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April 09, 2013

Liberian Organizers Suspend Friday’s Planned Mass Protest

by James Butty

A coalition of Liberian activist groups has decided to call off a mass protest that had been scheduled for this Friday.

Vandalar Patricks, vice president for international affairs of the Coalition for the Transformation of Liberia, denied allegations the coalition cancelled the protest in exchange for a bribe from the government.  

Patricks said the protest was postponed following appeals from various sources, including foreign diplomats, religious groups and elders.

“We temporarily suspended the planned peaceful assembly which was scheduled for April 12, 2013.  It was due to several pleas from the diplomatic mission in Liberia, the Liberian Council of Churches, the traditional council, and civil society organizations. And, having listened to them, I think it’s our moral responsibility to give them the benefit of the doubt that they will prevail on the government of Liberia to do the right thing,” he said.

The group had said it wanted to hold the protest to bring world attention to what they call the suffering of the Liberian people.

They had given the government seven demands and said they would consider postponing the protest if the government met no less than three before Friday.

Patricks said one of the demands included a recommitment by the government to fight corruption.
Butty interview with Vandalar

“When Madam Sirleaf took over the country in 2006, she said corruption would be her number one enemy.  But, right now as we speak, we see individuals that helped to corrupt the system are not being prosecuted.  We are saying ‘Madam President, if you are fighting corruption, let there be no selective justice,’” Patricks said.

There have been allegations that the groups received thousands of dollars to call off the planned demonstration.  But, Patricks denied the bribery allegations.

“In the first place, why would people say we received money from the government when the very government accused us of being supported by other political actors in this country?  We are saying that statement is from the belly of the devil.  It has no iota of truth.  It is only intended to destroy the impeccable character that we have built over the years,” Patricks said. 
                                             
Reports late Monday indicate there is a split among the groups organizing the event.  One account quotes the Grassroots Leadership Network as saying that protest will be held as planned.

“The statement issued by the coalition today, that as a result of the intervention of the vice president, they are suspending all activities leading to the protest, does not represent the view of the Grassroots Leadership Network.  The protest stands as planned and there is no change in activities, no change in date, no change in decision,” said Archiebego Doe of the Grassroots Leadership Network.