President George Manneh Weah on Thursday held talks with a visiting delegation of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), focusing on issues of pertinent national importance.
The meeting with the ECOWAS delegation, which included the regional body’s President, comes a day after the Liberian President, in an address to the nation, vowed to uphold the laws of Liberia which, among other things, guarantee citizens’ rights to free assembly to petition their government.
President Weah assured the ECOWAS delegation of his administration’s determination to uphold the laws of Liberia, noting that Government is under obligation to provide equal protection for every citizen irrespective of his or her social, economic and political background.
He said since the international stabilization force, UNMIL, turned over national security responsibility to government, his administration continues to ensure Liberia is peaceful and stable and the citizens secured.
On the issue of the planned June 7 protest by a group of citizens, the Liberian leader opined that while the Constitution is clear on the right of any group of Liberians to protest, and his government is under obligation to protect that right, it is equally the right of non-protesting Liberians to freely go about their normal businesses.
“Since we took over the leadership of the country, we have placed no objection on anyone’s freedom to exercise their rights under the laws,” the President said, adding, “We have all been advocating for that. Those who want to exercise whatever right can go ahead to do so. Our hope is that it is done responsibly. Government has the right to defend and protect everyone’s right.”
He said his Government has done everything possible, including meeting the proponents of the June 7 protest and other national stakeholders, in finding an amicable out-of-the-street solution to the current protest imbroglio.
President Weah assured the ECOWAS delegation he was still ready and open to listen to any Liberian who has concerns relating to the wellbeing of the state and people.
The Liberian leader said he will continue to seek reason and understanding over the June 7 protest and will continue to do so because it would be difficult for the government to overcome the very challenges protesters are claiming to be concerned about when they take to the streets and ignite a situation that would disrupt normalcy and impede government operations to solve lingering national issues.
“We cannot do what we hope to do when people are in the streets threatening the peace,” he said, reiterating policy measures he has announced, including partnering with the IMF and others, to address prevailing economic conditions in the country.
Earlier, the head of the ECOWAS Delegation, Jean Claude Kassi Brou, thanked the Liberian leader for the many steps taken to improve the governance process and meet citizens’ expectations.
The ECOWAS Commission President hailed President Weah on the policy pronouncements made during his nationwide address, and expressed the hope that the actions promulgated will address Liberia’s economic challenges and calm apprehensions over the protest and the state of the economy.
The former World Bank executive said most of the policy measures the president announced, such as the independence of the Central Bank of Liberia (now borrowing money from banks), the fight against corruption and working with IMF, were in line with international governance standards.
Mr. Brou, who worked eight years at the Central Bank of West African States, admonished the Liberian President to remain focused on the execution of his core responsibilities to keep the nation peaceful and secure.
He conveyed ECOWAS’ concerns about the security of the state amid the planned protest, stressing the need for consensus building.