Thousands march in Liberia to protest falling economy

Police officers are seen outside Monrovia's Capitol building while members of the Council of Patriots (COP) protest against the deepening economic crisis under Liberian President George Weah, in Monrovia on January 6, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 06 January 2020

Thousands march in Liberia to protest falling economy

  • Dozens of riot police were deployed in Monrovia, the capital, although the scene remained calm

MONROVIA: Liberian police fired tear gas and water cannon on Monday to clear thousands of anti-government protesters from a central district in the capital Monrovia.
A crowd of some 3,000 people had gathered outside Monrovia's Capitol building since the morning to protest the deepening economic crisis under President George Weah.
The demonstration followed two mass rallies against the footballer-turned-president this summer, as the impoverished West African country struggles with corruption and rising prices.
Protesters outside the Capitol building had started cooking evening meals, against police orders, when law enforcement began to forcefully clear the area, an AFP journalist at the scene said.
Dozens of people suffering the effects of tear gas, or from falling during the clearance, were taken to hospital, the journalist said.
Tensions have risen in the weeks prior to the demonstration after the government said it would block any protest before the end of January and opposition group the Council of Patriots vowed to defy the ban.
The government relented on Sunday night and authorised Monday's rally, Justice Ministry spokeswoman Maude Somah told AFP.
The atmosphere at the protest was initially calm, although some businesses in Monrovia closed for fear of violence.
Weah is under growing pressure to revive Liberia's economy, which is flailing after back-to-back civil wars and the 2014-2016 Ebola crisis.
Inflation is soaring, according to the World Bank, and civil servants regularly go unpaid.
Liberia's justice ministry said in a statement Sunday that it would provide security for the protest but warned that COP leaders would be held accountable if they broke the law.
Thousands of Liberians already took to the streets in June and July to protest living conditions and spiralling inflation under Weah.


3,000-strong African force planned against Sahel extremism

Updated 28 February 2020

3,000-strong African force planned against Sahel extremism

  • The force would be a significant new player in the Sahel where fighters linked to Al-Qaeda and the Daesh group killed thousands of people last year
  • The decision by African leaders comes as the United States considers cutting its military presence in Africa while urging African solutions to African problems

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia: African leaders have decided to work on deploying 3,000 troops to West Africa’s troubled Sahel region as extremist attacks surge, an African Union official said Thursday.
The force would be a significant new player in the sprawling, arid region south of the Sahara Desert where fighters linked to Al-Qaeda and the Daesh group killed thousands of people last year — at times working together in an unprecedented move.
The decision by African leaders comes as the United States considers cutting its military presence in Africa while urging African solutions to African problems. That has sparked pressure from worried security allies including France and regional countries as well as a rare bipartisan outcry among lawmakers in Washington.
Smail Chergui, the African Union commissioner for peace and security, relayed the new troop decision that was taken at the recent AU summit during a meeting Thursday with visiting European Union officials.
The AU continental body is expected to work with the West African regional counterterror force G5 Sahel as well as the West African regional body ECOWAS, which has formed peacekeeping units in the past, Chergui said.
ECOWAS in September announced what Chergui called a “very bold” plan to counter extremism in the region, including mobilizing up to $1 billion through 2024.
“As you see and recognize yourself, the threat is expanding and becoming more complex,” Chergui said. “Terrorists are now even bringing a new modus operandi from Afghanistan and Al-Shabab” in Somalia.
It was not immediately clear what the next steps would be in forming the AU force for the Sahel, which has become the most active region in Africa for extremist attacks.
The force would join France’s largest overseas military operation, the 5,100-strong Barkhane, and the 15,000-strong United Nations peacekeeping force in Mali, one of the hardest-hit countries in the attacks along with Burkina Faso and Niger.