U.S. Ambassador Criticizes Planned July 26 Week Protest

MONROVIA, Montserrado – U.S. Ambassador to Liberia Christine Elder has issued a strong statement against the holding of a planned protest during the week of the July 26 Independence Day celebrations.

The Council of Patriots, who earlier organized the June 7 protest, announced during a press conference on July 12 that they would stage a second protest that would last for several days beginning on July 24, two days ahead of the country’s 173rd Independence Day anniversary.

“Today, we members of the Council of Patriots announce a renewed and continued protest from Wednesday, July 24 until all of our demands are met,” said Henry Costa, one of the organization’s spokespersons.

“This will be a nationwide protest covering all counties and a call to address all of the issues affecting our country. In announcing these actions, we renew our pledge to save the state and call on all Liberians and our international partners to join this long march to address the plight of our nation.”

Costa called on Liberians at home and abroad, irrespective of religions and political persuasions, to stand with them in saving their nation.

The pronouncement was made one month after the group presented a petition to the government demanding a number of actions to address issues they believed were affecting the development, economy, and security of the state.

According to the group, the issues were the continuous flagrant violation of the constitution and laws, including the recent unconstitutional removal of Associate Justice Kabineh Jan’eh in spite of public outcries and disapproval, suppression of press freedom and rights, including freedom of speech and denial of basic rights to Isaac W. Jackson, Liberia’s Permanent Representative to the International Maritime Organization.

Others were the construction and acquisition of scores of luxury private buildings by the president in the wake of his refusal to publicly declare and publish his assets, failure to comprehensively address the issue of the country’s missing L$16 billion and the US$25 million yet unaccounted for and lack of effective action taken against individuals responsible.

Also among their concerns were the government’s alleged failure and lack of capacity to address the rising inflation and exchange rate, as a general disregard for the rule of law and good governance, such as indifference in addressing war and economic crimes as documented in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report.

The Council of Patriots statement also said it was unacceptable that the draft 2019 budget recently submitted to the legislature offers better living condition to the rich, rather than improving the lives of the poor and the president and officials chose to host lavished parties and to organize wasteful events, while the citizens weep over the declined economy.

“Our government has engaged in tactics to ridicule, ignore and further neglect its solemn pledge to serve the Liberian people with honesty, dedication, and integrity,” Costa added.

While acknowledging that some members of the group, such as Rufus Neufville and Oscar Cooper, had expressed their disagreement with their methods and approaches, Costa said they would remain strong and united on the excruciating pains and sufferings the nation and its people endure.

Elder said while the U.S. Embassy supports the rights of citizens to lawfully apply to assemble or convey their views to elected officials and has read with interest the statement of the Council of Patriots announcing their intent to stage another nationwide protest, the intent to do so during the week of July 22 is misplaced.

“As the COP press release specifically calls on the international community to join their ‘long march,’ the U.S. Embassy responds by sharing its view that, particularly from a group carrying the banner ‘Council of Patriots’ and from a group which avows that patriotism remains central to their efforts, staging such actions as they have outlined, during independence celebrations, would instead convey a lack of commitment to national development,” the statement continued.

“Ideally, events surrounding upcoming national celebrations should be devoid of partisan promotion or posturing, focusing instead on working together for the common good of the Liberian people.”

However, the embassy said it hailed the peaceful conduct of the thousands of protestors who conveyed through their actions on June 7 that they were interested in progress and national dialogue over aggression.

Featured photo by Zeze Ballah

Gbatemah Senah

Senah is a graduate of the University of Liberia and a recipient of the Jonathan P. Hicks Scholarship for Mass Communications. Between 2017 and 2019, he won six excellent reporting awards from the Press Union of Liberia. They include a three-time Land Rights Reporter of the Year, one time Women's Rights Reporter of the Year, Legislative Reporter of the Year, and Human Rights Reporter of the Year.

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