MONROVIA, Montserrado – Despite the tight security around Monrovia on June 7, thousands of Liberians turned out to participate in the Council of Patriots’ much-publicized Save the State protest.
Many protesters said they felt the government was not aware of the troubles the country was facing and they wanted to remind the president of the promises he made.
“I’m frightened of the country’s current economy,” said Anthony Lombeh Jallah, who joined the protest from Caldwell.
He said he was frustrated because the country’s coffers were being looted. Jallah said President George Weah is not living up to his campaign promises and has also refused to listen to those who voted for him in the 2017 presidential election.
“I am out here today to register my dissatisfaction to the president,” he said.
“The country’s economy is going down the drain and Liberians are suffering.”
He said Liberians want to see the president succeed within the four-plus years he had left in office – that is why they were protesting.
He believes that Weah has enriched himself within a period of 18 months: “The president’s properties acquired so far exceeds that of past presidents.”
Jallah said even though the huge security presence on the streets of Monrovia was meant to intimidate protestors, people still turned out in their numbers. He said “any good president” would heed the cries of that large number of people and try to address their concerns.
Jallah was also pleased by the remarkably peaceful nature of the protest.
Nearby, Amie Tokpa, who lives in Sinkor and is a mother of two children, said she was protesting because of the country’s worsening economy.
“I am unable to pay the tuition of one of my children,” she said. “I am here to inform the president that Liberians are suffering.”
During the 2017 presidential election, Tokpa said she stood in the sun and rain to vote for Weah, but the president has not delivered on the promises he made.
Since Weah took power, Tokpa said prices of local commodities continue to skyrocket and “currently, Liberians are purchasing a 25kg bag for L$2,800 (US$14.58) while a cup of rice is sold of L$60 (US$0.31).”
She said the president’s actions have shamed her. “Friends in my community mock me every day that we brought suffering on them,” Tokpa said.
“The president has lied and betrayed us,” she said, echoing the lyrics of Hipco artist Takun J’s “They Lie to Us,” which blared on a speaker nearby.
James J. K. Wilson, who came from New Matadi Estate to join the protest, said he also felt betrayed, especially since the president promised in his inaugural address that Liberians would no longer be “spectators” in their economy.
On the contrary, Wilson said Indian and Lebanese immigrants still dominate retail stores and services while Western and Asian firms own the vast majority of rubber, palm oil, and iron ore operations.
“Liberians are still waiting at the entrance of the gate and are yet to enter the field,” he said.
“I am dissatisfied with the way Weah is running the country.”
Wilson wants the president to do more to ensure that the message in his inaugural speech could be true – and for Liberians to play a more active role in their economy.
There were some who attending the protest to simply monitor the activities. One of those was Adama K. Dempster, secretary general of the National Civil Society Human Rights Advocacy Platform of Liberia, who told The Bush Chicken that the local human rights community had deployed 50 monitors to observe the protest.
“We are observing that the government and protestors will be in adherence of the law and measures that comes out of the protest – whether there are threats and intimidation in the process,” Dempster said.
He noted that the huge security presence across the city was unexpected, but human rights monitors did not see anything disorderly on the part of the protestors, as “they are very peaceful.”
Featured photo by Zeze Ballah