By Tina S. Mehnpaine – Monrovia, Liberia, Sunday, December 8, 2019.
Just when it appeared George Manneh Oppong Weah, former professional footballer and currently 25th President of Liberia has invoked some of his football tactics to foil a December 30 protest to demand he steps down, another unpleasant event unfolded.
President George Weah asked lawmakers to cut short their annual break to report at the Capitol Building (where lawmakers hold sessions) to respond to urgent matters of state, including approval for the printing of new banknotes. At least, L$30 Billion instead of L$35 billion that was recommended by the President has been printed, National Telegraph has gathered.
The Montserrado County Student Union Press Conference in Northwestern Liberia also came in to condemn the protest. Its President, Ibrahim M. Baldee termed the protest as unconstitutional, adding it has the power to disturb the peace and security of the West African country while speaking at a news conference, Wednesday, December 4, 2019, at the Barnes Foundation School in Lakpazee, Sinkor in Monrovia metropolitan area.
Justice Minister, Frank Musa Dean in a letter, Monday, December 2, 2019, stated the step-down campaign is not in accordance with the Constitution of Liberia, saying Weah can only be removed from office by impeachment as provided under Article 62.
The printing of the banknotes was meant to pay salaries, increase circulation and at least calm irate Liberians for the time being. George Weah would have also exploited the division in the Council of Patriots (Main organizer of the protest) to help slacken the pressure. All was going well not until Joseph Boakai appeared at the 11th hour.
The political leader of the Unity Party (UP) Joseph Boakai, finally made a statement to support the planned December 30 Weah Step-down protest. Boakai is a strong member of the Council of Patriots. There were some cracks in the Council of Patriots with some few members not supporting the planned December 30, protest. But Boakai’s public declaration in support of the protest puts President Weah in a tight corner. Below is Boakai’s full statement;
“Fellow Liberians and friends of Liberia At home and abroad.
I have observed that recent events in our country seem to be taking on their own momentum. Liberia appears to have become a rudderless ship adrift on a turbulent sea hurtling towards disaster.
Civil Servants, teachers, and other professional groups are demanding salaries arrears or they would initiate go-slow action. Groups of people under the banner of the Council of Patriots (COP) have called for a step-down campaign beginning December 30th, 2019.
The Liberian people and the people at Large continue to demand full accountability and action regarding the missing L$16 Billion and 25 million US$ allocated for mopping up excess liquidity. Economic hardship continues to impact lives throughout the country. The banks are failing their obligations to depositors.
Families are sleeping hungry while students are being sent out of school for non-payment of tuition and fees, overall school enrollment has drastically declined compared to previous years while hospitals and Health Care facilities are struggling to attend to the sick due to lack of basic equipment and supplies. Businesses are closing inflation is running high while unemployment defies gravity.
In the face of this mounting crisis, the people and our partners look up to the President for assurance. But the President has failed to address his people and has instead deferred to surrogates who have resorted to inflammatory language to find scapegoats and to add fuel to the fire.
The government has requested the printing of additional money in the face of structural deficiencies and the government has not given conceiving reasons nor has it put in place adequate guarantees for accountability.
We are all sitting on a tinderbox. It is against the foregoing that I urge all sides to exercise restraint and to work within the confines of the Constitution. As regards the December 30th protest, it’s important that aggrieved groups of citizens exercise their Constitutional right to assembly and freedom of expression.
The government must perform its obligations to provide security and protection on the go-slow by civil servants. The government must meet up with its obligations. These Patriotic citizens have played their part. They deserve the dignity of their labour and the right to provide for their families.
We must not overturn the apple cart. Liberians have demonstrated that they are able to conduct a peaceful protest, equally, the government has proven its ability to provide security and protection for all.
Let each and every Liberian play his or her part to preserve this sacred heritage of ours. The Republic of Liberia is bigger than any individual let us work together.”