The most anticipated protest scheduled for December 30th, 2019 by the Council of Patriots (CoP) under the theme ‘Weah Step Down Campaign’ may not hold, as the Liberian government has issued stern warning to all would be protesters to immediately desist or ‘Face the full weight of the law’, Liberia’s Minister of Information, Lenn Eugene Nagbe in a public statement said.
Since the ascendancy of George Manneh as Liberia’s 25th President, series of protests have greeted his administration including the June 7th, 2019 protest where thousands took the streets expressing their frustration for the Liberian leader’s failure to publicly tackle corruption including the reported missing sixteen billion Liberian dollars.
The two latest one which drew the attention of many including the government, was the strike action by health workers nationwide which led to the death of two patients due to the delay for the government to settle its obligation with health workers; it was the first of its kind in Liberia since the end of the civil crisis when pregnant women and mothers with babies took to the streets to express their dissatisfaction over the failure of the government to settle the salary arrears and benefit of health workers.
Last week hundreds of protesters stormed the grounds of the Catholic hospital for the immediate release of Ms. Justina Taylor who was there to seek medication after allegedly been gang rapped by some unknown individuals , while she was at the hospital armed police men barricaded the entire ground of the hospital in order to avoid her to go for her visa at the US embassy.
Justina, who allegedly broke away from the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), claims she was kidnapped by group of men, gang raped and tortured nearly to death after making accusations against Monrovia City Mayor and Youth League Chair of the ruling CDC, Jefferson Koijee.It is not known what the police have done about Justina’s claims that she was kidnapped, raped and tortured, but reports say the authorities want her for questioning in connection with the alleged incident.
Protesters dominated by women from different women organizations set roadblocks at the intersection of the Catholic Hospital by early morning hours of Thursday. The protest prevented free flow of traffic as citizens insisted that the government here unconditionally releases Justina to enable her to appear before the United States Embassy near Monrovia for a scheduled interview for a possible medical trip to the United States.
Riot officers from the Liberia National Police (NL) and protesters clashed as the crowd grew massively at the scene, with both sides throwing stones at each other for several minutes.The police carried a tanker filled with water to battle protesters who refused to leave the main road and the Catholic Hospital’s vicinity.Some riot police officers sustained wounds in the process of challenging the angry crowd.
However, government eventually released Justina following intervention by human rights groups Thursday.Due to tense security on the protest scene Thursday, some residents in the Catholic Hospital community closed their doors in solidarity with other citizens that came from far distances to demand Justina’s release.
Earlier, several Senators and high profile Liberians including Montserrado County Senator Darius Dallon also visited the scene and encouraged protesters to hold together as they pressed for Justina’s release from the hospital.There were slogans coming from the angry civilians against the police and the government. They chanted anti rape campaign slogans.
During the police presence, no vehicles and visitors were allowed to enter the hospital’s premises.Information obtained from the riot scene indicates that high profile state security personnel were posted inside the hospital facility to ensure that Justina remains confined there.
Some women organization representatives who, preferred anonymity for fear of their safety termed the government’s action to prevent Justina from going for advanced medical examination and treatment abroad as an arrest of a victim, who is in fact, the complainant.
With all of these upheavals, the Liberian government through the Minister of Information resolved to with immediate effect suspend all protest throughout the country, noting that the government will not allow anyone or group of persons to ‘Disturb the peace of Liberians’.