MONROVIA, Montserrado â€“ The Justice Ministry has launched its gravest threat yet against the Council of Patriots since the group emerged early this year as the governmentâ€™s most decisive critic. The threat comes as the group plans to initiate a protest on Dec. 30.
In a rather stern communication from Justice Minister Frank Musa Dean, Jr. dated Dec. 2 and addressed to Mo Ali, the groupâ€™s acting chairman, the government warned that the planned gathering is â€œunconstitutional and bespeaks of treason, an offense against the internal security of the state.â€
Opening the governmentâ€™s charges against the group, Dean first alleges that the group has â€œsolicited and received funding from individuals, both within and without Liberia, some of whom may not be citizens of Liberiaâ€ to fund its protest.
The attorney general proceeded to cite sections of the constitution, which labels as treason, highlighting specific portions including â€œattempting to by overt act to overthrow the Government of Liberia, rebellion against the Republic, insurrection and mutinyâ€ and â€œabrogating or attempting to abrogate, subverting or attempting to conspire to subvert the constitution by use of force or show of force, or by any other means which attempts to undermine the constitution.â€
The last time this grave and consequential offense of â€œtreasonâ€ was used to characterize anti-government or opposition actions was during the â€˜reign of terrorâ€™ of the ex-president and now war crimes indictee, Charles G. Taylor.
Under Taylor, allegations of treason emerged as the principal weapon of choice â€“ a pretext that guaranteed that political opponents would be intimidated or disappear.
The Weah administrationâ€™s launch of treason allegations is once again invoking Liberiaâ€™s dark political past.
Although the justice minister called the assembly a â€œWeah Step Downâ€ campaign, Aliâ€™s initial November 11 letter to the Justice Ministry requesting security made no such mention. Instead, Ali wrote that the planned December 30 peaceful assembly was a furtherance of â€œour intent to hold series of peaceful assembly beginning on June 7, 2019.â€ Ali said his group â€œintend[s] to gather as many as 100,000 personsâ€¦at the seat of government, Capitol Hill.â€
In the case of the June 7 protest, the government initially sought to deny the protesters the right to protest by claiming they lacked any permit to assemble en masse. But it soon backed down as it became very clear that the group would proceed. The June 7 protest itself was widely praised as being peaceful.
During that protest, thousands took to the streets of Monrovia to â€˜Save the State.â€™ Among other things, protesters criticized what they termed as rampant corruption, pointing out the lack of accountability over newly printed Liberian banknotes, a botched US$25 million â€˜mop-upâ€™ exercise organized under the leadership of Finance Minister Samuel D. Tweah, and repeated violations of the constitution by President George Weah.
A source close to the protest organizers, who has requested anonymity to speak freely on the topic, says the groupâ€™s lawyers are currently preparing an appropriate response to the government, and that it will not be intimidated by the false allegations of treason.
The source has disclosed that despite the governmentâ€™s threats, the group intends to move forward with its planned protest on Dec. 30 without fear.
If the Council of Patriots makes good on its promise to gather 100,000 protesters, it will represent the biggest threat yet to President Weahâ€™s young and increasingly unpopular government.
Featured photo courtesy of Lloyd Massah