As Liberians prepare to commemorate the adoption of the nation’s flag on August 24, young people will take to the streets of Monrovia to demand that Liberian President George Weah, and other politicians, take the steps to significantly improve the quality of life in the small West African country.
This rally, organized by the Student Unification Party (SUP), counts as part of an ongoing #FixtheCountry campaign. It will take place nearly a month after supporters of the Congress for Democratic Change, Weah’s political party, allegedly stripped, beaten, and tortured Christopher Walter Sisulu Sivili on the campus of African Methodist Episcopal University in Monrovia.
Sivili, an SUP member and University of Liberia student, was counted among several young people who converged on the campus during a protest on July 26, Liberia’s independence day. In a statement, SUP members likened the public beating to the well-documented torture and killing of President Samuel K. Doe during the Liberian Civil War in the early 1990s.
In their manifesto, SUP has called on the Weah administration and other officials within the Liberian government to stop siphoning funds allocated for the census, infrastructure projects, and the public education and health sectors.
They have also demanded an independent investigation into the deaths that have taken place over the last two years, including that of Princess Cooper, activist Emmanuel Cooper, three boys, and four government auditors.
SUP has accumulated 51 demands in total. The release of the manifesto earlier this month came amid attempts to engage senators, members of the Weah administration,and the Economic Community of West African States.
The United Nations designates Liberia as one of the world’s poorest nations, due in part to the first and second Liberian Civil War and the Ebola epidemic that further crippled the economy less than a decade ago. People aged 15-34 account for 65 percent of Liberia’s population, and unemployment among that group stands at higher than 80 percent.
For years, Liberians at home and across the diaspora have criticized the Weah administration, and previous administrations, for misuse of funds and lack of accountability.
The U.S. government recently imposed sanctions on three Liberian government officials, including Weah’s minister of state affairs Nathaniel McGill, Liberia’s chief prosecutor Sayma Syrenius Cephus, and Bill Twehway, chief of the National Port Authority.
In a statement, the U.S. Treasury Department alleged misappropriation of state assets, using assets for personal gain, and bribery.
Weah has since suspended McGill, Cyphus, and Twehway.
SUP member Mustapha N. Kanneh said SUP hasn’t aligned itself with any Liberian politician. The organization, which has been based out of the University of Liberia for more than half a century, rather strives to represent the Liberian people, particularly those calling on the Liberian government to do right by its constituents.
“People in government are using money intended for youth development and national development to enrich themselves,” said Kanneh, SUP chairman.
“They’re building mansions and duplexes while the people are languishing in poverty. Education is underfunded [and] there is no equipment and medicine in the major hospitals. Corruption is the fundamental reason why our people are living in poverty. It’s eating at the fabric of the state.”