Liberia: Several Injured in Chaos at Capitol Hill
– The chaos came after Rep. Gray led his followers on UL campus in show of political power
Capitol Hill, the seat of the Liberian government, was on Monday in a state of pandemonium as an unprovoked Montserrado County district #8 Representative Acarous Gray protected by scores of thugs, invaded the main campus of the University of Liberia (UL) to settle scores with the leadership and members of the campus-based Student Unification Party (SUP).
The invasion, which was being resisted by hardliners, known as ‘militants’, led to a tense hour-long stone-throwing battle that led to many sustaining wounds. Backed by thugs and wayward youths, known as zogos, reportedly recruited from Central Monrovia, who kept pouring in, Rep. Gray’s group eventually dislodged the SUP militants.
The lawmaker, who had gone under the pretext of having lunch on the campus of the nation’s leading public tertiary institution, was apparently infuriated by SUP militants who had been harassing government officials aligned with the ruling party, who are deemed corrupt.
Prior to the melee, Gray, a stalwart of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change and a ranking member of the House of Representatives, had dared SUP, informing the group that he would be on the campus to have lunch with students — sending a caveat that he would be the last man to be intimidated by the student-run political party — the most powerful in the history of the university that has produced nearly all of the presidents of the student council government since the 1970s.
The presence of the lawmaker and his thugs plunged the premises of the university and the entire Capitol Hill into chaos and lawlessness, as people ran helter skelter.
Though a showdown was inevitable, officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP) remained mere spectators, folded their arms as they watched stone-throwing rivals besiege the UL campus.
It came as no surprise that the police apparently made no preparation to secure the campus or take control of the situation, despite the growing tension within the public since Gray announced his appearance on the campus over three days ahead. The Liberia National Police has in numerous instances stood by as actors claiming loyalty to the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change carried out attacks against perceived opponents of the George Weah administration. Less than a year ago, on July 26, 2022, Liberia’s Independence Day, a student of the University of Liberia was stripped naked and beaten in front of the United States Embassy by actors loyal to the CDC, during a protest organized by the victim and his colleagues in front of the Embassy, calling on President Weah to “fix the country”. This happened also in the presence of armed police officers who did not lift a finger to disperse the attackers.
Rep. Gray, whose unusual lunch visit to the UL was apparently provoked by verbal attacks on national leaders and stakeholders by the students, noted that there is no way there can be another republic within the republic of Liberia.
SUP militants have been recently booing perceived corrupt government officials who had gone on official and private visits on the campus — most times asking them to leave the vicinity of the university.
The most high profile of these officials intimidated by the students is Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor, who had gone on the campus of the university to grace the launch of the fisheries studies program. The VP was booed, followed by a “rogue, rogue” chant.
Another victim of the student’s action was the former Solicitor General, Cyrenius Cephus — one of three top government officials sanctioned for corruption by the United States government last year.
The latest action that apparently prompted Rep. Gray to announce his lunch visit was the humiliation of Aloysius Howe, a special assistant to Finance Minister Samuel Tweah. Howe, a staunch member of the ruling CDC, was implicated in a corruption scandal at the Liberia Institution for Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS) National Housing and Population Census.
Howe took to social media on March 7, to explain his ordeal with the SUP militants and, within hours, Representative Gray announced, also on social media, that he would visit the campus.
He wrote: “Guys you can join me on Monday at 12:30pm for LUNCH at the University of Liberia student center. I General Acarous Moses Gray will be with my students and constituents.”
Subsequently at a press conference, the SUP militants also vowed to deny Gray access to the premises of the university and that they would do all they could to protect their campus from the influences of corrupt national elements.
With that, the battle lines were drawn.
So in anticipation of the battle, SUP members, in the early hours of Monday, began crisscrossing the campus of the University of Liberia, chanting anti-government slogans.
As all this was ongoing, Representative Acarus Gray was heard on OK FM 99.5, vowing to enter the UL by mid-day.
And he did so exactly as he promised, entering the UL campus with throngs of thugs, who had marched with him from as far as his 9th street residence.
During his address upon his successful invasion of the campus, Gray, surrounded by his bodyguards and goons, chided the authority of the university for allowing students to become outlaws by creating another republic within the republic of Liberia.
“But let me repeat to the media. Like I said, in District eight, let the world know, our International partners, human rights groups, the religious community, the women, political actors, officials of government, the students and the traditional leaders, as long as I am a representative in District #8 Montserrado County, there will never be a state within a state,” he declared.
“I am not here to prove anything to University students. They are not my target. Those are my sons, my daughters, my family members. They voted for me also,” Rep. Gray said.
“I am even disappointed in some people in the fourth state who will call me and tell me don’t go there for the sake of peace, but you cannot call our sons and daughters not to throw stones.
“No man, no soul will break the laws of Liberia and go scot free . They said they were bringing Yekeh here, I was excited that Yekeh would be here today, I am still excited. The reason is this, it means that the day he’s having program in his district, the same spot I will be there that day. There will be maximum political repository,” Rep Gray said.
“No one — if they were shooting bullets here today, I would have come here. If they have a bazooka, I would have been here. This is my alma mater.
“The Police have a responsibility to protect the territorial confines . University teachers have been attacked. They say government officials have been attacked, innocent students have been attacked, classes have been disrupted because of 20 hard-headed boys.”
As Rep. Gray and his men chased the students from campus, Yekeh Kolubah, an opposition lawmaker and staunch critic of President George Weah, went to the rescue of the students along with his own men to counter Gray’s and his group.
Yekeh Kolubah, Representative of Montserrado County District #10, stood at the same place Gray stood to address supporters, calling on the student community to forgive Gray for his ignorance act exhibited.
He blamed President Weah for embracing violence on the campus of the university. “President Weah, if you bring the guns we will take the guns to your doors. This place is for our brothers and sisters to come and learn, not to bring chaos on this ground.
“If you have a government who is irresponsible, that is not mature because you cannot be in glass house and throw stones,” Rep. Kolubah said.
However, Gray did not have the lunch for which he claimed to have gone to the campus, since all of the eateries on the campus had been closed for fear of his violent arrival. The UL administration had earlier issued an urgent statement canceling all academic activities for the day.
This however raises the question whether the CDC lawmaker’s mission was a successful one.