Home Governance ‘26’ Street Violence Triggers Vehement Condemnations …From CEMESP, ANC, ALJA

‘26’ Street Violence Triggers Vehement Condemnations …From CEMESP, ANC, ALJA

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MONROVIA: The Center for Media Studies and Peace-building (CEMESP) has “condemned, in the strongest terms the violence meted out against protesting students of the University of Liberia’s Student Unification Party outside the United States Embassy on July 26.”

The CEMESP says “there can be no justification for anyone to be brutalized by thugs for expressing their views regardless of how their opponents feel.”

The group, in a release issued in Monrovia indicated that “the barbarous act of the thugs led by a known partisan of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change must be responded to forcefully by government if the impression that it was state sponsored is to be avoided.”

The group noted that “the violent act which went unchallenged by the police and other state security agents was reminiscent of similar actions carried out during Liberia’s civil war and its many years of dictatorships.”

In a statement released in Monrovia, CEMESP called on the government to immediately arrest each of the thugs shown violently assaulting a protester in the video of the incident and speedily bring them to justice for their crimes, as a way of discouraging any future occurrence of such act.

The Media development and freedom of expression group noted that “Liberia has felt too much pains for state authorities to allow people to settle their disagreement with others by resorting to thuggish and extrajudicial violent action.”

“CEMESP is therefore cautioning the government to espouse a zero tolerance for thuggish jungle justice as an unjustified attack on peaceful protesters could trigger the desire for and perpetration of counter action by rival groups, which is a recipe for dragging the country into anarchy.”

In a related development, the Alternative National Congress (ANC), has strongly condemned what it describes as “the unprovoked violent attack, torture and humiliation, on peaceful protesting students of the University of Liberia under the banner of the Student Unification Party (SUP), by state-sponsored thugs and bandits, recruited, organized trained and financed by Jefferson Koijee, Nathaniel McGill and President George Weah – for the sole purpose of violently crushing political dissent and instilling fear and terror in the opposition community and citizens who disagree with the Government’s policies and practices.”

According to ANC “the group of thugs and bandits, under the command and instruction of Jefferson Koijee, were, during the violent attack, led by officials of the CDC-COP including Ben Believe Togba, Poker Roberts and one Abdurahman Barrie, outgoing Student Council President from the African Methodist Episcopal University (AMEU) – a fellow who is believed to head the Consortium of University Students for the Re-election of President Weah.”

ANC further indicated: “In fact, in a Facebook post, few minutes after the violent attacks, Ben Believe Togba, leader of the attackers, wrote boastfully on his page: under special instructions from our Supreme Leader, Jefferson Tamba Koijee, we carried out attacks against UL students (SUP) this morning. Next time we will use live bullets!”

ANC, therefore, calls on the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Liberia, Cllr. Frank Musa Dean, Jr., to immediately order a full investigation and the arrest and prosecution of Jefferson Koijee, Ben Believe Toba, Poker Roberts, Abdurahman Barrie, and others, for the violent attacks on peaceful protesting students.

In a letter to Liberia’s Justice Minister, Frank Musah Dean, with copies to the American Ambassador, AU and ECOWAS, the ANC vehemently frowns on “what appears to be a persistent pattern of conduct of grooming and institutionalizing domestic terror by George Weah, Nathaniel McGill and Jefferson Koijee to distribute violence through thugs and bandits in order to instill fear in the opposition community and silent dissenting voices.”

“ANC is particularly alarmed and disturbed by evidence of video images in which the thugs and bandits were escorted by uniformed police officers of the Liberian National Police (LNP), who watched and smiled, as peaceful students were attacked, beaten, tied and made naked in public.

“This is political gangsterism and reckless bravado that taints our decency and democracy as a people, and strikes a poisonous bullet in the spinal cord of our democratic tradition of free speech and peaceful assembly,” says Alexander Cummings, Standard Bearer of the ANC.

The ANC says “the organization, financing and sponsoring of violent thugs and bandits by Weah, McGill under the direct control and command of Koijee – for the sole purpose of instigating violence and inflicting unimaginable havoc of mega proportions against the opposition community and dissenting voices – is a reprehensible abuse of public office and is tantamount to domestic terrorism.”

It is a matter of public knowledge that university students from the Student Unification Party (SUP) had long announced that they would protest, and had in fact gone on July 26, 2022 to peacefully present a petition to the United States Ambassador, with a demand: “Weah Must Fix the Country.” In counter reaction, thugs and bandits, acting under the command of Koijee, under the theme: “Weah is Fixing the Country” and escorted by officers of the LNP, stormed the gathering of the peaceful protesting students, chased them with rocks and sticks, abducted and kidnapped some students, and tied and naked them. In a video circulating on social media, thugs and bandits sponsored by the government were seen manhandling Christopher Walter Sisulu Sivilii in the presence of some officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP), which brings to memory the ugly past in our country’s history when rights activists were brutalized and hunted simply because they stood up for the right things to be done, that led to 14 years of civil unrest.

