One of the fundamentals of democracy is the free movement and expressions of people regardless of the social and political persuasions. Attempts by governments to stamp these inalienable rights have led to serious uprisings as well as civil disturbances including deaths.
So on Monday, when Liberians with two basic objectives: The establishment of a War and Economic Crime Court and the money allegedly missing (LD$16 billion) took the streets in protest, many were apprehensive as to what would be the outcome reminiscing several past demonstrations that became chaotic.
Information regarding the alleged L$16 billion gained tension as a result of a communication glitch between few sources of the government. While the Minister of Information noted that government had set up an investigation team to look into the situation of the alleged missing money, the Minister of Finance was quick to debunk the matter asserting that no money was missing.
The former governor of the Central Bank of Liberia, as well as former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, also corroborated the statement of Minister Tweah. So as the government got into a communication crisis, the opposition bloc, as well as other Liberians, took advantage of the situation to call for a protest under the banner of “Bring Our Money Back”.
Experience has thought that some of these peaceful demonstrations or protests have resulted either in the loss of lives or looting of private as well as public properties. The protesters through community engagements had previously warned parents not to send their children to school on Monday. It was a mixed approach as some parents decided against the planned protest and sent their kids to school.
A bystander in the person of Michael Fahn noted that he has not seen a peaceful demonstration so peaceful in the last two decades. “For me, I was afraid that the level of media publicity about this planned protest would have escalated into something chaotic, but to my amazement, that was not the case. I strongly believe that democracy under this government is at work” he concluded.
The demonstration also brought fresh memories to others who had gathered along the streets to watch the protestors. For Rachel Mulbah she saw it differently. “When I saw the people demonstrating today, my mind went straight to 2011 when somebody was killed at the CDC headquarters by officers of the Liberia National Police. I think for me; things are changing for the better of our people under this new administration.”
Standing in a bewildered mood, Jerry Pantan, a resident of West Point said the demonstration took his mind way back into 2014 during the Ebola time when an innocent Liberian in the person of Shaki Kamara was shot and left to die while bleeding. “The memory is still fresh in my mind. I remembered that day clearly when AFL soldiers tried to put down our peaceful demonstration. First, they used tear gas and then live bullets which resulted in the death of that poor boy” Jerry noted with sadness and strains of tears rolling down his cheek.
Our reporter who covered the demonstration from start to finish noted that it was so peaceful that people with hidden motives had to leave early because the opportunity to loot was non-existent due to the professional way the police was handling the situation.
This protest, which is the first of its kind since the inception of the new government of President George Weah in January of this year has sent a somewhat different message: that in spite of the current situation, people’s expression of their rights under the Constitution is firmly been protected in this new dispensation.