Condemnations: GOL, CSOs, Political Parties Speak In Uniformity

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The spectrum of the Liberian society was filled with condemnations and calls for immediate investigations into the brutal handling of protesting students of the University of Liberia’s Student Unification Party (SUP) on July 26, 2022.

   In separate calls, the Government of Liberia (GOL), Civil Society Council of Liberia, Center for Media Studies and Peacebuilding (CEMESP), the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) and opposition Unity Party (UP), Alternative National Congress (ANC) and National Democratic Coalition (NDC) condemned the violence meted against the students and called for immediate investigation.

    The Government of Liberia (GOL), through the Ministry of Justice, has categorically condemned the street violence that happened in Monrovia on Tuesday, July 26, 2022, involving two rival groups purporting to be some students of the University of Liberia campus-based Students Unification Party (SUP) and the CDC-COP.

Minister of Justice, Cllr. Frank Musah Dean

   The Ministry has accordingly directed the Inspector General of Police to launch an immediate and full-scale investigation into the incident.

   Images of the violence being posted on social media show unwarranted use of force and maltreatment of some participating youths, “which has no place in our new found democracy”.

   The Attorney General, Cllr. Frank Musah Dean Jr., has accordingly called on the police to ensure that perpetrators are brought to book in keeping with the laws of Liberia.

   The government made it clear that, while it encourages all citizens to express their views on national issues, their methods must be in conformity with law.

   “Articles 13 and 15 of the Liberian Constitution guarantee such rights. The named Constitutional provisions however clearly express the safeguarding of public order, public safety as well as rights and freedom of others,” a Ministry of Information press release stated.

   “The Ministry of Justice also wants to make it clear that it did not receive a request from any group to march in the streets of Monrovia on Tuesday, July 26, whether in protest for or against the Liberian government.

   “A formal request for any such action is a cardinal requirement by law, which can be conveyed through a written petition to the Ministry of Justice for a permit.

   “The Liberia National Police Act of 2015, Section III Article 22.86, which also deals with public order, mandates any persons wanting to hold such a march or protest to contact the Minister of Justice in keeping with the law.

   “Had such a request come to the Ministry of Justice, the government would have acted to ensure public safety and order by scheduling the rival groups at different times.

   “The government is encouraging all individuals who witnessed the Tuesday, July 26 violence to assist the police with its investigation. They can be assured that their identities will be protected and information held confidentially.”

   Also, The National Civil Society Council of Liberia (NCSCL) has condemned, in the strongest term, ill-treatment meted against protesting students of the Students Unification Party (SUP) by a group loyal to the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) under the banner of CDC Council of Patriots (CDC-COP).

   It can be recalled that several members of SUP, who were about to stage a “peaceful” protest, sustained serious and minor bodily injuries, with several others humiliated.

   According to report, the SUP group gathered Tuesday Morning, July 26, 2022 before the US embassy near Monrovia to embark on a “peaceful” parade to the Centennial Memorial Pavilion, where the indoor program of Liberia’s 175th Independence Day was taking place. The group was due present a position statement to government authorities and foreign partners on what it terms as growing corruption and other negative vices in the public sector.

   Surprisingly, while the students were setting up for the “Fix the Country” campaign, which aimed to denounce all forms of bad governance, including corruption, poverty, insecurity and the dire state of infrastructure, the CDC-COP loyal to the ruling establishment reportedly infiltrated the student group, thus wounding several.

   Video footage on social media shows a member of the student group, Christopher “Walter Sisulu” Sivili, was stripped naked and dragged mercilessly. 

    Accordingly, NCSCL in a statement following the bloody riot described the action of the CDC-COP as a looming threat to the current peace and stability the country enjoys.

   “The Council sees the action of the CDC-COP as a looming threat to the current peace and stability the country currently enjoys, which came as a result of huge sacrifices made by Liberians and the international community, who spent billions of dollars of their taxpayers’ money in bringing peace,” said the statement issued under the signature of the Chairperson of the Council, Loretta Alethea Pope Kai.

   The Council the action of the CDC-COP contravenes Articles 15 and 17 of the Liberian Constitution, which call for the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly through responsible manner and, as such, the government must take the courage to investigate.
   “The Council therefore calls on the Government of Liberia (GoL), through the Liberia National Police (LNP), to launch an investigation and bring those human rights violators to justice. The Council, being a voice of the voiceless and hope of the hopeless, will not sit on the fence to allow the country to be ruined. Liberians cannot afford seeing their country plunged into another political brouhaha as a result of injustices upon peaceful citizens by so-called favor-seeking individuals,” the Council further said. 

   “We also call on the international community and Liberia’s development partners to promptly intervene into this looming danger that has the propensity to derail the progress made,” added the Council.

   In a related development, the Center for Media Studies and Peacebuilding (CEMESP) has condemned in the strongest terms the violence meted out against protesting students of the University of Liberia’s Student Unification Party outside the United States embassy on July 26.

Malcolm Joseph, Executive Director, Center for Media Studies and Peacebuilding

   The CEMESP says there can be no justification for anyone to be brutalized by thugs for expressing their views regardless of how their opponents feel.

   The group says the barbarous act of the thugs led by a known partisan of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change must be responded to forcefully by government if the impression that it was state sponsored is to be avoided.

   The group noted that the violent act, which went unchallenged by the police and other state security agents, was reminiscent of similar actions carried out during Liberia’s civil war and its many years of dictatorships.

   In a statement released in Monrovia, CEMESP called on the government to immediately arrest each of the thugs shown violently assaulting a protester in the video of the incident and speedily bring them to justice for their crimes, as a way of discouraging any future occurrence of such act.

