Conflicting accounts from Liberia’s Police Inspector General Col. Patrick Sudue and the June 7 protest chief mobilizer Henry Costa clearly indicate that the authorities here and the protesters are yet to reach clear consensus on what will be the security protocol during the protest.
Addressing a community policing stakeholders meeting in Paynesville, outside Monrovia Thursday, 30 May Inspector General Sudue sounded a caveat that there will be no march on June 7, in contrast to Council of Patriots (COP) mobilizer Henry Costa’s previous claim that protesters will gather on Capitol Hill where the Legislature, Executive and Judiciary branches of government sit to present their petition.
The COP rejects suggestion to be confined at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium on UN Drive to present its petition to government.According to the protest planners, in presenting their petition on June 7, they will demand immediate actions from President George Manneh Weah, and that failure to act accordingly, they will return in the streets beginning Monday, 10 June to continuously protest until their demands are met.
But Col. Sudue gives different narratives here, insisting that there will be no marching on June 7, vowing at the community policing meeting that everybody’s rights will be respected under the law.
“Nobody marching; nobody marching. Article 17 says peaceful assembly. Assembly means, the way all of us gathered here today, that’s assembly. [Did] we march to come here?” Col. Sudue asks rhetorically as the crowd responds to him: “No.”
“Fine, that’s what they call assembly,” he says, and explains further that march is only done for instance, from Duala or Gbarnga to Monrovia when people are engaged in a protest march.
But in peaceful assembly, he also suggests that those involved agree to meet at a certain location at a particular time.“So under the law, everybody’s rights will be respected on June 7. We’ll ensure that we’ll maintain the peace, this is why we call you people here for y’all to help us for us to find remedy to sustain our peace,” he says.
“So, those that will go to march, the government has given you your space. But you should be … peaceful,” Col. Sudue cautions.The police chief emphasizes that the crafters of the Constitution did not say people should assemble in violence, but they call for peaceful and orderly assembly.
According to him, the crafters of the June 7 protest say they are operating under the ambience of the law, citing Article 17 of the Liberian Constitution as their reliance.
But while the protesters are relying on Article 17 for their assembly on June 7, Col. Sudue suggests that Article 13 of the Constitution also guarantees the right of free movement for those that may not form part of the protest.
On the basis of Article 13, he warns protesters not to stop the movement of others that may want to go about their normal businesses either to the market or on the farm.
“Because the law says where your right ends, it’s where another man’s right begins,” says Sudue.
Regarding the stakeholders community policing engagement, Col. Sudue explains that the consultation is called to talk to the youth, fathers, mothers, community heads, watch forum leaders and children to stop violence.
He announces that the gathering will be broken into groups, based on districts, to try to find answers to what has been the cause for young people to be violent.
Ideas derived will be documented by a secretariat after which stakeholders from the 17 districts of Montserrado County and the police will sign a document that the police will use as a working document to checkmate the various communities, Col. Sudue says.
He further announces that this program will be extended to the various counties here, while follow – ups will be done in the 17 districts of Montserrado to get feedback and ensure that what has been signed is being adhered to.He pleads with young people to say no to violence because violence is not the answer.
Also speaking, Mr. John D. Allen, a Justice Ministry Security Consultant and proxy of Minister Musa Dean urges Liberians to always be mindful that Liberia is all they have and to uphold it dearly to their heart.
Mr. Allen warns that if something happens, most of the citizens here might not be able to get out of the country, while those who encourage violence might get their families out.
To prevent harboring criminals, Deputy Immigration Commissioner Col. Asatu Bah Kanneh admonishes property owners to ensure that before accepting new tenants, they get recommendations from leaders in tenants’ previous communities to know why they are relocating and their source of income.
She observes that landlords are often concerned about collecting rentals without a background check on those they rent their properties to, regardless of the risk of accepting troublemakers into their community.
The meeting brought together police authorities, international partners, and leaders of Montserrado’s 17 districts, watch fora and others. By Winston W. Parley–Editing by Jonathan Browne