Violence At The Liberian University Campus: An Opposing Opinion

By Dagbayonoh Kiah Nuyanfore II
Article Violence At The Liberian University Campus: An Opposing Opinion
MAR 18, 2023 LISTEN

About a month ago, the Liberian University's Student Unification Party (SUP) chased out and threw stones at Aloysius Howe, a staff of Finance Minister Samuel Tweah, from the University's grounds. SUP had done the same to Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor and former Solicitor General Syrenius Cephus. The organization alleged that Howe and the officials were involved in corruption and should not visit the campus. Howe's vehicle was said to have been damaged, and he sustained some injuries. SUP vows to stop those whom it considers corrupt officials from visiting UL, University of Liberia.

Many concerned Liberians denounced SUP's recent action against Howe, saying that the University is a public ground and no one should be denied entrance. In an apparent defiance to SUP, Representative Acarous Gray of District 8 and member of the ruling Congress of Democratic Change party announced on his Facebook page within hours of the violence against Howe to come to the school to lunch with students on March 13. SUP responded against the announcement, promising confrontation. The organization also said it would invite Representative Yekeh Kolubah, an opposition Alternative National Congress party member, to the University. Rep. Kolubah, a former rebel general, regularly criticizes the ruling party and President George Weah.

Against the advice of some individuals, Representative Gray, with some supporters, marched to the University on the 13th. This resulted in violence, though Mr. Gray left before Representative Kolubah arrived. Kolubah also came with his followers and criticized the president. Many people blamed Mr. Gray, saying as a leader, he should have exercised tolerance and acted as a respectable lawmaker.

I support Gray’s visitation. He is the congressional representative of the area where the University is located. Though he could have canceled going to the University upon the advice, and that could have avoided the clash, he was right to have gone. His action was deterrence to SUP's behavior. The organization has no right or power to stop anyone from going to the University and determining who is corrupt. It is a student group. A silence to its behavior would give license to further unlawful acts. Next time SUP thinks of stopping anyone from coming to the University, it would consider an adverse action. People would more likely stop doing wrong if there is opposition or consequences. While I back Gray’s move, I do not support the violence.

I am also disappointed in individuals and entities that kept quiet about SUP's exercise but are now condemning Rep. Gray. Fairly, they could have also advised SUP not to engage Gray. This could have prevented the confrontation. But the problem is that many Liberian educated elites are alumni of LU and were Supees, members of SUP. Therefore, their loyalty to the party may have blinded them from seeing SUP wrong.

SUP is a powerful student political group that started in 1970. The 70s were years of Liberian progressivism, which resulted in the 1980 revolution. Influenced by the progressive forces, the military overthrew the settlers’ True Whig Party regime. During the 70s, SUP with research advocated and debated based on issues, not personality or sentiments. SUP's establishment was in response to the Americo-Liberian student power domination at the University. Progressive professors, including Dr. Togba-Nah Tipoteh and Dr. Henry Fahbulleh, motivated its creation. Its membership was predominantly of native students. SUP has benefitted from former students' support, scholarships, and a general tuition scheme. From student politics and advocacy, it has become an opposition agent to national politics.

I also blame the University's administration or authority for not taking immediate measures to arrest campus disturbances. Its do-nothing-approach has heightened the crisis. I am glad it has now suspended student political parties at the University. I appreciate also the Ministry of Justice has called an investigation into the matter.

I call progressives, particularly those familiar with SUP, to denounce the organization's unlawful behavior of stopping others from coming to the University. True progressivism respects the rights of all and stands for truth and fairness without fear and favor. It criticizes its own when its members act wrongly. Moreover, freedom of movement is a universal right, and no one or institution has the right to ban it. Also, opposition against violence should not be one-sided but holistic. The move to have Rep. Kolubah at the University was political, showing SUP's true intent. If SUP was interested in peace, it could have brought in a leader from the civil societies, such as the president of the religious council or a national elder. Instead, it invited an individual who is not neutral. Had Kolubah’s and Gray’s men confronted each other, it could have been more violence.