Last week’s street protest by hundreds of jobless youth from the governing Unity Party for employment amidst promise by the government to create 20,000 jobs this year squarely reveals the stark reality facing the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Administration. The aggrieved UP partisans, who are demanding the resignation of their standard bearer President Johnson-Sirleaf, have reportedly threatened to stage a second round of protest after a planned meeting with her over the weekend failed to take place.
Both the Secretary General of the party Wilmot Paye and the Assistant Secretary General for Press and Public Affairs Neto Zarzar Liegh have declined to officially comment on the unfolding development, which has the propensity to bring the ruling party to public ridicule. Amidst the current rigmarole, this paper has received reports of undercover attempts in some government ministries and agencies to embark on mass dismissal to create room for partisans, but the Civil Service Agency seems not to be in supportive of this route.
We believe rather than the UP officials brushing the issues aside, they must face the challenge and meet with the aggrieved partisans to finding a way out. Party youth, who sacrificed their time, talents and other resources to helping the standard bearer wins a second term in office, should not be abandoned at the roadside. They deserve full attention.
We are fully aware that the government cannot employ all partisans of the ruling party. And this makes it urgent to concretize the much publicized 20,000 jobs pronounced by Finance Minister Amara Konneh. The issue of jobs is critical to the stability of the state, giving the experiences from the 14 years civil war. We vividly recall when idle youths were conscripted, drugged and armed by warlords to turn our villages, towns, counties and cities to killing fields during the civil crisis.
Despite a formal disarmament, demobilization and reintegration program here under the auspices of the United Nations, idle youths continue to pose a serious threat to long-term stability. The recent incident along the Liberian-Ivorian border with the reported involvement of some ex-fighters from Liberia clearly drives the point home.
Unless the UP leadership urgently addresses the aggrieved partisans’ concerns by meeting with them, the current posture among the predominantly youthful partisans, including demand for Ellen to resign the standard bearer position, could render the ruling party vulnerable. President Sirleaf should expedite her youth empowerment program by embarking on vigorous and tangible action on the ground that would give hope to all jobless young people besides UP partisans.