Liberians protest living prices as Weah returns from 48-day journey


Monrovia, Liberia – Hundreds of protesters gathered on Saturday on the outer part of the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex in Monrovia to protest towards hovering prices of living, a day earlier than President George Weah’s return from a 48-day journey overseas.

The protest was organised by the Coalition of Collaborating Parties – an opposition alliance within the West African nation – however experiences of inner scuffles saved solely the Alternative National Congress (ANC) within the fold.

From as early as 9am, protesters gathered at numerous places across the metropolis, together with the social gathering headquarters of the 2 opposition events, chanting protest songs as they walked to the stadium, Liberia’s largest. “We tiyah [are tired of] suffering”, a few of their banners learn.

ANC supporters additionally wore shirts with the face of their candidate Alexander Cummings, one in every of Weah’s two challengers for the presidency within the 2023 election.

“I am protesting because the country is hard,” Simon, a industrial motorcyclist advised Al Jazeera. “Rice is expensive, everything is expensive, there are no jobs and the government is not doing anything about it.”

Since early December, the value of rice – Liberia’s staple meals – elevated from $15 to $17.50 for every 25kg bag. This enhance got here off the heels of a commodity scarcity that has led to lengthy queues and inflated costs of rice and different objects, partly as a result of disruption of world provide as Russia’s struggle continues in Ukraine.

According to the World Food Programme, an estimated 64 p.c of individuals in Liberia – one of many world’s poorest nations – stay under the poverty line and 1.three million of these stay in excessive poverty.

A 2019 authorities payroll harmonisation course of made issues worse, because it successfully lowered the wage of presidency employees since then.

The protests have been held a day earlier than Weah’s return on Sunday from his journey, which included a go to to Qatar to look at his son play for the USA soccer group within the FIFA World Cup.

The president, whose 1995 win of the Ballon d’Or – the annual award for the world’s greatest participant – stays the one time an African has finished so, additionally made stops in Morocco, Egypt and France.

While the presidency has mentioned the journey was an official one and authorities officers have claimed that the journey has produced dividends for the nation, opposition figures say it was a waste of scarce sources.

Lewis Brown, previously Liberia’s everlasting consultant to the United Nations and one of many protest organisers, mentioned the demonstrations have been essential as a result of living circumstances are on a day by day decline.

“People suffering is the reality of the country, and while people are suffering, there is a high level of wastage in government,” he mentioned.

Demonstrators Hold A Banner As They Protest Over The Ongoing Economic Hardship And President George Weah'S Prolonged Absence From The Country, In Paynesville, A Suburb Of Monrovia, Liberia
Demonstrators maintain a banner as they protest over the financial hardship and President Weah’s extended absence from the nation, in Paynesville, a suburb of Monrovia, Liberia, December 17, 2022 [Carielle Doe/Reuters]

Ahead of 2023

The protest went on with none disruptions however the build-up was removed from easy.

On December 5, Brown was attacked by thugs after an look at a radio station to discuss the deliberate protests.

In a move that additional exacerbated tensions, Liberian military chief Major-General Prince C Johnson III issued a caveat previous to the protest, urging “whosoever may feel or is disenchanted as we approach the 2023 elections” to hunt redress in courtroom.

He promised that the safety businesses would execute their constitutional duties “if they can’t control your actions and/or is overwhelmed”, whatever the standing or affiliation of protesters.

While the defence ministry has supported his assertion, it drew criticism from senior opposition leaders and civil society.

In a December eight information convention, the Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC) – the nation’s largest civil society coalition for election statement – mentioned the military assertion was inappropriate and “an example of the military meddling in civil affairs by intimidating and instilling fear in the hearts of people who wanted to exercise their constitutional right to assemble”.

The December 17 protests have been the second in current occasions after an Independence Day demonstration by college students towards the federal government on July 26 was attacked by pro-government supporters internet hosting a counterrally close by.

Political observers say there are more likely to be extra demonstrations forward of the final elections in October 2023.

But they will not be sufficient to dislodge the electoral base of Weah, who stays a well-liked determine in Liberia, mentioned Ibrahim Nyei, an analyst on the Monrovia-based Ducor Institute for Social and Economic Research.

“While they have the right to protest, a more effective strategy would be for the opposition to rally their support base to turn out during elections,” he advised Al Jazeera.

Still, protesters imagine that now’s simply as essential as the long run. For Simon, this protest is a chance to air a stack of grievances towards the present state of governance within the nation.

“We will protest now,” he advised Al Jazeera. “I am protesting to tell the government that they have failed me and I am tired of the suffering.”