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ECOWAS draws security concerns

-wants protest limited to one day

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Following series of mediation talks with government and the organizers of the June 7 protest, regional bloc Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) sounds a warning that protesters should exercise their right without creating unnecessary insecurity, bearing in mind that the country is still fragile.

“And we have also insisted very clearly with the … organizers and everybody, the political parties that this march be, for the reason that I just indicated – the security reason, to maintain peace, that this march if it is held, should be one day,” ECOWAS Commission President Jean Claude KassiBrou told a press conference in Monrovia Friday, 31 May.

Mr. KassiBrou suggests that the march should not be something that continues in different areas, warning further that the longer the march lies, the difficult it is to maintain security and the more complex and unpredictable it gets, as well.

The pending June 7 protest dubbed Save the State is organized by COP and endorsed by four collaborating opposition political parties – Liberty Party (LP), Unity Party (UP) Alternative National Congress (ANC) and All Liberian Party (ALP).Dialogue between the president and the protesters and the Senate’s recently proposed talk with the protesters ended in deadlock.

The protesters say they say will assemble on Capitol Hill where the Legislative, Executive and Judicial branches of government sit to protest and present their petition to President George Manneh Weah on June 7, and demand immediate redress of their concerns.

Allegations of corruption, the poor state of the economy, lack of trust in the handling of a controversial US$25m mop – up exercise and other issues appear to be at the core of the protesters’ demand for redress.

The protesters say if President Weah fails to address their demands immediately, they will return to the streets beginning Monday, 10 June and stage a continuous protest until their demands are met.They have rejected authorities’ suggestion to be confined at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium for their protest.

But the Ministry of Justice says no money was missing during the mop -up exercise, despite a troubling finding released by the General Auditing Commission (GAC) revealing for instance, that 52 entities that participated in the mop – up exercise and received US$1,092,292.00 per Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) records, did not answer or reply to GAC’s telephone calls and text messages during investigation.

Mr. KassiBrou reveals that ECOWAS has met with Liberia’s security institutions including the chief of defense, the police and the minister of justice to see what can be done to make sure that whatever march is done is peaceful.

He stresses the importance of engaging in constructive dialogue, encouraging Liberians to sit and work together, find solution to all the challenges so that the solutions are finally implemented in the country, going forward.

The ECOWAS Commission Chief reveals that all stakeholders including government and protest organizers Council of Patriots (COP) expressed commitment to peace during his engagements with them here.“And we are very glad because the, everybody, everybody, whether the government, whether the uh, opposition parties, whether the civil society … [are] very committed to peace,” he says.

Mr. KassiBrou emphasizes that the COP and the opposition parties want to have a peaceful march, noting that “Nobody wants to take a chance of that, and that for us was very positive.”He notes that ECOWAS strongly supports dialogue, but if people want to march, the regional bloc insists that this must be peaceful.

He acknowledges that demonstration is part of the constitutional rights, but it has to be peaceful.Mr. KassiBrou reminds Liberians that they know the history of their country, expressing belief that they do not want to go back to the past.

“After two days mission here, I am reassured because all the stakeholders that I have talked to – the Executive branch, the opposition leaders, the Council of Patriots, all of the want peace for the country. That’s very important. I have not heard one single person that say they want to do something that will create problem in the country,” says Mr. KassiBrou.

Responding to question as to what the challenges were, Mr. KassiBrou explains that there are issues of governance and corruption, adding that those issues were addressed by President Weah in his speech a few days earlier.By Winston W. Parley

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