Council of Patriots (COP) To Celebrate “Save the State” Anniversary
The Council of Patriots (COP) are intending to celebrate the first anniversary of the June 7, 2019 demonstration (Save the State), which brought together thousands of Liberians from all walks of life to demand that the Government of Liberia (GOL) pay attention to needs of the ordinary Liberians. The celebration is expected to take place virtually on social media due to the prevailing Coronavirus epidemic in the country.
Members of the COP are being requested to make viral a banner designed by the leader of the COP, Henry P. Costa, as a means of remembering the day they made history and brought the attention of the administration of President George M. Weah to the demands of the ordinary Liberian masses.
Sunday, June 7, 2020 marks exactly one year since the COP, now headed by talk show host Henry P. Costa, took to the streets of Monrovia, drawing the attention of the United Nations, European Union, ECOWAS, African Union, the US Embassy and other international partners. The protest was monitored by many international news wires, including the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Cable News Network (CNN), Reuters, France 24, etc.
Among the planners of the demonstration were Henry P. Costa, Senator Sando Johnson of Bomi County, Senator Oscar Cooper of Margibi County, Abraham Darius Dillon (now Senator of Montserrado County) and Representative Yekeh Kolubah of Montserrado County’s district #10. The protest took place on Capitol Hill, bringing Monrovia to a standstill.
Sympathizers of the protest described the occasion as successful, while critics said the protest did not achieve its goal, as the day ended in deadlock. The President of the Republic, George M. Weah, who was to receive the petition from the protestors, did not show up, and his proxy, Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor, also did not show up. Apparently because of this, leaders of the protest refused to present their petition to those present, even with many appeals from the ECOWAS representative and other international dignitaries. They left the protest scene without presenting the petition. They however read their petition on a local radio the next day and gave the government of President Weah three months to meet up with their demands or risk yet another bigger protest against his government.
The protest was triggered by a revelation made by Philipbert S. Browne, a journalist and Publisher of the Hot Pepper Newspaper, that a container carrying L$9 billion (nine billion Liberian dollars) disappeared while on its way from the Freeport of Monrovia to the Central Bank of Liberia. This information was later buttressed by the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Information, but noting that it was L$16 billion instead of L$9 billion. This, in addition to the economic hardship, prompted many civil society organizations and pressure groups to rise up in demand for good governance and economic emancipation.
They demanded the arrest and prosecution of all those involved. Among prominent names involved with the scandal were Milton Weeks, then Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia, and Charles Sirleaf, then Deputy Governor of the Central Bank and son of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
The Central Bank saw a drastic overhaul at the aftermath of the protest: the Governor and Deputy Governor for Operation and other senior staffs were arrested and prosecuted, an audit of the entire bank was immediately sanctioned, the workforce of the bank was reduced by more than 100 persons, etc.
However, the Council of Patriots (COP), seemingly not satisfied with the action of the government, planned another protest for December 2019, named “Weah Must Step Down”. This controversial slogan made many prominent individuals within the ranks of the COP to suspend their membership and withdraw their support from the organization. The sponsors of the protest, many of whom were residents of the United States of America, wanted the entire Weah administration to step down and give way for a transitional leadership because, according to them, Weah and his team were not capable of leading the country. But members who were based in Monrovia, including Abe Darius Dillon, frowned at their request and said the demonstration was only intended to bring the government to attention and not to its knees.
The misunderstanding within the COP gave rise to the Independent Council of Patriots (ICOP), headed by former Montserrado County district #8 Representative, Rufus Neufville. This group was in defense of the government, and argued that there was no monopoly over violence; and so, while the COP demonstrated against the government they would be on the other hand celebrating the achievement of the government, but on the same day. The protest was scheduled for December 30, 2019.
Howbeit, the “Weah Step Down” protest was cancelled by the intervention of the United Nations (UN), ECOWAS and the US Embassy. It was rescheduled for January 5, 2020 but the COP insisted on protesting on January 6, 2020. This weakened the momentum of the protestors, and the protest did not have much impact as compared to the June 7 “Save the State”.
It is almost a year now, and many things have transpired. Many influential members of the COP have resigned, while others are out of country. The medium through which the COP gained its prominence, Roots F.M., has been shut down by government, and the COP leader, Henry Costa, chased into exile. The official Spokesman of the group, Darius Dillon, is now Senator of Montserrado County. Some members have accused the COP leadership of financial malpractice, and many more.
June 7 brings too many memories to mind, but the COP has made it clear that the celebration will take place in honor of the Liberian people, and the occasion will be characterized by a panel discussion and what is referred to as “Roast Costa”. It is expected to be held on Facebook via Zoom.