Liberian President George Weah is having a few bad days. And more may be on their way.
A citizen action group – the Council of Patriots (COP) – has a long list of demands covering governance, human rights and the rule of law, national peace and reconciliation, integrity and accountability, among others.
The group has called on President Weah to part ways with some of his closed lieutenants they believe are not up to the task and may cause him more harm politically.
Thousands of Liberians turned out on June 7 to protest corruption and economic decline that many blame on their once hugely popular president, former soccer star George Weah.
“We feel downhearted. We feel dissatisfied,” said Marian Barrole, a student at United Methodist University. “We feel that we are not being treated the right way. We voted Ambassador George Manneh Weah for change but we have not seen the change. We have seen the worst. So, we gather here today in our numbers to make him understand that we are suffering and he should do something about it.”
She urged the President to take immediate action against sexual violence. “Rape matters to me so much because as a female we are being abused by many people, especially male government officials and other cruel men. We feel that whenever girls are raped, the government cannot do anything, no investigation.
“The case of the students at the United Methodist School on the highway that was allegedly raped and killed and many other victims, most of them young girls and nothing can be done. So, I am holding my placard to say stop the rape. We are future leaders and they should stop destroying our future.”
Economic issues are at the forefront of the list of many complaints, starting from a stagnant economy in which most still live in deep poverty and a scandal in which the country last year lost $100 million in newly printed bank notes destined for the central bank.
“Weah is not governing our state the right way,” said Ishmael Hassan, who voted for Weah in 2017 but has since become disillusioned. “The economic situation in our country is going down the drain,” he told a reporter.
Among the other allegations against the government the misuse of public funds, violating press freedoms, and failing to adequately fund health and education programs.
Even Weah is accused of constructing “scores of luxury homes” after he declined to publicly declare his assets.
“I supported this government, but the way things are going, we want to save the state,” said protestor Bob Blue.
Netblocks, an NGO that monitors internet freedom, said that the Liberian government has blocked Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Whatsapp in response to the protests. Liberia’s Minister of Information confirmed the black out to CNN and said it was due to “security concerns.”
A member of the Council of Patriots, Henry Costa, told Deutsche Welle news: “We are in North Korea. We have a dictator on our head.”
The protests were given the #SavetheState hashtag on social media.
The Council of Patriots held out the prospect of saving Liberia from “total breakdown”.
“Encouraged by growing consensus among Liberians at home and abroad about the need for urgent, peaceful and concerned citizens’ mass actions to save the Liberian state from total breakdown as the governance environment continues to worsen.”