Friday, June 07, protest in Monrovia which saw thousands of Liberians converged on Capitol Hill to petition their government is a clear show of strength and truly demonstrates that democratic power indeed, derives from the people.
Chapter (1) Article (1) of the Constitution of Liberia under the titled, Structure of the State partly reads, “All power is inherent in the people. All free governments are instituted by their authority and for their benefit and they have the right to alter and reform the same when their safety and happiness so require…”
Thousands of Liberians led by the group, Council of Patriots exercised their right Friday, 07 June as guaranteed under Article 17 of the Constitution which stipulates: All persons, at all times, in an orderly and peaceable manner, shall have the right to assemble and consult upon the common good, to instruct their representatives, to petition the Government or other functionaries for the redress of grievances and to associate fully with others or refuse to associate in political parties, trade unions and other organizations.
The assembly led by the CoP was intended to petition the government of President Manneh Weah to effect reforms in the economy and in his administration that would reposition the State on the right trajectory and bring about socio-economic harmony.
From all indications, the government did not want this assembly, as its ran a campaign, including scare tactics to discourage citizens from coming out, ignoring the plight of the ordinary citizens.
Although the petition is rescheduled to a later date, but Liberians generally, are unhappy about the current State of affairs, including hyper-inflation, rising prices and rising exchange rate, coupled with corruption, lack of accountability and jobs, culminated to severe hardship, among others.
The people want real actions, rather than promises, promises, and promises. In his recent nationwide address, President Weah promised that government is working on measures to salvage the economy without saying anything about the sky-rocketing exchange rate now at nearly 200 Liberian dollars to US$1.00.
The government says it has not increased petroleum price, but the exacerbating exchange rate pushes gasoline price above 600LRD per gallon, while fuel is nearly 700 per gallon in the capital, the first time ever in many years.
A Half bag of rice or a 25kg bag previously sold at 2,000LRD to 2,250LRD per bag, is nearly 3,000LRD in the market. The rising prices are affecting other basic commodities thus, seriously shrinking the purchasing power of ordinary Liberians.
President Weah has no choice but to listen to the cries of the people, most of whom elected him. There is no other way. To continuously ignore or downplay these concerns might lead to something else. The government should accept the petition and immediately begin to addressing those demands that can be responded to in the short run and then constitute a team or committee, which may include some members of Council of Patriots to seek long-term solutions.