Executive Mansion Press Release, Monrovia
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has reiterated that for Liberia to become a free, prosperous, just, open, secure and democratic society, all Liberians must continue to strengthen the peace in the country.
However, she strongly warned that government can neither accept nor permit troublemakers to resort to means, which threaten the collective peace in the country, to express a disagreement.
The Liberian leader stressed the importance of what she termed a “national goal” because only in such societies can all Liberians experience true equality and the full values of citizenship – where differences in tribe, age, gender, religious and political associations will not limit what each Liberian, including children, can become. She added, “It is only in such societies that all Liberians can share in all of the opportunities that the State has to offer, and benefit from the natural resources which we own together.”
According to an Executive Mansion release, President Sirleaf made this strong statement when she addressed the Nation on the growing wave of indiscipline permeating the society. The President’s speech also dealt with the lifting of a gag order which had been imposed in connection with an ongoing court proceeding.
Speaking on the growing level of indiscipline permeating the society, President Sirleaf emphasized that building a free, prosperous, just, open, secure and democratic society will not happen simply because Liberians want it to; rather, it will happen if Liberians respect the laws, preserve the peace, respect the rights of others, and recommit to continue to work together to make it happen.
“It means that as we grow in freedom to disagree and to express our disagreements, we must use the law, and apply it equally and fairly, to settle those disagreements,” the Liberian leader urged her compatriots, adding, “Being law-abiding, even when we disagree with one another, is the only way to secure our society. We can no longer use violence, or threaten to use violence, to express dissatisfactions or settle grievances.”
She pointed out that in rebuilding a shattered society, Liberians must not confuse the freedom which they now enjoy with lawlessness, urging them to avoid this trend. “Being free is not an excuse to be lawless, because freedom is protected by the law,” the President restated, noting that no society can be free and, at the same time, be lawless.
President Sirleaf reminded Liberians that from expressing disagreements to making claims, and from advocating for an issue to drawing attention to a cause, when they become lawless, they actually take away freedoms and deny rights.
She repeated that government will continue to protect the rights of citizens to demonstrate and protest. “Peaceful demonstrations and protests are forms of free expression which we have vowed to uphold.” But, she warned, “What we cannot accept, and cannot permit, is to resort to means which threaten our collective peace, to express a disagreement.”
She continued: “Where you are aware of the rules to resolve an issue, and you ignore them, you will be held fully responsible, and be made to answer to the law for the consequences of your unlawful action. This is not without exception. In free and democratic societies, claiming a privilege or advocating a position is not a writ to violate the rights of others, or to be lawless.
“We cannot be a peaceful society and, at the same time, be a lawless society. We cannot be a democratic society and, at the same time, use violence to solve problems. And we cannot be a society in which we demand privileges, and yet violate the fundamental rights of others. The fundamental duty of any democratic government is to protect the rights of all of its citizens. Government exists to protect us from each other. And we will do just that!” President Sirleaf sternly emphasized.
Concluding, the Liberian leader said, “If anybody has something to say, we are always willing to listen. If any citizen feels bad about something, we are always willing to work with you to find a solution. But make no mistake: we will not allow anyone or group to violate the law or undermine our peace without consequences. It is really that simple.”