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CoP Protests Undermine Liberia’s Peace And Commerce

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 The usual talk of the day across Liberia is that the Liberian nation has suffered a lot of setbacks over the past decades as a result of long years of civil war, to the extent that it will be a great risk to the socio-economic growth of the country to continue with the attitude of staging protests.

It can be recalled that in less than a year the Council of Patriots(COP), a group headed by the Chief Executive  Officer and Talk-Show host of Roots FM, Mr. Henry P.Costa, with messrs: Mohammed  Ali, and Montserrado County District #10 Representative Yekeh Kolubah as well as Montsrrado County Senator Abraham Darius Dillion, as top members have organized 2 successive peace protests that had held the nation hostage in doing normal business activities.

There are many Liberians who feel that such protests are doing more harm to the social-economic growth and development of this country to this country than the good hoped for.

According to a cross-section of Liberians interviewed by the FANFARINA newspaper in a recent opinion poll, over  70 percent of Liberians view that the COP-led protests are holding the country the  as hostage and paralyzing their capacity to take advantage of the  fragile   peace and stability prevailing in the country to build up their lives after 14 years of a devastating civil war that resulted into the loss of thousands of lives and infrastructural damages across Liberia. They think it is time to enjoy peace and continue to respect the terms of the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended  Liberia’s  14 years old  deadly civil war.

In the words of Tamba Kollie a  Teacher  from Voinjama in Lofa County, ‘Liberians who are advocating for President Weah step down, especially  COP Officials and their supporters are making a sad mistake,’ as the best way forward  in removing President George Weah  from office is the constitutional means which includes the ballot box at the end of his 6 years manadate as voting to  change leaders represents which the voice of the people.

The other respondent interviewed by this  paper  suggested that COP protest organizers must realize that the protest that was held on June 7,2019 removed the masks from their faces,   as being an irresponsible rather than a responsible group. This is because even though the two protests went on peacefully and guided  by state security apparatus as planned, the protesters failed to present their petition letters  to government officials that were present to receive them including foreign Minister  Milton Gbezohngah Findley.

At the time while on Capitol Hill to present their grievances the protesters argued among themselves on whether  to include in the petition letters the thorny issue of the reopening Henry Costa’s ROOTS FM Radio station and pleading for the release of detained supporters of Rep. Yekeh Kolubah who were detained by Police after a raid on the residence of the district #10 Montserrado county lawmaker which are both different from the sticky issues of the high cost of living and high exchange rate and others in the country.

 What many people cannot understand  is that the COP leadership appear to have clear intentions regarding the need to exercise Article 17 of the 1986 Liberian constitution, which gives  the Rights to citizens to stage protests.  But they must equally by cognizant   that  article 19 of the same constitution,  is stressing that protest organizers must ensure that their protest marches are peaceful and do not infringe on the rights of others, for example the rights of people to go about their normal businesses such as going to work and do trading in a peaceful atmosphere .

It is indeed worth noting that protesters are meant to display their grievances on placards or to present their grievances to the appropriate authorities for redress in peaceful and orderly manners on protest days. The fears often expressed however by a cross-section of citizens is that history of protests across the worlds in general such as the 1979 rice riot that took place in Liberia shows that they often degenerate into violence,                             looting and bloody  confrontations with security forces. Such confrontations very often result into the loss of lives and injuries although such protest may start peacefully.

In Liberia on June 7, 3019, due to the intervention of the international community, especially the US Embassy, ECOWAS, African Union and the European Union and after series of dialogues with government, the COP leadership and other stakeholders, the protest went on peacefully;  and so was the January 6,2020 protest which came at a time that the enthusiasm and tension for protests had calmed down.

The reticence of many Liberians during this recent June 6th, 2020 protests, shows that many Liberians are no longer interested in the use of protests as a strategy to solve political problems. The recourse to protests is not only a fiasco, but a remedy that is detrimental to commerce in general, as well as to peace and national development.

Madam Bendu Flomo, a marketer, who sells sandals at the waterside market to sustain her family that includes her 6 children  told this paper that  each time  there is a protest in Monrovia her entire  family  will not have food for the day; as it is the profit from their daily sales that they  use to buy food with to feed themselves every day.  She added that another thing that they can get worried about is that each time there is a protest the exchange rate between the Liberian and the US dollar to money changers can also jump up, leading to  drastic increases in the prices of commodities on the local market and the cost of living as well. 

Mr. Mawolo  Singbe a  tax collector  at the Liberia Revenue Authority views that the protests are making COP very unpopular instead of increasing their popularity as they had wished,  as every time there is a protest there will be no revenue  collection  because no business operates on protest days day and so no payment of taxes while the people find it difficult to find a living for the day.

The question then that many people are asking is, why should the COP who claim to be patriotic, should continue to stage street protests to call for President George Manneh Weah to step down knowing full well that the President was democratically elected and within his 2 years stewardship of the nation there continues to be a rapid development transformation across the entire country.

Indeed such protests are becoming counter-productive to national development and the environment for people to do business and folr investors to come and invest in the country that may lead to job creation. Protests are leading to no fruitful results or benefits to the nation and the people of Liberia?

Surely it is time for organizers to change the paradigm as street protest campaigns are only creating an atmosphere of hate and insecurity for COP members and providing the excuses for government to land their members in jails, or waste their times in months of court battles and complicated police cases. 

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