President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, under the protection of angry-looking elite Executive Protection Service officers or EPS, Tuesday stormed the peaceful protest grounds in Voinjama, Lofa County in a rather irritated disposition.
“Shut – up and go home immediately,” were the words of the president to the protestors, who had earlier told her that they were “disappointed in her” without even presenting a petition to her.
The protesters- all of whom were citizens of the Quard-Du Boni District in Lofa County, had gathered on Tuesday morning, October 21, 2014 at the Presidential Palace in Voinjama to express their grievances on the alleged illegal operations of the Liberia Cocoa Company or LCC in their district.
They claimed that the company, through its Chief Executive Officer Momolu Dukuly Tolbert, had acquired their land illegally, leaving local dweller ‘in the cold’, while amassing their resources with impunity.
Upon being attracted by the presence of Quard-Du Boni protesters on the grounds of the Presidential Palace, President Sirleaf made a brief stop before the crowd in an apparent attempt to listen to them through their spokesman Mohammed Massalley. A brief ceremony to honor the presence of the protesters was immediately cut off after an unwholesome behaviour was exhibited by protester spokesman Mohammed Massalley.
“Madam President, we’re very, very disappointed in you,” said Massalay even before reading the petition prepared by the Quard-Du Boni- an approach which received an angry response from the President: “shut – up and go home immediately.”
Officers of the elite presidential guard instantly discharged their batons and some light weapons to disperse the protestors upon the President’s furious response, leaving the aggrieved citizens with no other option, but to run in various directions while the presidential motorcade drove out of Voinjama toward Bong County.
Chanting militant slogans in front of UN and state security forces near the presidential palace in Lofa’s Capital, Voinjama, the protesters said they were “very, very disappointed” for the signing of a concession agreement with a cocoa producing company that they fear could affect their land even before being rectified.
Speaking to this paper following the Presidents’ departure, spokesman Massalley- also a student of the University of Liberia, said in the wake of the delays in the ratification of the contract by the Liberian Legislature, the company, through Chief Executive Officer Tolbert, has ‘bestowed’ onto itself about 600 hectors of the land without any discussion with the people of the district and community.
He accused the company of negotiating with the Legislative Caucus chaired by Senator Sumo Kupee and the superintendent for the land without the involvement of the people of Quard-Du Boni District, noting that they, as young people of the district, will no longer allow the operations of the company.
President Sirleaf later addressed reporters at the Voinjama Free Pentecostal Church Clinic, stressing that she could not continue listening to the protesters for their “rude and disrespectful” approach. She said they should have been civil, respectful and moderate in pursuing solution to their problem, other than being rude, insulting and political, adding “I don’t have time for that.”
She, however, ordered Superintendent Georger Dunor to inform the protesters that she left “because they did not want to be orderly,” and that they acted just in line with earlier security advice against stopping because of the presence of individuals behaving disorderly among the protesters.
“If they had been orderly, I would listen to them; I would talk to them- I would tell them what we are doing and what we can do to resolve their matter. But I would not stop and talk to people if they would not be civil and respectful,” she told the Superintendent.
President Sirleaf is noted for harshly responding to citizens, especially when on a tour of the country. The Liberian Chief Executive told the people Bong that they’re ‘deceitful’ after some women of the county had gone to the Presidential Palace in Gbarnga, Bong County to meet with her following the 2005 run-off Presidential election, which did not see her do well in the county.
In Margibi County a few years ago, she described the county as ‘the gateway to the country’s dirtiness’ as a way of expressing her disappointment over the condition of the City of Kakata.