Liberia: Militarization of a Ruling Party’s Youths—when the Party’s School Building Sits Incomplete, Abandoned

…And a ‘secret agenda’ to suppress opposition voices against ruling party’s “political missteps” in future elections

By Samuel G. Dweh |President—Liberia Association of Writers (LAW), and Freelance Development Journalist |Contacts —+231  (0)886618906/776583266/samuelosophy@yahoo.com/samuelosophy1@gmail.com |

At the CDC’s Headquarters

Author’s Note: All photos featured in this article are of scenes the two political launches held on Saturday, November 20, 2020.

Clarification of non-political stance: This Writer is stuck to his political neutrality position in the Liberian political arena—no political friend, no political enemy. Through his writings, he will “thank” the ruling political party on “good governance”, and will “criticize” (with utmost respect) the Government on “political missteps”; he will do same to the opposition bloc. This “neutrality stance” is based on his mentor’s advice long time ago: “A professional person—writer, musician, movie practitioner, et cetera—should always be a betweener with rival forces. This will make him or her relevance to either of the contestants that triumphs.” From my observation, the opposition bloc of Liberia hasn’t done much in filling the national development gaps created by the ruling party’s “incompetence” or “ignorance”. It only “complains” on the “problems”—similar to what the government-in-waiting CDC had always done against the Government of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. On education, for example, one easy thing the opposition bloc can do is create “tutorial centers” (for academic lessons and skill acquisition) in communities for young Liberians who can’t find money for learning in traditional classrooms. These community-based teaching centers will equip the young people (party’s members and non-members) to contribute to the development of the nation. The author of this article, who stopped at 12th grade, got “educated” in a tutorial center in Nigeria, when he was a refugee there.

This article ends with recommendations—solution methods of demilitarizing the minds of young loyalists of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), and the ‘Youth Wing’ of the opposition bloc—Collaborating Political Parties (CPP)

MILITARIZATION OF THE RULING PARTY’S YOUTHS………

On Saturday, November 21, 2020, the heads in a mammoth crowd on various streets of Liberia’s capital were ‘blue’ and ‘red’. These colours were of the ‘militant hat’ (beret) of the “mighty” Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC)—a composition of the Congress for Democratic Change, National Patriotic Party, and Liberia People’s Democratic Party.

The event was the combined launch of the Senatorial Campaign for  Representative Thomas Fallah for Montserrado Country’s Senatorial Seat) for the Mid-Term elections (scheduled for December 8, 2020) and first-time aspirant Frank Saah Foko, Jr. for the By-Election of House of Representatives of District #9, Montserrado County. He’s replacing Representative Munah E. Pelham-Youngblood (CDCian), who died in a Ghanaian hospital in this year (2020), due to a protracted illness.

Majority of the young people (between age 18 and 35) whose heads were covered with the beret were ‘militantly charged’ as they banged on non-CDCians-operated vehicles caught in the human traffic, and the drivers pushing through the human forest stationed in the middle of the streets. Many of the above-youth age CDCians were also behaving in such hostile manner.

All were being protected by the presence of armed State Security—Liberia National Police—and a representative body of bereted CDC’s hierarchy members in an Event Trailer Truck with a banner containing photo of the Party’s current Political Leader (George Manneh Weah) and its two candidates whose respective political ambition was being launched on that day.

Being a journalist, I embarked on a ‘journalistic tour’ to capture scenes and comments (to later write about) related to what the CDC was doing on that day.

The CDC’s venture was politically named “Blue Tsunami”, a political project aimed at mobilizing all CDCians and urging them to conquer the two political posts to be contested for.

The launch was at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Stadium, Liberia’s #1 sports arena for international soccer matches, built by Liberia’s 18th President and named in his memory.

Girls’ “Militant Brigade”: Stationed in the middle of an Express vehicle lane (Tubman Boulevard—on 25th Street, Sinkor, Monrovia), blocking vehicular traffic

THE HISTORY OF THE “BERET” IN LIBERIA

Defined as a round flattish cap of felt or cloth, the Beret appeared first in pre-civil Liberia, used by the national Boy Scouts, many of whom behaved ‘militarily’ (hostile and arrogance) anytime their heads were in berets.

During the war time, the Interim Government of Amos Sawyer (one of the drafters of Liberia’s modern constitution—1986) adopted the beret for his Government’s “special State Security”, most of whom the President thought will be loyal to him than members  of the traditional National Army (that became a warring faction in the Country’s war) will be.

WORLD HISTORY OF THE BERET

The history of the beret is a story of ‘militancy’. The beret started as a ‘military identity’ in France. It was adopted by a French military man named Chasseurs Alpin, for the French Army, in 1889.

A British Army General, named Huge Elles, adopted the beret for use by the newly formed British War Tank Regimen during War World I.

HISTORY & PHILOSOPHY ‘SECRET AGENDA’ OF THE CDC’S BERET

“Disabled” persons exhibit their “Party Loyalty” with the Berets in front of the New Era Supermarket’s fence (25th Street, Sinkor, Monrovia)
Closer view of the beret on motorcyclist’s head

The beret being used by the composition of three political parties (named earlier in this article) has the following features: Made of cloth; blue or red; the Party’s batch at the right side of the face. In the batch is the Party’s name, its motto—“The People’s Party”—and a bird (with a leaf at its beak) facing a nest.