“This is an unacceptable provocation and creeping lawlessness which must not be tolerated”, says Senator Daniel F. Naatehn, National Chairman of the ANC.

“Though not surprising, it is sad that the Government is yet to release a statement regarding the act of gangsterism exhibited by loyalists of the ruling party on the day marking the country’s 175th independence celebration. The ANC is therefore calling the attention of the international community – the United Nations, the African Union, ECOWAS, European Union, and the US Government – to this barbaric act and encourage all civil society organizations, women and student groups and other political parties to condemn the attacks on July 26 at the American Embassy near Monrovia.

ANC says, “the right to protest is a fundamental right, guaranteed under Article 15 (Freedom of Expression) and Article 17 (Freedom of Peaceful Assembly) of the 1986 Liberian Constitution. It is the right of every Liberian to peacefully assemble against ills in the society. The systematic pattern of conduct by Weah, McGill and Koijee to recruit, organize, train, finance and sponsor thugs and bandits to crush and inflict injuries on dissenting voices and the opposition community during the exercise of their democratic right, is unacceptable.”

ANC further indicated in its letter that “Fresh on our minds is the 2018 bloody riot and thuggish violence led by Koijee against opposition rally in District 13; the 2019 bloody violence in District 15 by thugs under the command of Koijee; and several violent attacks on multiple occasions by Koijee-led thugs against peacefully protesting university students.”

The letter further asserted that the persistent violent pattern of conduct by Koijee has led United States Congressman Rep. Chris Smith, a Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Africa and co-chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission to remark: “I am especially concerned by allegations surrounding Monrovia Mayor Jefferson Koijee and the thuggish behavior of the Congress for Democratic Change Security Force he heads.”

Similarly, the International Justice Group (IJG) has dubbed Koijee as the “perpetrator-in-chief “who behaves like a violent psychopath who acts under the authority of President Weah and is shielded and protected by him.”

The IJG has accused Koijee of overseeing violent actions by “vigilante groups” loyal to the party and current Government, and has been responsible for incitement and participation in acts of violence against citizens and opposition member.

It can be recalled that Weah, McGill and Koijee have been linked to organizing, financing, sponsoring and arming vigilante militias comprising armed robbers, ex-combatants and violent militants from the ruling CDC into the “Sabu Unit”, “Kuba Unit”, and “Moscow Empire”; groups noted for carrying out bloody attacks against opposition figures and innocent civilians to instill fear and cause death.

“ANC is also therefore calling on the Minister of Justice to set up an independent panel to investigate and probe the thuggish behavior blessed by Weah and McGill, and executed through Koijee,” the letter said.

At the same time, the Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas (ALJA), has termed as “gruesome and barbaric” the recent attack on members of the Student Unification Party (SUP) of the University of Liberia by supporters of the ruling Coalition of Democratic change (CDC).

ALJA, in a press release issued on Thursday, July 28, 2022, condemned in the strongest term the unprovoked attack on the students.

ALJA says the attack on the students was ill-advised and is reminiscent of the country’s dark past when the constitutionally- guaranteed rights of Liberians were flagrantly trampled upon by agents of the ruling regime.

The Association, quoting independent media reports and video footage of the event, showed that the SUP members were confronted and attacked by the CDC-Council of Patriots (COP) during a protest called by the students to denounce bad governance and its vices in the country including corruption, poverty, and insecurity under the Weah led administration.

The protest, which was held on Tuesday, July 26, 2022, on the grounds of the US Embassy, showed student Christopher Sivili of SUP being brutalized and tortured while state security officers in closed proximity offer no help in protecting him.

The Association said “no Liberian should be assaulted or dehumanized for peacefully exercising their fundamental right to assemble and petition their government as guaranteed under the constitution.”

ALJA therefore calls on the government to go beyond the issuance of a mere statement of condemnation and prosecute the perpetrators who are captured in several videos on social media of the barbaric act. Failure to do so would suggest tacit support by the ruling establishment of the brutality meted against the students.

The American based Liberian Journalists organization expressed concern that this type of violent attack against a group the ruling party perceives as an enemy of the government could scare the opposition into silence, with potential negative consequences for the conduct of the 2023 Presidential and General Elections.

At the same time, ALJA called on Liberians of all political persuasions to condemn the recent attack on student Christopher and the other SUP members because it has the potential of reversing the democratic gains Liberia has made in recent years.

ALJA is a conglomeration of current and retired Liberian journalists residing in the Americas. It is a 501c (3) non-profit organization. The Association was founded in 1998 with the objectives of fostering companionship amongst its members and their American counterparts. Additionally, ALJA is committed to advancing press freedom through media capacity building and the fostering of good governance in Liberia through media advocacy.

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