   The media-development-and-freedom-of-expression group noted that Liberia has felt too much pains for  state authorities to allow people to settle their disagreement with others by resorting to thuggish and extrajudicial violent action.

   CEMESP is therefore cautioning the government to espouse a zero tolerance for thuggish jungle justice, as an unjustified attack on peaceful protesters could trigger the desire for and perpetration of counter-action by rival groups, which is a recipe for dragging the country into anarchy.

   The National Democratic Coalition (NDC), headed by Prof. Alaric Tokpah, says it holds the CDC government of President George Weah directly responsible for the brutality displayed by the state-sponsored thugs against the leaders and militants of SUP on July 26, 2022. The NDC therefore called on ECOWAS, the African Union, the United Nations, the European Union, the United States government and all other international friends of Liberia to call on George Weah to stop the evil in Liberia. The opposition coalition urged the international community not to sit by and watch the “Weah dictatorship” drown Liberia in blood and instability before intervening. “It’s time for Weah to go,” the NDC said in a press release.

   According to the group, the false belief that the children and people of Liberia can be brought into submission through violence is an illusion, underscoring that after the July 26 attack on the peaceful University of Liberia student demonstrators the “Weah dictatorship” has a choice to make: either to avoid future violence against the Liberian people and get ready to leave office come 2023 or speed up its own downfall. Whatever the case, the NDC said it remains committed to standing with the Constitutional and legitimate demands of the University of Liberia students and the downtrodden people of Liberia.

   In the release issued yesterday, the group said, “The National Democratic Coalition (NDC) strongly condemns the brutal attack of the wicked George Weah CDC dictatorship on the courageous University of Liberia student community for organizing and leading the “FixOurCountry” campaign during the 175th anniversary of Liberia’s independence.

   “On July 26, 2022, the brave militants of the Student Unification Party (SUP) of the University of Liberia used the occasion to call national and international attention to the plight of the Liberian people through the peaceful “FixOurCountry” demonstration. The concerns raised by the students have been attested to nationally by political parties, civil society organizations, religious institutions, and members of the Liberian public for a very long time.

   “The July 26 attack on the leaders and militants of SUP led to physical injuries to young people and future leaders of Liberia. We do not know yet whether any death will result. But, by unleashing state-sponsored thugs on the University of Liberia students the ineffective Weah government has only added to the list of atrocities that it continues to commit in Liberia.

   “The shameful reaction of government to the “FixOurCountry” campaign is a clear indication that the roguish Weah administration will not perform or cooperate to improve the conditions of the Liberian people. It is therefore time for Weah to leave. So, Weah must go!

   “If blood has become the only acceptable price for freedom, peace, social justice, and development in Liberia, the University of Liberia students, under the formidable and fearless leadership of SUP have made the ultimate sacrifice. Weah must go!

   “By now, it should be clear to the Weah administration that no one has monopoly over violence in a postwar country. The choice to express constitutional rights is not cowardice. The desire for peace in Liberia is not cowardice. The determination to remove the Weah government from power through the ballot box is what the democratic and progressive forces fought for with their lives. That is what will be pursued unabated. However, if the Weah government has chosen to invite the application of violence in the political field, it should have itself to blame.”

   The Unity Party (UP) also condemned in the strongest terms the “barbaric and inhumane rebel-like treatment of a peaceful student of the Vanguard Student Unification Party who had joined thousands of other students of the University of Liberia to protest the unbearable and unprecedented economic hardship and degradation of the country. Unfortunately, the draconian regime of President George Weah unleashed thugs, under the banner of CDC-CoP, who were well armed to attack the peaceful students who had only gathered to bring the plight of the Liberian people to the world.

Cornelia Kruah-Tokpa, Deputy Security for Press and Public Affairs, Unity Party (UP)

   “We call on the government to investigate and bring to justice those she unleashed on the students of the University of Liberia. Liberia can no longer afford a government who tortures its own citizens for the simple act of gathering in a peaceful manner to protest against economic hardship, wanton corruption and the unprecedented pillage of state resources.

   “The video, which was circulated on social media today, brings back the ugly memories of the fourteen years of civil carnage. Liberia cannot afford to go back to its horrible past, and this government must desist from all and every form of brutality against citizens,” the UP release stated.

   In a similar tone, the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) says it is shocked by allegations of violence on July 26 in Monrovia, and expressed its total disapproval.

   “The CDC, as a peaceful, law-abiding and nonviolent political institution will continue to maintain a zero-tolerance policy against any form of violence,” the Chairman of the CDC, Mulbah K. Morlu, said in a statement.

   “Besides, the use of violence as a medium through which political expressions are sought is reprehensible, unjustified and runs contrary to the ideology and philosophy of the CDC.

   “Henceforth, the CDC condemns in the strongest possible terms these alleged acts of brutality committed by lawless elements, and calls on the Liberia National Police (LNP) to launch a speedy investigation (on all sides), determined to establish the facts and to bring the culprits to justice.

   “Therefore, as we call for the prosecution of all those allegedly involved, the CDC assures the Liberia National Police (LNP) of its unconditional cooperation, if needed.”

   The CDC statement continued, “We also call on the Liberia National Police (LNP) to conduct a holistic investigative process in response to strong allegations that members of the CDC (who are being treated in different hospitals) sustained injuries meted out by anti-government protesters in different locations.

   “Lastly, we use this medium to encourage the combined political opposition to confront the CDC-led government more openly if they will, rather than hiding behind members of the student community to portray a false sense of governance dysfunction.”

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