Liberia: Political Science Lecturer Warns Weah-led Gov’t of Dangers Attached to Banning Student Political Activities
MONROVIA – Professor Alaric Tokpa, a prominent former student leader has condemned the suspension of student political activities on the campuses of the University of Liberia.
Report by Alaskai Moore Johnson, [email protected]
Responding to request by journalists to comment on the recent ban on student political activities at the university, Prof. Tokpa, who is also former head of the Political Science Department at the University of Liberia, said that the interference of University authorities with the legitimate and constitutional rights of students to associate, speak freely, and take actions in their own interest and the interest of the larger Liberian society, is a trait of dangerous dictatorship.
“Dictatorships atomize society and reduce it to very small units by removing organizations and institutions from between individuals and government. In that way, the government is able to brutalize and destroy individuals without hindrance or any difficulty,” he stated.
According to him, this is exactly what the dictatorship did to the Liberian student community in the 1980s.
He lamented that the same scary scenario is now again showing up under this regime and it is counterproductive.
“And the same thing is what the cheer leaders in the George Weah Government are seeking to do to the student community today. However, that is an old strategy that is usually counterproductive.”
According to the Political Scientist, silencing the student community is a strategy that never works; it only provokes disobedience and chaos in society.
He asserted that no student leadership or community is able to successfully lead negative campaign against a government that is doing the right thing; adding: “The present challenge therefore before the George Weah government is to stop searching for imaginary enemies everywhere and focus on doing the right thing.”
Prof. Tokpa, who in the 1980s when former Samuel K. Doe ruled by military degree had him and others thrown in prison at the famous Belleh Yallah, deep in the Lofa Forest, therefore called on all well-meaning Liberians in and out of government as well as at home and abroad to advise the government to halt the interference with the legitimate and constitutional rights of the student community; as the suppression of legal forms of struggle usually provokes illegal forms of struggle.
He insinuated that when students’ political activities are banned openly, they operate underground; adding: “It is dangerous to create a condition to allow these young people to operate underground. Incidentally, the present Liberian government is not sophisticated enough to deal with underground struggles.”
Serving then as General Secretary of the Liberia National Student Union (LINSU), Prof. Tokpa was one of six student leaders in Liberia that were sentenced to the firing squad in January 1982 for protesting the ban on student political activities by the military dictatorship.
He was also among six other national and University student leaders that were sentenced to maximum prison at Belle Yella (with hard labor) in 1985.
To date, he remains one of the most consistent progressive leaders in Liberia who is highly admired and consulted by youth and student leaders
UL Ban on Student Politic
On Friday, January 11, the University of Liberia’s authority placed a ban on all student political activities on all the campuses of the University.
According to the University’s release, no student political group shall assemble or hold meetings or engage in any political-related activities on any University of Liberia campuses during this period of suspension.
The suspension affects political/solidarity marches, political gatherings, the wearing of symbols and emblems depicting and promoting campus-based political groups, student protests, among others.
The University in a statement said any student who is involved in any activity that disrupts normal university activity shall be expelled.
“Insubordination shall not be tolerated., hostile and disrespectful behavior towards university authorities, government officials, visitors or university personnel and the use of provocative, abusive or other obscene language on campus whether against government officials, university employees, other students or otherwise is prohibited,” a statement from the university noted.
“The penalty for violation shall range from warning, suspension to expulsion as the gravity of the case might warrant.”
Martin Kollie, SUP President
Speaking to FrontPageAfrica, Martin K. N. Kollie, who became the leader of the largest campus-based student political party — Student Unification Party (SUP) recently, said the decision by the UL authority to suspend student politics is not only unjustified and anti-democratic but it also brings back to remembrance Liberia’s dark days when similar things happened.
According to him, the UL authority only issued this ban because he has ascended to the top post within SUP, which automatically qualifies him to become the leader of the nearly 20,000 students on all the campuses of the University of Liberia. He now becomes the head of the University of Liberia Student Union (ULSU).
“Since my ascendency as Standard Bearer of SUP, the government has been unsettled by the fact that I have become the President of over 19,000 students at the level of ULSU,” he stated.
According to him, the UL authority was influenced by element of the government for them to issue a ban.
“This is the entire reason why they are playing chicanery. This is why we had a mass rally on the main campus and the GOL hired tugs and hooligans and unleashed them on us. During the course of the rally, the students themselves pushed them out and later the government brought in heavily armed police officers who were not allowed on campus,” he further stated.
According to him, the UL ban violates the political rights of the over 19,000 students on the campuses of the University. He used the occasion to call on the international community. “I hope they are following. This is one of the early signs of dictatorship. This could lead to a national crisis. The students are resolved as to who becomes their leader.”