Liberia: Probe Order or Mere Bluff?
Dozens of students nursing wounds
The Attorney General has ordered an immediate probe into the Independence Day violence that left dozens of students from the state-run University wounded on Tuesday, 26 July 2022 when they clashed with pro-government supporters.
In a statement issued Wednesday, July 27, a day after the violent clash, Minister Musa Dean directed the Inspector General of Police to launch an immediate and full-scale investigation into the incident.
The statement stated that Images of the violence being posted on social media show unwarranted use of force and maltreatment of some participating youths which has no place in the newfound democracy.
On Tuesday, July 26, students of the vanguard Student Unification Party (SUP) staged a protest against the George Weah government calling upon the latter to fix the system.
Their protest was met with brute force from supporters of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) calling themselves CDC Council of Patriots (CDC-COP).
The counter-protest left several students wounded outside the United States Embassy near Monrovia. Social media was flooded with terrible images of wounded students and a video of one student who was stripped naked for protesting against the government. Some students narrowly escaped death at the hands of the CDC supporters.
The Government, as well as opposition and civil society groups on Wednesday, condemned the clash violent clash which has now dubbed the country’s 175th Independence Day as bloody July 26.
The two opposing groups clashed outside the United States Embassy where the students had gone to stage the protest while the official Independence Day program was ongoing at the Centennial Pavilion on Ashmum Street.
Why were they protesting?
According to the protesting students, their peaceful gathering was intended to call the attention of national and international communities to societal problems.
They cited alleged increase in corruption, bad governance, mysterious deaths and disappearances, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence and economic hardship.
The students noted that these conditions have left the masses in extreme poverty and suffering.
The students’ initial plan was to gather at the University of Liberia’s Capitol Hill Campus before the protest.
But they suddenly avoided meeting on the campus after allegedly receiving intelligence that members of the ruling CDC – Council of Patriots had besieged the campus as early as 6:50 A.M. on 26 July.
Their decision to meet outside the U.S. Embassy to avoid a counter-protest did not help, as government supporters moved on the students and inflicted wounds.
Two militants of SUP who went on the Capitol Hill campus without prior notice that it had been besieged by government supporters were beaten.
The fight continued throughout Central Monrovia with CDC – COP chasing SUP militants in the local communities.
What happened after the fight?
After the fight, members of some of the affected communities accused the CDC – Council of Patriots of allegedly damaging their properties and food with stones.
Some residents said their phones got missing when members of the CDC – COP entered their homes.
In an interview with the head of the CDC – COP Ben Togba, he said they were out to protect and provide security for the government and its officials from every protest that does not have any basis and foundation.
He denied claims by residents of the Robert Street Community that the CDC- COP entered their homes and stole their properties.
“My brother we are here to provide security and protection for the government. We are not here to entertain any violence and unrealistic protest in this country,” he said.
Mr. Togba accused the militants of SUP of moving into the homes of peaceful citizens and making away with their belongings.
SUP accuses Monrovia City Mayor Jefferson Koijee
In a conversation with SUP chairman on Propaganda, Mohammed Shabazz Jalloh, he accused Monrovia City Mayor Jefferson Tamba Koijee of being the mastermind of disrupting SUP’s protest.
“Mayor Koijee sent thugs with guns to kill peaceful students exercising their constitutional rights at the U.S. Embassy near Monrovia,” Jalloh alleged.
“To our people, this is what the regime you elected [is] doing to your children. A dark cloud has covered Liberia under President George M. Weah,” he added.
He claimed that Liberia is going back to the days of terror.
Condemnation pours in Several condemnations are pouring in with many blaming the pro-government group for the attack on the student.
The former ruling Unity Party condemns what it terms barbaric and inhumane rebel-like treatment of peaceful student of the University of Liberia’s Vanguard Student Unification Party (SUP) for protesting against the celebration of Independence Day-reports Kruah Thompson.
A press release issued by UP Assistant Secretary-General for Press, Publicity, and Outreach Cornelia Kruah-Togba says the SUP members had joined thousands of other students of the University of Liberia to protest the unbearable and unprecedented economic hardship and degradation of the country.
The UP laments that the draconian regime of President George Weah unleashed thugs under the banner CDC-CoP, armed to attack peaceful students that had only gathered to bring the plight of the Liberian people to the world.
“We call on the government to investigate and bring to justice those she unleashed on the students of the University of Liberia. Liberia can no longer afford a government who tortures its own citizens for the simple act of gathering peacefully to protest against economic hardship, wanton corruption, and the unprecedented pillage of state resources”, the party’s statement reads.
The statement further notes that video circulated on social media about the brutal attack against unarmed students brings back the ugly memories of the fourteen years of civil carnage.
It says Liberia cannot afford to go back to its horrible past and the Weah administration must desist from all and every form of brutality against citizens.
Meanwhile, the Press Union of Liberia has condemned as cruel and anti-democratic the violence, which occurred on the sidelines of the celebrations.
Members SUP had for weeks informed the public of what it had built as the “Fix Liberia Campaign”. The party said it was peaceably assembling to petition their government and partners to improve the living standard of the people.
To actualize their plan, the Student Unification Party placed some of its members before the United States Embassy, the group was infiltrated by the CDC- COP thus leaving many of them injured.
CDC- COP operatives were seen chasing after the SUP militants, destroying, beating, and attacking inhabitants of the Greystone Community near the US Embassy.
The Press Union of Liberia is meanwhile calling on the Liberia National Police, Coalition for Democratic Change and the Liberian Government to investigate the embarrassing impasse and violation of the laws.
The National Civil Society Council of Liberia (NCSCL) has condemned in the strongest terms, the ill-treatment meted out against protesting students of the Students Unification Party (SUP).
The CSO condemns a group loyal to the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) under the banner of CDC – Council of Patriots (CDC-COP) for the act.
In a statement issued in Monrovia, the CSO recalled that several members of SUP who were about to stage a “peaceful” protest, sustained serious and minor bodily injuries, with several others humiliated.