MONROVIA – The main campus of the state-run University of Liberia was thrown into pandemonium yesterday, Monday, March 13, 2022 when Representative Acarious Moses Gray of Electoral District #8, Montserrado County, defied the objection and threats from the Student Unification Party (SUP) opposing to his planned visit on the main campus, stormed the campus with his entourage of bodyguards, supporters and associates thereby sending SUP members fleeing in all directions and some retreating to hiding places.
According to Mr. Gray who had spoken last week of his plan to visit the campus, he had wished to have lunch with students who are beneficiaries of his scholarship program. He also wanted to use the occasion to sensitize students from his constituency about the ensuing biometric registration exercise. He also said that as an alumnus of the University, it was a good time to visit his alma mater with the view of meeting old friends and have a glimpse of the campus.
Upon getting the information of the planned visit, SUP issued a press release opposing the visit and said it was an attempt to victimize the students, and will therefore not be welcomed.
Sensing that the planned visit could spark violence and disruption to normal academic activities, some Liberians, most government officials and friends counseled Representative Gray against the visit, especially against the background of recent occurrences where the students have become hostile to the government officials and their allies who were chased out of the premises of the main campus of the premier higher institution in the country.
Representative Gray, who has been described by some of his supporters as “Lone General” objected all pleas and insisted that he would go ahead with his plan as it would amount to cowardice not to visit the campus, especially when he did nothing to warrant the objection as a free citizen; noting that the University of Liberia is a public institution that should be accessed by anybody at their will. Meanwhile, his supporters had gone ahead to issue flyers via social media tagged “Lunch With Hon. Gray, University of Liberia, Student Center, 13 March @12:30”.
In the morning hours of Monday, March 13, 2023, Representative Gray appeared on the OK FM Radio station and repeated his vow that no amount of pleas will ever make him to shelf his plan and contrary to what others may insinuate, his visit will be non-violent and non-confrontational as a law abiding citizens who will be on the campus to meet his constituents and beneficiaries of his scholarship scheme.
“Come and enjoy lunch with me by 12:30 pm tomorrow at the University of Liberia Campus on Capitol Hill. We will also have a meet and greet with our students and constituents during our peaceful gathering. We have no intention to cause disruption or engage those who disagree with us. Note: I, General Acarous Moses Tallahkai Tombekai Gray will be there yah”, Representative Gray posted on his official Facebook page.
The entire weekend proceeding yesterday was charged on the campus of UL and as early as 6 am some students mainly from SUP had begun trooping in on the campus to reportedly defend their territorial integrity as against state terrorism and oppression.
But just as the SUP “militants “were gathering on the campus, another group, the Progressive Student Alliance (PROSA) stormed the campus in their hundreds chanting for a peaceful learning environment to exist on the campuses of the University.
PROSA had earlier issued a statement over the weekend and urged both SUP and Representative Gray not to disturb the peaceful learning atmosphere at the University as it will affect the studies of other serious students at the University. It also blamed the administration under Dr. Sanwolu Nelson for “cordoning the acts of violence being perpetrated by SUP all because Dr. Nelson is a SUP veteran”.
As the moment was building up, both SUP and PROSA had taken prime places on the campus addressing their students, amidst singing and chanting of slogans, as well as jabs thrown at rival factions. SUP had accused PROSA of being pro-government forces sent on campus to undermine the protest against the government which was also planned for the day besides mobilizing their members against Gray’s entry on the campus.
It was in the fray of the back-and-forth accusations and counter-accusations that news started filtering in that Representative Acarious Moses Gray was marching on campus to keep date with his schedule, all the way from his 9th street residence with a number of his supporters, well-wishers and friends by way of the Jallah Town entry point of the University. Others could not believe it especially given the charged atmosphere on campus and SUP begin to mobilize their members to congregate at a particular point while also sealing up the entry point from the Stella Maris Polytechnic University direction of the university,
Gray, being heavily guarded by a number of huge body-built aides as well as sizable number of supporters, finally arrived at the campus in a battle-ready fashion amidst hailing and battle cries by some of his members that had earlier infiltrated the campus. He was ushered on the rocky platform next to a large bell of the University very close to the auditorium from where he addressed the citizens, though he struggled to speak to the surging crowd that was eager to hear from him.
“Today we are marching into history. I stood here in 2011 advocating for change, we spoke to students and we talked about the liberation of the Liberian people.
“I want to appeal to the University of Liberia students not to be used by greedy politicians. If they want to use you, tell them to go in the front line. They are scared like chickens to face the people.
“Let us be calm, thank you for allowing me to speak to the University of Liberia”, Representative Gray said.
Representative Gray who could not have the chance to speak to the students as he had wished to due to the large crowd, said he was not on campus to challenge anyone on campus but to meet beneficiaries of his scholarship program as well as holding sensitization of the BVR exercise for members of his constituents.
Gray then descended from the platform and decided to move around the campus, sending shocking waves in the mind of some SUP militants, some of whom had been running for cover for fear of being attacked while others retreated from the positions they had occupied before Gray’s arrival.
Gray and his men marched all over the campus without any slightest provocation and resistance from SUP members who had vowed to have stopped him from entering the campus. At one point, he held a private meeting with the Muslim community leaders on the campus.
The media had a very tough time getting words from him after he briefly addressed the students as the number of students coming around him continued to swell until his departure after spending close to an hour on the campus.
Before his departure from the campus, some of his supporters who spoke to The Analyst said the visit was not for confrontation but it has achieved an objective that no group of students can cow or threaten any government official from visiting the campus to conduct legitimate business.
“At least a message has been sent out there to the student that no one has the monopoly of a will power to carry on any plan that is germane to one’s desire or freedom. It was a provocation and demeaning on the person of a whole lawmaker of the country to be told not to visit the campus of a state-run institution of learning like the University of Liberia which is being supported from taxpayer’s money.
“The unruly attitude of stop or molesting government officials on the campus of the university will no more be accepted and the students have gotten the message clearly”, one of Gray’s supporters said.
Gray’s visit yesterday marked a turning point of the agitation being mounted by students against government officials visiting the campus. They had chased away Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor when she launched the degree program for fishery and aquaculture studies, along with former Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Nathaniel Farlo McGill and Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Samuel D. Tweah, Jr who had gone on campus to inspect renovation projects being funded by the government. The students also chased former Solicitor General of Liberia, Cllr. Saymah Syrenius Cephas and Aloysius Howe, a staff in the office of Minister Tweah when they went on the campus on private visits.