Monrovia—On April 14, 2021, the Student Unification Party (SUP) memorialized the heroic lives of student leaders who were shot by the police forces of the True Whig Party-led–Tolbert government, in Monrovia, after parading through the principal streets in the seaside city before climaxing their activities at the Palm Grove Cemetery on Center Street, where eulogies and remembrance speeches were given by the campus-based, pan African student body. Reports indicate President William Richard Tolbert issued the order to “Shoot them below the extremities”, according to a New York Times and Ann Bolsover of the BBC, who also covered the event.
Before the shooting of unarmed protesters could start, “I held the President’s hand a long time, pleading with him. I begged him to send the word down, but to my utter astonishment and dire disappointment, he made no such move”, said veteran journalist, Mr. Albert Porte.
Every year since the April 12th military Coup, the student said, relatives, and sympathizers of the old order that comprised the TWP have gone to the historic Palm Grove Cemetery, downtown Monrovia, to mourn the 13 government officials that were executed in the aftermath of the PRC Coup of April 12, 1980. This year, the Student Unification Party or SUP said, it was also at the cemetery to eulogize its colleagues two days after the TWP sympathizers also paid a visit.
According to SUP leaders, it was important that their comrades like brother Robert Ziah and sister Irene Nimpson amongst others, who were slain on April 14, 1979, be memorialized and remembered for the gallantry they showed, in the exercise of their constitutional rights, as they were shot in the streets. The Secretary-General, Mustapha Kemal Ataturk of SUP told the Liberian Listener.
At Palm Grove
Uniformed in their khakis, donning their heads with red berets, and fully dressed in their revolutionary regalia, the SUP militants held up their fists and chanted battle cries in remembrance of their colleagues who were shot in the streets on the April 14th, 1979, by President Tolbert security forces.
Also in attendance with the SUP militants from the University of Liberia, was the former president of the Liberia National Student Union (LINSU), Varney Jarsey. Mr. Jarsey thanked, encouraged the fallen protesters for their bravery; he applauded the gathering and commended SUP for throwing light on the struggle, after 42 years since the event of the Rice Uprising.
Reaffirming the Struggle
Speaking at the ceremony, the Chairman of the Student Unification Party, Momo Peters said, “The Militants of SUP had come to commemorate the deaths of those who died during the April 14, 1979 “Rice Riot”; most of whom were students of the University of Liberia which included Irene Nimpson, Women Presidium Chair of SUP amongst others.”
The student leader during his remarks frowned on Richard Tolbert whom he accused of distorting Liberian history two days earlier at the same cemetery. Momo Peters added that the: oligarchy of the True Whig Party was the oppressors of our people.
April 12, 1980, was a day the military overthrew the 130 years old TWP regime. A year before, on April 14, which is regarded as a sad day for the student community and progressives saw “Mr. Tolbert ordering his security killing peaceful protestors who were agitating for their rights that led to the true birth of democracy and change in Liberia,” said Mr. Peters.
“The Vanguard Student Unification Party will come here every April” to pay tribute to our comrades, and to remember the dark clouds that were set over Liberia, that saw these murders; we’ll come here on April 14th every year to pay homage to our fallen comrades in martyrdom, who are the true heroes and heroines of the democracy and peace we are enjoying today.” Reported by Andrew Borbor Werlay Jaye Jr.
Main Photo: SUP Chairman Momo Peters, sandwich by two sister militants, at the cemetery.