LIBERIA – The opposition Alternative National Congress (ANC) has called on the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Liberia, Frank Musa Dean, to immediately order a full investigation and arrest and prosecute Jefferson Koijee, Ben Believe Toba, Poker Roberts, Abdurahman Barrie, and others, for the violent attacks on peaceful protesting students.
In a statement released today, ANC strongly condemned the unprovoked violent attack, torture, and humiliation, of peaceful protesting students of the University of Liberia under the banner of the Student Unification Party (SUP).
ANC says the attack was perpetrated allegedly by state-sponsored “thugs and bandits, recruited, organized trained and financed by Jefferson Koijee, Nathaniel McGill and President George Weah – for the sole purpose of violently crushing political dissent and instilling fear and terror in the opposition community and citizens who disagree with the Government’s policies and practices.
“The group of thugs and bandits, under the command and instruction of Jefferson Koijee, were, during the violent attack, led by officials of the CDC-COP including Ben Believe Togba, Poker Roberts, and one Abdurahman Barrie, outgoing Student Council President from the African Methodist Episcopal University (AMEU) – a fellow who is believed to head the Consortium of University Students for the Re-election of President Weah.”
In fact, in a Facebook post, a few minutes after the violent attacks, Ben Believe Togba, leader of the attackers, wrote boastfully on his page: “under special instructions from our supreme leader Jefferson Tamba Koijee, we carried out attacks against UL students (SUP) this morning. Next time we will use live bullets”, said the ANC.
The ANC says the organization, financing, and sponsoring of violent thugs and bandits by Weah, McGill under the direct control and command of Koijee – for the sole purpose of instigating violence and inflicting unimaginable havoc of mega proportions against the opposition community and dissenting voices – is a reprehensible abuse of public office and is tantamount to domestic terrorism.
In a letter written to Liberia’s Justice Minister Frank Musah Dean, with copies to the American Ambassador, AU, and ECOWAS, the ANC vehemently frowns on what appears to be a persistent pattern of conduct of grooming and institutionalizing domestic terror allegedly by George Weah, Nathaniel McGill and Jefferson Koijee to distribute violence through thugs and bandits in order to instill fear in the opposition community and silence dissenting voices.
ANC says it is particularly alarmed and disturbed by evidence of video images in which the thugs and bandits were escorted by uniformed police officers of the Liberian National Police (LNP), who watched and smiled, as peaceful students were attacked, beaten, tied, and made naked in public.
“This is political gangsterism and reckless bravado that taints our decency and democracy as a people, and strikes a poisonous bullet in the spinal cord of our democratic tradition of free speech and peaceful assembly,” says Alexander Cummings, Standard Bearer of the ANC.
It is a matter of public knowledge that university students from the Student Unification Party (SUP) had long announced that they would protest, and had in fact gone on July 26, 2022, to peacefully present a petition to the United States Ambassador, with a demand: “Weah Must Fix the Country.”
Party states that in counter-reaction, thugs and bandits, acting under the command of Koijee, under the theme “Weah is Fixing the Country” and escorted by officers of the LNP, stormed the gathering of the peaceful protesting students, chased them with rocks and sticks, abducted and kidnapped some students, and tied and naked them.
In a video circulating on social media, thugs and bandits allegedly sponsored by the government were seen manhandling Christopher Walter Sisulu Sivilii in the presence of some officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP), which brings to memory the ugly past in our country’s history when rights activists were brutalized and hunted simply because they stood up for the right things to be done, that led to 14 years of civil unrest.
“This is an unacceptable provocation and creeping lawlessness which must not be tolerated, says Senator Daniel F. Naatehn, National Chairman of the ANC.
The statement indicates that though not surprising, it is sad that the Government is yet to release a statement regarding the act of gangsterism exhibited by loyalists of the ruling party on the day marking the country’s 175th independence celebration.
The ANC is therefore calling the attention of the international community – the United Nations, the African Union, ECOWAS, European Union, and the US Government – to this “barbaric act and encourage all civil society organizations, women and student groups and other political parties to condemn the attacks on July 26 at the American Embassy near Monrovia.”
ANC says the right to protest is a fundamental right, guaranteed under Article 15 (Freedom of Expression) and Article 17 (Freedom of Peaceful Assembly) of the 1986 Liberian Constitution. It is the right of every Liberian to peacefully assemble against ills in society. The systematic pattern of conduct by Weah, McGill, and Koijee to recruit, organize, train, finance, and sponsor thugs and bandits to crush and inflict injuries on dissenting voices and the opposition community during the exercise of their democratic right, is unacceptable.
The Statement: “Fresh on our minds is the 2018 bloody riot and thuggish violence led by Koijee against an opposition rally in District 13; the 2019 bloody violence in District 15 by thugs under the command of Koijee; and several violent attacks on multiple occasions by Koijee-led thugs against peacefully protesting university students.”
It notes that the persistent violent pattern of conduct by Koijee has led United States Congressman Rep. Chris Smith, a Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Africa and co-chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission to remark: “I am especially concerned by allegations surrounding Monrovia Mayor Jefferson Koijee and the thuggish behavior of the Congress for Democratic Change Security Force he heads.”
Similarly, the International Justice Group (IJG) has dubbed Koijee as the “perpetrator-in-chief “who behaves like a violent psychopath who acts under the authority of President Weah and is shielded and protected by him.”
The IJG has accused Koijee of overseeing violent actions by “vigilante groups” loyal to the party and current Government and has been responsible for incitement and participation in acts of violence against citizens and opposition members.
It can be recalled that Weah, McGill, and Koijee have been linked to organizing, financing, sponsoring, and arming vigilante militias comprising armed robbers, ex-combatants, and violent militants from the ruling CDC into the “Sabu Unit”, “Kuba Unit”, and “Moscow Empire”; groups noted for carrying out bloody attacks against opposition figures and innocent civilians to instill fear and cause death.
ANC is also, therefore, calling on the Minister of Justice to set up an independent panel to investigate and probe the thuggish behavior blessed by Weah and McGill, and executed through Koijee, the release signed by Aloysius Toe, National Secretary General, concluded.