Protest is a loaded word; it is both a noun and a verb with many connotations. In verb form, the word protest is defined as such:
1 : to make solemn declaration or affirmation of.
2 : to execute or have executed a formal protest against (something, such as a bill or note).
3 : to make a statement or gesture in objection to.
In March, a group calling themselves, “Council of Patriots” planned a protest slated for June 7th, 2019. Their aim is to make a solemn declaration and affirmation of dissatisfaction with Liberia’s economic state under the country’s current government.
Since President George Weah’s come to power, there have been damning reports about mismanagement of funds – 16 Billion Liberian dollars (about USD 105 Million) unaccounted for from the Central Bank of Liberia and the alleged misappropriation of US 25 Million dollars that was meant to stabilize Liberia’s rate and inflation. In addition to the reports, there have been questions about President Weah and his cabinet’s ability to govern properly. In January of this year, President Weah opened a church, the “The Forky Jlaleh Family Fellowship Church,” where he is the spiritual head; although that may not be an issue to some as President Tolbert was a Baptist Minister, and once the President of the Baptist World Alliance, who often preached at Zion Praise Baptist Church is Bentol City (Bensonville). However, In February of 2019, President Weah’s Religious Advisor, Rev. M. Emmanuel Nimley, released an official statement using the letter head from The Executive Mansion calling on all Liberians to to engage in a 3 day intercessory prayer, which caused many to question the constitutional integrity of the Executive Branch regarding separation of church and state/freedom of religion. The exchange rate of 1 USD now equals 192 LRD (buying) and 193 LRD (selling) according to The Central Bank of Liberia, yet in some areas of Liberia the rate is as high as 196 LRD, which is a sign of economic collapse. The critiques of Weah and his government are long, and many are valid based on the oath government officials take as public servants and the code of conduct they are to adhere to.
The aforementioned alone is a basis of protest, because it is dissatisfying when the people elected to power by the people, to serve the people, fail the very people that elected them.
Some, especially those who are in the diaspora and those that are CDC partisans, are against this June 7th protest for differing reasons. Many of the voices against the protest have that stance because, connotatively and historically, protest in Liberia was an attack on the fragility of peace. Liberia and Liberians are traumatized by war. Protest has lead to rioting; protest has given evildoers opportunities to attack the fabric of peace in the nation. Others are against it for political reasons; in the last few years, Liberia has become a place of overt political divisiveness and those in the CDC camp believe that Weah and the CDC government are doing well, which is up for debate — hence the pending protest. Holding all those factors constant, protest is afforded to Liberians through the constitution, the governing document of our great nation.
Article 17 of the Constitution of The Republic of Liberia states:
“All persons, at all times, in an orderly and peaceable manner, shall have the
right to assemble and consult upon the common good, to instruct their
representatives, to petition the government or other functionaries for the
redress of grievances and to associate fully with others or refuse to associate
in political parties, trade unions and other organizations.”
Protests have proven effective in bringing about change. Sudan and other African countries have effectively held protests that have brought about the necessary change to propel their respective countries into betterness; what makes Liberia different? Are we exempt from this phenomenon? I think not.
Whether you agree with protest in its true form, or not, whether you agree with the constitution or not., the fact remains that people plan to protest and people plan to counter that protest. People plan to rightfully petition the government. What do we do with that? Is asking for things to remain peaceful enough? Upholding peace doesn’t always affect tangible change and neither does war. Protest is an expression, a form of collective dialogue. The ears of the government should not only be ready to listen but to act in the benevolence of the people and the nation, at large. Money cannot go missing, corruption cannot be rampant, nationalistic moral cannot be low. The words of the protestors should bring about change, be effective in expression.
It is not enough to be dissatisfied. One Pahpay told me “If the soup na sweet, add ‘chicken soup’. If da one na enough, put small pepper.” The same applies here. Protest is effective when there are solutions provided by the aggrieved party — solutions such as collaboration, accountability plans, and other saving measures on behalf of the state and the other side; the government and the “ruling” CDC party should listen with the intent to make positive change in Liberia for Liberians. The fact of the matter is, those against the protest love Liberia, and want peace. The Council of Patriots too love Liberia, and the CDC partisans love Liberia — but all parties have different beliefs about what it means to love Liberia into prosperity. The government should hear these protesters, listen to them.
If the masses are dissatisfied and things do not change economically, protests can turn into something more.
The government has an obligation to the people of Liberia, and no matter where your political ideologies lie, most can agree that the condition of the state is one that needs saving. Saving is not something one party or person can do. The government must be willing to make the necessary changes to foster peace, prosperity, productivity, and the stakeholders in Liberia share in that responsibility.
Protest is a form of expression, protected by the constitution. Let those who can, express in all necessary manners. Let those who have mouths speak. Let those who have ears, hear. Let those who have power act, for the betterment of the people. Let those that love Liberia, prove it.
Authored by Abner Pahpay
Featured picture by Redbubble