As the dust settles on the October 15 violent student’s protest which had Monrovia upside down, criticisms have been flying here, there and yonder questioning the decision made by President Weah against directly engaging the students, a move which his critics believed would have calmed the situation. But Presidential Press Secretary Isaac Solo Kelgbeh says the move was indeed strategic, as it was unsafe for the President to engage with the students because they were violent and not civil.
According to a Liberia New Agency (LINA) dispatch quoting Mr. Kelgbeh: “They tried to attack the convoy of the President, they were throwing stones at his convoy and so the security advised that it was unsafe for him to get down from his vehicle to interact with the students.”
Press Secretary Kelgbeh noted that the President had intentionally left his home for work Tuesday to meet the students but their behavior denied them the opportunity of expressing their grievances to him, stressing, “I don’t know who told our students to do what they did yesterday. People have gone to the Executive Mansion to express their grievances, and they have never thrown stones at the President’s convoy.”
The Presidential Press Secretary, however, stated that though President Weah did not meet with the students he nonetheless ensured that the relevant authorities met the teachers’ concerns.
Kelgbeh, speaking on a local radio Wednesday morning, said based on information gathered so far by his office and from engagement with authorities of the MCSS and the Ministry of Education, it has been established that the teachers for whom the students went to advocate were not honest with them (the students).
“We have 1,200 MCSS teachers, a little over 200 teachers did not get paid because there are some issues with their bank accounts or the payroll. That was something they could have had a conversation around and if they had told the students that they have gotten paid and only a few teachers were not paid and also told them the reason for which these teachers have not gotten their pay, the students would not have gotten in the streets,” Kelgbeh indicated.
“It is disturbing that these students who had gone to the government to say their teachers have not been paid will then leave from there to go attack private schools and start throwing stones and at some point the other students felt enough is enough and started throwing stones back at them and that was how most of the injuries came about. No police officer threw stone at any student,” he stated.
Kelgbeh, however, noted that the President is not happy that some of the students got injured as the result of the incident.
Students of MCSS on Tuesday morning went on the rampage setting up road blocks and marching towards the Capitol Building, chanting protest songs in demand of their teachers’ salaries as well as disrupting some private schools from carrying on normal classes, but riot police of the Liberia National Police (LNP) disperse the students after hours of traffic interruption.