By J. Yanqui Zaza
The May 4, 2019 story carried by the Liberian local newspaper, Frontpageafricaonline) about the June 7, 2019 protest encouraged me to share my views about the would-be protest. In the article, the writer stated, “the much-publicized protest dubbed ‘Save The State’ has created mixed reactions amongst Liberians, with many reminiscing the 1979 Rice Riot, the proverbial straw that unleashed 25 years of mayhem, anarchy, destruction, and death on Liberians.” Preceding this assertion, many other Liberians have asked President Weah government and the June 7, 2019 organizers to meet, negotiate, and search for compromise.
Certainly, if violence will become inevitable, then it is a good idea to delay instituting the rule of law and/or spurring prosperity principles, for example. This is because violence whether provoked by the suppressors or the suppressed will eventually prolong the institutionalization of fairness and democracy. This line of thinking along with its recommendation is not new. Therefore, is it fair to ask whether President Weah Administration will follow the rule of law if the June 7 Protest organizers were to postpone the Rally?
Since we cannot predict the future, has the postponement of the rule of law in the past in Liberia promoted democracy or spur prosperity? For instance, did awarding Charles Taylor the highest office within the Republic of Liberia, discourage him from instituting dictatorial regime in Liberia? Did former warlords disarm and promote democracy after Liberia and international community awarded them with the privilege to handpick leaders of the 2003 Interim of the late Gyude Brant? A big no. Instead, many of the warlords are using their stolen wealth acquired through their political offices to delay spurring prosperity.
I suspect that many of the organizers want President Weah to do the following things if they were to postpone the rally:
1) To prosecute individuals such as individuals of FIBLL who stole US $19M from the Central Bank of Liberia, according to KPMG’s Report submitted to the Weah government in 2018.
2) That President Weah will provide information about the sources of the money he used to build his residential and commercials properties within less than twelve months;
3) that President Weah will provide more information about the L$81.1 billion since the two investigating Teams did not perform professionally, according to Mr. Benoni Urey who, at the recent Conference of the four political party-meeting, called on the government to account for the L$18.1 billion;
However, none of the issues listed above reduces profits of big business, one of the three major actors (big business, military, and political class) in any rally, according to the NY Times article called “What makes a Coup Succeed? Confidence and Consensus.” Ironically, big business feels uncomfortable with June 7 protest since the focus (i.e., promoting democracy or upholding the rule of law) usually “…threatens elites’ power/income…” Well, could it be for profit motives that is preventing the owner (Mr. Charles Brumskine) of the Law Firm of the Central Bank of Liberia from addressing the L$18.1 billion dollar saga? Mr. Brumskine was the presidential candidate of Liberty Party during the 2017 election in Liberia, is silent about the missing L$18.1 billion and/or the US. In addition, many businesses provided services, including printing reports and advertisement, legal services, accounting services, consulting for government and non-governmental agencies. In fact, according to USAID 2015 Report (www.liberian_businesses_-_the_engines_of_economic_recovery_and_growth), government and nongovernmental agencies give out about 90% of all contracts in Liberia, requiring many businesses to pay homage to government officials.
However, some big businesses might support the June 7 protest because President Weah government shifted away US $50M and US $17M from many industries such as retail, services, restaurants, etc. to the construction industry and special Ministries. In my view, this special money movement, consciously or unconsciously, is choking the Liberian economy.
Firstly, what is the status of the Liberia’s cash balance sheet? The government, using two different reports, says everything is okay, contradicting the views of the market women who claim that there is no money or prices are high. President Weah stated in January 2019 that Liberia’s “…GROSS FOREIGN RESERVES at the end of November 2018 was $410.2 million United States dollars…” Also, there is a minimal difference of about US $560K ($528.5M minus $528.0M) between the Total expenditure of the 2016/2017 numbers and the projected Total expenditure of 2020/2021, according to the 2018/2019 Budget.
So, are the market women’s views incorrect, that there is no money? Let us review a sample of the schedule I took from the 2018/2019 budget document. The Grand Totals of 2016/17 and 2020/2021 are about the same. Compensation went up by $2M in 2020/2021, while Use of Goods and Services declined from $66M in 2016/2017 to $15M in 2020/2021.
This arrangement allowed the government to redirect $51M ($66M minus $15M) and $17M ($17M minus $0.00) from amounts allocated for goods and Services (i.e., money allocated for business industries located around the country) to the construction industry and non-financial assets for special Ministries and Agencies.
This arrangement has allowed the government to take money away from businesses that interact frequently with small businesses such as garages that repair government vehicles, stationery stores that provide supplies to government, restaurants that provide food at seminars and conferences, stores that sell calculators, fans, air-conditioners, gasoline stations that provide petroleum for employees, etc.
Always benefiting from anti-democratic actions, big business will influence corrupt leaders to suppress efforts intended to advance democracy and the rule of law, efforts. So, it is not surprising that surrogates of big business, including American Embassy, continue to remind Liberians about the ugliness of the 1979 demonstration (an incident that occurred (40) forty years ago), but conveniently omit the successful story of the demonstration (i.e., BRINGBACKOURMONEY).
More so, they do not mention the fact that police officer in 1979 provoked the violence in 1979; neither do they mention that representatives of President Weah government provoked and attacked residents in District # 10 and # 13. Also, they do not mention that agents of President Weah government did disrupt and attack delegates at the Ceremony of the forty-third (43rd) Anniversary of the Movement of Justice in Africa’s in 2019.
Folks, President Weah, under pressure, could, for example, publish his bank statements. But could the President re-shift the construction money, and thereby, abandon his 2023 presidential campaign project and/or abandon the World Bank’s policy infrastructure? In my view, whether the June 7 protest is postponed or not Liberians are gradually winning the fight against dictatorship and corruption.
Main Pic: Protestors gathered in Monrovia, Liberia’s capital in a Bring Back Our Money Campaign, in the wake of mission bank notes from the Central Bank of Liberia, totaling 16.billion dollars