeting. You can go ahead and conduct a peaceful build up. Remaining matters that are not clarified here with respect to the routes: commencement time, termination time, commencement and termination point can still be finalized and resolved with the Inspector General of Police. So, we thank you very much for your corporation. We can work together and as time goes by to exhibit maturity and commitment to peace as is expected of all of us Liberians.”
In spite of this green light, Mr. Kollie raised one concern about a counter-protest allegedly being organized by the youth wing of the ruling Coalition of Democratic Change (CDC).
Martin Kollie: “Honorable Att’y General [Justice Min. Dean], some of our members noticed yesterday that CDC Youth Wing under [Monrovia City Mayor] Jefferson Koijee, is organizing a counter-protest,” at this point he was interrupted by officials of the government, who assured him that there won’t be any counter-protest from the CDC Youth Wing or from Jefferson Koijee.
He and others were also reassured by the UN officials being led by Mr. Yacoub El Hillo, Head of UN in Liberia. “I had a meeting with the Mayor late on Friday, he confirmed that nothing of sort will happen,” Mr. Hillo informed. However, Martin interjected that the CDC Youth Wing had posted on Facebook that indeed they are going to counter protest but the UN Liberia chief insisted: “Facebook is full of stuffs; it is not the official.”
Cllr. Gongloe than advised his clients to forget about what happening on Facebook and hold on to the commitment from the officials from government and the UN.
However, Police IG Sudue warned Martin and others about not going against the law.
“There is rule of law in this country and when you bridge the law, you will be penalized according to the law. Now, you guys are conglomerating for this demonstration or peaceful march on Monday but equally so if you are with any of these groups doesn’t mean that when you go against the law you won’t be arrested,” IG Sudue emphasized, before discussing another arrest that had been the night before. This arrest had been misconstrued by some in the public that the police was arresting would-be protesters.
But the IG stressed that the protest leaders are under obligation to “control and maintain those people that you are putting out there because anything short of that will fall on the leadership.
“This is the main reason why we called you and to sit and plan this march together so when you notice any intruder or anybody who tries to deviate from your goals you immediately notify the police, we will take that person from the group.”
He urged the protesters to respect the police and reassured them that the police would be there to provide guidance.
Routes for the Marchers and To Whom They Will Present their Petition
Mr. Abraham Darius Dillon, Liberty Party’s Vice Chairman for Political Affairs, while disclosing that government has agreed to provide full protection for the #BringBackOurMoney protesters, he stated that they will today present their petition to some members of the international community, including the United States Government, through its Embassy near Monrovia, the European Union Compound near Monrovia and the United Nations Headquarters on First Street, Sinkor.
On his usual “Let’s Chat” on his live Facebook feed Sunday, September 23, Mr. Dillon, who is probably the leading critic of the George Weah-led administration, among the opposition political parties, further disclosed that the three political parties at the discussion with UN and government representatives, included him (Liberty Party), Mr. Mohammed Ali (Unity Party) and Mr. L. Orishall Gould (Alternative National Congress), agreed that protesters coming from Bushrod Island and Somalia Drive will assemble at the Centennial Pavilion on Broad Street and march toward the US Embassy. Peaceful marchers heading from Sinkor and further beyond will assemble at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium (ATS) and move toward the US Embassy while protesters with Central Monrovia will gather at the Ducor Palace Hotel and head for the embassy, also.
According to Mr. Dillon, from the US Embassy, they will head to the EU Headquarters on UN Drive and present another petition before coming back through Benson and Robert Streets and to get on Broad Street by BW Harris school and head for the UN Headquarters, where they are expected to present separate petitions to the representatives of the UN, the Africa Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
During the meeting, the Police had ordered that the protesters take Jallah Town route when they get on the Capitol Bye-pass but Martin and his colleagues insisted that that won’t be a preferred route and they wanted to stay on the main street and head straight to the UN Hqs. Landmark infrastructures along the road prefer by the protesters include Liberian National Police Hqs, some major subordinate courts of the Supreme Court of Liberia, the Capitol Building, the main campus of the University of Liberia, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which contains the Offices of the President of Liberia.
Why the Protest Action
COCUBOMB maintains that their ultimate and collective goal as a pro-democracy and pro-advocacy citizen action movement is to demand the full restitution of L$16 billion (US$106.6 million) that has allegedly disappeared under the CDC-led government of President George M. Weah on March 31, 2018.
“It can be recalled about few days ago that the Liberian media (specifically Journalist Philibert Brown of the Hot Pepper newspaper and Journalist Rodney Sieh of FrontPageAfrica newspaper) revealed to the country and the world that billions of public money was missing by a group of economic vampires, pseudo-patriots and micro-nationalists. The government of Liberia later confirmed this shocking revelation.
“God first, it is because of the independent media that we know about this mass looting and economic sabotage under President Weah and his government. Our L$16 billion banknotes must be brought back. We appreciate the Liberian media and encourage members of this noble profession to continuously demonstrate dedication, patriotism and loyalty to the nation in the discharge of their reportorial duties.”
COCUBOMB in a release described the alleged disappearance of the money as “horrific mystery and a national tragedy that is too difficult to be explained and justified by functionaries of this government.”
They consider pieces of information released so far from the Ministries of Justice and Information as “fairy tales.”
“The national treasury of our nation is profusely bleeding and all those linked to this gross wickedness against the collective destiny of the ordinary people must be brought to book without delay. Let it be noted that the disappearance of this L$16 billion has far-reaching economic and security implications. The people are becoming impatient and weary about hearing spider-stories. Those who unremorsefully plundered and leeched on our resources must account and account now. The perpetrators will not go with impunity because such devilish action is no different from selling the entire country. Liberians must not be surprised that one morning they wake-up up and this country is sold.”
President Weah’s Address to Nation on “Missing” Billions
President Weah addressing the nation on Friday night, asked all citizens to be patient and those involved in the investigation to be corporative.
The Liberian Leader confirmed that an ongoing investigation is underway into this alleged missing money that was brought in by the Central Bank of Liberia.
The President again used the occasion to call on his fellow citizens to keep the peace which, together they have maintained for the last 15 years.
“I asked all citizens to be patient and those involved in the investigation to be corporative. I am confident that in the end, we will come to a logical conclusion into the circumstances surrounding this money and if anyone is caught in any financial malfeasance they will be held accountable to the full extent,” President Weah assured.