According to one of my sources (each person expressed preference for preferred protection of identity from the public’s knowledge on security reasons), the beret was adopted by the ‘Mother Political Party’—Congress for Democratic Change—around 2016.

Another source told me, the Party adopted the beret as a “self-defense tactic” against external political aggression from the national political bloc during this time: Unity Party.

Publicity board of the Party’s vocation skills acquisition center outside the Party’s Headquarters

Another source informed me that the beret appeared in the Congress of Democratic Change’s camp few months after a member of the State Security, during the Presidency of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, allegedly fired live bullets at a CDCian during a brawl between CDC’s supporters and the Government-backed State Security quelling violent actions by CDC’s supporters against result of the President election in 2011. Some of the CDCians’ actions were: throwing of petrol bombs; placing stones, woods, and other objects into public roads (preventing movement of vehicles) as parts of their protest methods against a perceived ‘rigged’ presidential election in favor of Unity Party’s Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf against CDC’s Winston Tubman (relative of Liberia’s 18th President)

Inside the CDC’s Headquarters, some of the party’s loyalists toured with a casket in memory of their partisan allegedly killed by the State Security officer.

Another source told me, few months to the Presidential and Parliamentary elections, in 2017, members of the “Youth Wing” of the merger of the three political parties—making up the “Coalition”—suggested a ‘military hat’ (beret) Mr. Jefferson Tamba Koijee, current Mayor of Monrovia, was the National Chairman of the independent CDC, and holds the same position in the political merger called “Coalition”

Like during the time of the ‘independent CDC’, the Youth Wing of the “Coalition” does regular “military drills” behind the football field in the Party’s Headquarters. Here, there are many ghettos where selling various emotions-stirring liquors and bravery-inducing drugs are sold.

CDCians from here are absorbed into the Monrovia City Police, most of who ruthlessly deal with traders on “economic violation” or personal issue—sometime related to “political difference”

Some political forecasters are saying the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change will use the Party’s ‘militant wing’ to “silence” political opponents who resist the Party’s selfish Presidential agenda of imposition of President Weah-pushed National Referendum (set for December 8, 2020—the same time the Mid-Term Senatorial election will be held), and will flush out anybody to politically block George Weah’s second-term presidential agenda or victory in 2023.

HISTORY OF ‘YOUTH MILITARIZATION’ IN LIBERIA

It started with Mr. Charles McAurthur Taylor as a warlord beginning from 1989. The National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) recruited “youth” as soldiers against rival warring factions—and pushed them against members of West Africa peace-keeping group (ECOMOG) whose presence was perceived as a threat to Mr. Taylor’s being-nurtured Presidential agenda.

“CORRUPTION” ON THE CDC’S BERET?

In the Party’s Headquarters on the political launch day, I interacted with a guy who had rushed out of the Party’s Secretariat and complaining.

“Some top CDCians working in the Party’s Secretariat or living in this Headquarters are selling the beret to ordinary partisans and outsiders, between one-fifty and two hundred Liberty (Liberian currency),” repeated the guy, who called Henry to me as his name, and a senior biological brother of the CDC’s National Youth Wing Chairman, Jefferson Tamba Koijee. “The Party bought more than three million pieces, to be given free to CDCians, but some persons in here are selling the thing,” he added.

The guy told me he had received a tip-off of the selling information, and was on confirmation-reconnaissance at the Party’s Headquarters on the day he spoke with me.

If the Coalition of Democratic Change can find money to produce “three million (3,000,000)” berets, how come it has not found money to complete its Vocational Training Center in an almost two-year period? This project commenced before sixteen billion Liberian dollars—the Country’s money (alledgely) disappeared during George M. Weah’s Presidency, and much part of the twenty-five million US dollars (for stabilization of the Liberian dollars against the American dollar), released through the Central Bank of Liberia, “disappeared”. If each of the ruling party’s top officials who received part of the “disappeared money” had contributed one percent of his/her share to the CDC’s Vocational Training Center project, the building would have been completed before CDCians came out to display their “military beret”

CDC’S YOUTH WING COMPOSITION: CIVIL WAR TIME “DEATH SQUAD” MEMBERS IN

Used for political publicity banners: The Party’s Vocational Training Center still under operation since 2018

During debates on perceived electoral violence, many members of the CDC’s Youth Wing talk proudly about their participation in their Country’s civil war, and how they will “deal with” the Party’s political opponents as they did to their “enemies” with their AK-47s or “Army knife” during the war. Some of these people were persons popularly called “child soldiers” (under-13s) in the 1990s, with their gun’s nozzle dragging on the ground (due to their height) when they were moving. Now, several years later, following end of the war, they are now “adults”—and wearing the CDC’s beret. Many of them are commercial motorcycle operators—with the beret on their heads while they are on their machine in traffic. And many other spend much of the daytime and the entire nighttime in ghettos, sniffing drugs which are being smuggled daily into Liberia through some of Liberia’s Immigration and Drug Enforcement officers stationed at these smuggle routes: Land borders or Airport.

