Liberia: Fragile West Africa Concerned about Pending Mass Protest in Liberia
MONROVIA – Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas, United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa, has expressed concerns over the capacity of the security apparatus in Liberia to contain the June 7 protest, if it should last for more than a day.
Report by Lennart Dodoo, [email protected]
“I have mentioned that state capacity is a genuine issue here; Liberia is only rebuilding its security forces after the civil war in the past 12-13 years, that’s a very short time. So, any protest of a long duration will task the effort of the security forces and they may not have the means to effectively police and ensure the safety of protestors for a long duration. It’s just a logistical issue. Nothing to do with whether they want to do it or not,” he said.
Dr. Chambas made the statement in an exclusive interview with FrontPageAfrica at the Roberts International Airport shortly before leaving Liberia on Saturday.
The UN Envoy was in Liberia over the weekend to compliment the efforts of the UN, ECOWAS and the AU in mediating between the Government of Liberia and the Council of Patriots, organizer of the planned mass demonstration slated for June 7.
Dr. Chambas told FrontPageAfrica that the international community’s interest is not to ask for the protest to be called off, noting that it is the constitutional right of protestors, but such protest, he said, must be done in a civil and peaceful manner.
He said in a sub-region like West Africa where issues of peace and security is of concern, “when there is this kind of situation where there seems to be a standoff, it is of concern to all of us.”
He added: “We have to take into consideration that some elements with a different agenda could try to infiltrate the peaceful demonstration and we have to be sensitive to that. I am even talking about elements necessarily from Liberia, but we live in a region – West Africa – where we have concerns for terrorism and other internationally organized crime so, I think those should not be minimized.”
Dr. Chambas expressed optimism that the protestors would come out on June 7, express their discontent and present their petition to the government in a very peaceful manner. This, he said, is the most acceptable way of conducting protest.
He acknowledged that Liberia is on a path of democratic consolidation, noting that the international community is pleased with the progress being made in the country in ensuring peace and security in the country. “All our countries have challenges and Liberians should use the opportunities for dialogue and discuss issues and agree on common approaches how they’ll pull hands together and hang heads to build a peaceful and prosperous country for all Liberians
Dr. Chambas, however, said he is satisfied with the discussions held President George Weah, the Council of Patriots and other stakeholders relating the planned demonstration.
According to him, President Weah offered to work closely with representatives of international and regional bodies here to ensure that to be open in discussion with the protestors and to be attentive to their grievances and to seek ways in which government in continuing dialogue with all Liberian stakeholders can address some of the challenges in the country.
He said, he also had fruitful discussions with leaders of opposition political parties and the Council of Patriots. “I think we were able to understand each other. They want to continue with their protest which is their constitutional right and nobody is seeking to deny them that. At the same time, they also understood that the capacity of Liberian state is quite limited and so if a protest is of a certain scale, it can pose for the management of it to ensure that everything is done in a peaceful manner,” he said.