This year’s July 26 Independence Day Celebrations are beclouded with many distractions for various reasons, including unpaid salaries for civil servants amid a US$500,000 (half million United States Dollars) budget for celebrations, LRD5, 000 bonoza from President George Weah to each wayward citizen or Zogo in the streets and politically-charged by-elections on July 29 to be followed by mass protest.
From writings on the wall, the celebrations could be short-lived, if care is not taken by the government to stabilize situations, as they are. The fact of the matter is, some 60,000 civil servants across the country are hungry, because they haven’t taken pay reportedly for two months. Multiply this figure by 4 (240,000) and add that to the rest of the population of hungry citizens across the country because of the dismal state of the economy.
Protesting students from the University of Liberia already sent out a signal here on Wednesday, 24 July of things to come, with a street protest characterized by roadblocks on Capitol Hill in solidarity with their hungry professors and lecturers, who boycotted administering examinations because of two months’ salaries.
Amid the tense atmosphere, the government mandates hungry civil servants here to attend the official celebrations at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex in Paynesville outside Monrovia, venue of this year’s Independence festivities.
The 172nd Independence Day is the first major national celebration under the Weah administration since taking office in 2018, and the government is bent on impressing foreign guests, including Heads of States and governments gracing the occasion that it is governing properly.
However, realities on the ground are quite different: Inflation is above 23 percent, direct foreign investments are non-existent, the government is struggling to pay salary and the entire economy is stagnant amid mismanagement of public funds, particularly US$25 million withdrawn from the national reserves for so-called mop up of excess liquidity, which the administration hasn’t properly accounted for.
The government may succeed in impressing invited guests and partners that all is well here, with a half million dollar celebrations. But this is pure white-washing or being cosmetic, because all is not well under this administration, as disenchantments loom.
An advocacy group, the Council of Patriots, organizers of the June 07 protest, is gearing up for another round of street demonstrations to draw government’s attention to the current state of affairs and demand solutions. The CoP had earlier scheduled its protest for July 22, but the United States Ambassador accredited near Monrovia, Christine Elder noted in a statement here that the pronouncement is “misplaced”, given its proximity to the July 26 Independence celebrations.
Then there are by-elections slated for July 29, three days after the Independence celebrations which President Weah vows no candidates from the opposition would win as long as he remains the President of Liberia. As if these were not enough, the National Elections Commission is demanding the government to pay the balance US$1 million for the $2.5 million budgeted for the by-elections.
Liberians are celebrating with one eye open on what comes up next after July 26, given the tense atmosphere and air of uncertainties that have gripped the nation as a result of the dismal state of the economy and its excruciating impacts on the lives of the people.