Liberia opposition vows to defy government with mass protest

Monday December 30 2019

 

By AFP

Monrovia. The Liberian opposition on Sunday vowed to go ahead with a mass anti-government protest planned for Monday as the impoverished country grapples with a deep economic crisis.

The government has said it would not allow the protest in the capital Monrovia, saying it would defer all requests for permits to stage demonstrations and rallies until January 30.

But Henry Costa, chairman of youth activists called the Council of Patriots (COP) who helped footballer-turned-president George Weah come to power, said the protest would still take place.

"This is to inform the international community, the Liberian people and the government, that this assembly will be peaceful, and we don’t intend for it to be confrontational," he told reporters.

In a previous demonstration on June 7, "we had the most peaceful protest ever in the history of Liberia. We presented our grievances to the government, we waited several months, and there was no response," he added. 

"We have decided to come back and send another message to the world, which we know will not be ignored this time."

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Costa said he expected tens of thousands of people to take part in the demonstration.

Tensions have risen in recent weeks in the run-up to the protest, with the government accusing the opposition of calling for the "unconstitutional eviction" of Weah, who took office in January 2018 and is under growing pressure over his handling of the crisis. 

On Friday, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the UN's office in West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) issued a joint statement exhorting "all parties to work towards calling off this imminent protest in the general interest of Liberia and the sub-region."

Still traumatised by back-to-back civil wars and the 2014-2016 Ebola crisis, Liberia is struggling to revive its failing economy. 

Inflation is rampant, according to the World Bank, and civil servants regularly go unpaid.

ECOWAS and UNOWAS said in their joint statement Friday that while they recognised citizens' right of assembly, they "reminded all stakeholders of their responsibility to maintain peace, security and stability of Liberia... and cautioned against any form of violence".