A visit by Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai and his newly chosen running mate, Speaker James Emmanuel Nuquay to densely populated slum community of Clara Town on Bushrod Island Wednesday, 12 July was greeted with protest by placard carrying youths.
The protestors, chanting among others, “Boakai you will pay for what you eat” and “Boakai’s U.S. rate 150” approached the Vice President’s convoy as it enters the slum community, but were restrained by security forces.
The Vice President is vying to succeed incumbent President Sirleaf.It all started when a rival youth group under the banner, “Friends for the Future” invited the 76 years old presidential candidate to endorse his bid for the nation’s top office.
The demonstrators in their youthful ages stormed the main street, commencing from Clara Town Store to the Clara Town Hall, barricading the Matthew Sonnie Public School, the venue of the endorsement.
Apparently, realizing the potential risk, the organizers with help from the Executive Protection Service invited riot units from the Liberia National Police to provide security for the event.
The demonstrators briefly abandoned their quest as though they have forgotten their plans, while the program was hurriedly held with apprehension on the faces of the audience.
Clara Town is the birth place and one of the strong holds of presidential hopeful Senator George Manneh Weah, who is Standard Bearer of the Coalition for Democratic Change. The Liberian soccer ambassador began his football career here.
As attendees of the program left the town hall, the demonstrators in their numbers stormed the grounds, this time with placards and at the same time throwing plastic missiles at the convoy of the Vice President and his guests.
Tensions built up subsequently and things went loose, but quickly, the elite Emergency Response Unit of the Liberia National Police speedily spread in the street, chasing out demonstrators and bystanders in a bid to create safe corridor for Vice President Boakai to leave.
The protestors did not only go after Boakai and his team, but members and officials of the “Friends for the Future”, launching missiles and anything that their hands could get hold of.
Petty traders along the Clara Town Store were forced to abandon their markets, while students took to their heels.Veep Boakai had earlier engaged the street, waving to residents and bystanders before quickly getting onboard his presidential motorcade.
The demonstrators alleged that since his ascendency, Vice President Boakai had never visited the community nor shared in their poverty. They argued that the Unity Party-led administration has done nothing for the Liberian populace, but subjecting them to extreme poverty, deaths, poor education and health, among others.
One of the protestors, John Wleh, says the visitation and subsequent endorsement of Boakai is a mockery. “Unity Party and Joseph Boakai think we are stupid, after eating our money for the past 12 years, as the second man in command, they are finding another means to continue eating our resources, while we sit, live and eat poverty. This must stop and it will stop today,” he expresses in anger.
This is the first public protest against the governing UP Standard Bearer in the impending elections, coming within just two days after naming little known Speaker Emmanuel Nuquay as his running mate.
By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor-Editing by Jonathan Browne