(LINA) – Liberians must resist the temptation of indulging into violent protests and demonstrations given the recent Guinean protest experience that should serve as a deterrent, particularly to those who see violent dissent as a remedy to redress.
Currently, the situation in neighboring Guinea is becoming volatile as a court has sentenced to imprisonment five opposition members and civil society leaders believed to be organizers of the protest against the proposed change of the nation’s constitution to permit President Alpha Conde seek a third term.
Conde, 81, has become the latest African head of state to seek an extension in his legal mandate, a move that fuelled protests in the country this week.
If he tries to run for a third term in 2020, say international media reports, he would be copying from an established playbook in Africa, where incumbent presidents have sought, often successfully, to remain in power.
Political tension in the Mano River region is fuelling on a daily basis, and also in neighboring Ivory Coast where Alassane Ouatara has been in power since 2010 and claims that the adoption of a new constitution in 2016 allows him to run for a third term in 2020, although he has not yet said if he will stand for re-election.
At the inception of the protest, thousands of Guineans converged in the capital Conakry to oppose the proposition to amend the country’s constitution, a move which will eventually qualify Conde to bid for a third presidential term.
The protest was initially planned by organizers to be a peaceful one, however, resistance against the decision of the riot police to disperse the crowd broke loose and the demonstration collapsed into violence.
At least five people were confirmed dead after police opened fire to remove the crowd from the streets, according to media reports and a local Guinean rights group.
Guinea has a murky history of protests, like Liberia, but it seems that it is obvious that the two nations have failed to learn from their pasts.
In 2009, over 50,000 Guineans gathered to protest against the junta government that came to power after the country’s coup d’état of December 2008. The protest was fuelled by the indication that junta leader, Cpt. Moussa Dadis Camara, wanted to run in the nation’s January 2010 election.
The Guinean government, however, had earlier banned any form of protest until a later date, conversely when the demonstrators gathered at a stadium in the capital, security forces opened fire, killing at least 157 demonstrators and injuring 1,253 more.
Back in Liberia, at least 40 civilians were killed and more than 500 injured in what is popularly referred to as the “The Rice Riot.”
This occurred in 1979 when thousands of Liberian led by a political group took to the streets to protest a proposed increment in the price of rice.
In recent times, several separate protests have been staged in Monrovia, beginning with the hyped June 7 Council of Patriots (CoP) assembly to the recent Monrovia Consolidated School System (MCSS) rampaging student protest, several other political and student groupings have also threatened to stage a protest apparently to draw the government’s attention to issues relating particularly to governance and the economy, among others.
“This trend of seeking redress as per history has on numerous occasions resulted into violence, loss of life, mutiny, economic stagnation and sabotage as well as perennial political subterfuge and developmental disorientation,” says a political commentator and official of the former ruling party who spoke to the Liberia News Agency (LINA) on anonymity.
He told LINA that while he believes in the democratic credentials of the current government of Liberia, however, the recent Guinean protest experience must serve as sufficient evidence to forewarn would-be protestors, opining that at any time the situation can escalate into tension and become volatile.
“History is a vast early warning system,” wrote American political journalist, author and professor, Norman Cousins, so if Liberians cannot peep into their own history of protest and recollect on how innocent civilians have been victimized, it may obviously be prudent for the recent Guinean experience to resonate in the minds of all Liberians.