OPPOSITION BLOC’S COUNTER-ATTACK AGAINST STATE-BACKED RULING PARTY’S “MILITANT GROUP”

Political opponents to the ruling CDC won’t always stand still, hand stuck to their sides, when pro-CDC’s armed young supporters assault them with hands, sticks or with fire arms. They will retaliate. When fire arms are required for counter-attacks, AK-47s and other ‘self-defense’ weapons will enter Liberia. Like it happened during Liberia’s civil war, foreign gun merchants have ready-consignment to ship into Liberia a any (rich) Liberian  or group of citizens who have decided to “scatter” their Country on “political differences”. The group of Liberians who had decided on destabilizing their Country through a civil war, beginning from 1989, got arms and ammunitions in days.

This is what will happen when President George Manneh Weah failed in taming his political party’s “militia wing”

And these actions and counter-actions will throw Liberia back into a political abyss she was in for fourteen years, beginning from 1990.

WHEN THE PARTY’S SCHOOL BUILDING SITS INCOMPLETE, ABANDONED

Lighter-complexion and facially attractive Pinky (surname name withheld), in her late-20s, is a die-hard CDCian residing in Electoral District #9 of Montserrado County.  She was one of those dressed up in the Party’s ‘military’ paraphernalia (beret and T-shirt) In 2017, Pinky was a member of the Campaign Team of Presidential Candidate George Manneh Weah (in the Presidential and Parliamentary elections in 2017) to the South-Eastern Counties of Liberia—Grand Gedeh, Maryland, Grand Kru, and Sinoe.  She had been warned about the terrible features of the roads—muddy (some three feet deep), ditches in the middle of roads (that cause break-down of many low vehicles ploughing this route), and longer journey (due to bad road conditions), compared to other Counties. But Pinky ignored the warning of the ‘detractors’ just to follow her ‘political idol’. Her main purpose for going on the political venture was to get a job in George Weah’s Government—if he won the presidential election.

Pinky’s God answered her prayer: George Weah won the presidential election in 2017, and was inaugurated as Head of State of Liberia on January 22, 2018.

But Pinky’s politically motivated ecstasy soon diminished: She couldn’t get a job in George Manneh Weah’s Government, due her academic status—can’t read or write (except knowledge of spelling of her name)

“I talked to the Party’s top official many times for job, but they can’t find job for me, and I can’t meet the President,” Pinky told this writer during one of their chatting sessions on job creation by the George M. Weah-led Government.

As an alternative, Pinky hung her hopes on CDC’s Vocational Training Center (reflected on the two photos below) in the Party’s Headquarters, to learn sewing, baking, soap-making, or any of the vocations being taught.

Unfortunately, for Pinky, the Vocational Training Center is still undergoing construction—since 2019 when the building project started. During my visit at the Vocational Training Center, during the CDC’s political launch day on Saturday (November 21, 2020), I saw the following: A cement-bare structure (view the photo above); building materials and the cement and sand mixture machine on the floor; and the Party’s political banners on the wire-fence around the incomplete building.

With her Political Party not yet ready for imparting vocational knowledge into its members in the youth bracket (age 18-age 35), which is proven in the Party’s “delay” in completing its Vocational Training Center (pictured above), Pinky has resorted to a road-side business in her electoral constituency: District #9. She sells assortment of packaged imported low-income desserts—biscuits, candies, juice, etc.; and children’s toys. The goods are displayed on a wooden measure four meters in length and 6 meters in width.

But Pinky’s business collapsed two months to the CDC’s political launches. Before the launch, she was regularly visiting the Party’s Headquarters to beg for alms from some of the Party’s leaders who work at the Secretariat or those who came on visit.

The conditions of Pinky are similar to many other loyal youths of the George Manneh Weah—led Coalition for Democratic Change.

In spite of the “economic hard times”, caused by official corruption and the Government’s lack of ideas of job-creation, these young CDCians are still loyal to the Party, and view the Political Leader as a “saint”—no one error in anything he does or says. Some defend the Government on “national improved living condition”—with claims that Liberia is now economically sweeter than during the 12-year Presidency of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf—while they are begging for food or money from members of the opposition political party.

RECOMMENDATIONS

The ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) should prioritize “education” (building the mind on academic or vocational knowledge) of its youths over “militarization” (building the minds on “fighting”) The former will equip them to positively contribute to the development of the Country.

The opposition bloc should fill the “education gap” created by the ruling party’s “national priority swift” by creating educational opportunities for the Country’s youth population. This will help it win the hearts of “majority” of the voting-age youths and translate into conquering State Power.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union (AU), and the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) should continually caution the George Manneh Weah-led Government of Liberia on “militarization” of Liberia’s youth, which is threatening Liberia’s peace the regional body and the International Community have restored with blood of each Country’s citizens and resources.

Is Nation-building Footballer George Manneh turning to a Nation-destroying Politician—through militarization of his political party’s young members? I hope not—to the latter one.

The Author
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About Cholo Brooks 13761 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.

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