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Monrovia on edge

-Amidst growing tension

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Police in Monrovia fired tear gas canisters on Wednesday morning as they clashed with hundreds of demonstrators during a protest march against corruption, economic mismanagement and arrogance within the barely 19 months old George Weah led government.

The protesters also threw stones at the police in return as they tried to force their way towards the capitol building, the seat of the Liberian Legislature.Police claimed the protesters did not have permit to take to the streets and press home their demands for good governance and accountability within the Weah administration that came to power through a popular vote.

The protest comes amidst heightened tension over by-elections results for which both the opposition parties and the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change or CDC had claimed commanding leads before the National Elections Commission or NEC could announced the provisional results late Wednesday night.

The protest had earlier been planned for July 24, by the organizers of the June 7 demonstration, the Council of Patriots or COP, but had to be pushed forward to July 31, after the United States Embassy here issued a release condemning a demonstration on the eve of the country’s 172th Independence Day celebration.

This was to be the second major gathering of protesters since President Weah, a former soccer star turned politician ascended to power. At least more than five protesters were arrested.

Protesters say barely 19 months since Weah took over the affairs of the country the economic situation continues to go from bad to worse as inflation is pretty over some 40%. The price of basic commodities continue to soar by the day and it is as if the government is running out of options to ease the hardship.

Some foreign companies have closed shop, while others have drastically reduced the staff, as civil servants complained of not taking pay for more than two months at some agencies and ministries. Banks have drawn the curtains on giving loans to businesses due to the liquidity problems in the country.

Amidst this tough economic situation comes the report of missing “16 billion” Liberian bank notes and the controversial USD25 million mop up money for which some Central Bank officials are currently undergoing investigation.

The protesters are mainly demanding accountability and have asked that President Weah sack Finance Minister Samuel Tweah and Central Bank of Liberia Executive Governor Nathaniel Patray for their role in the USD25 million mop up exercise in which thousands on United States Dollars were unaccounted for.

All of these development also come two days after a High Court acquitted seven individuals including Senators Varney Sherman, Morris Saytuma and former House Speaker Alex Tyler of bribery.

The case was replete with series of conflict of interests, after former defense lawyers were appointed to head the Justice Department and served as prosecutors. It also coupled with the visit of the Justice in Chambers Associate Justice Joseph Nagbe, a former Senator, who visited the court during one of the case proceedings and entered the trial judge chamber for more than 20 minutes, and when he emerged from the trial judge chambers waved to the then defendants accompanied by a broad smile. By Othello B. Garblah

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