Monrovia, Liberia – June 24, 2019
Life in Liberia for activists and advocates has gone from bad to worse since power was transferred on January 22, 2018 from Africa’s first female president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to footballing president George M. Weah through a historic democratic transition.
A number of activists in Liberia under President Weah have suffered severe intimidations, censorship, repression and continuous attacks for standing up against ills and blowing whistles against corruption, bad governance, increasing economic decline, alarming rape and system failure.
One of such fearless activists who has been placed under government’s radar and on blacklist is vocal and leading youth and student activist Martin K. N. Kollie of the State-run University of Liberia. Kollie who is widely known for is critical columns/articles and vocal analyses against government remains a major target of repression in Liberia.
Kollie, 30, a long-time youth and student advocate under former Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf who led a major protest against corruption during her regime in Sinoe County on July 26, 2015 has been a victim of continuous brutality (Link: https://www.newsghana.com.gh/why-i-was-slapped-by-eps-officers-in-presence-of-president-ellen-johnson-sirleaf/).
As life for activist Kollie under EJS was never an easy journey for 12 years, it seems even worse now under ex-football star George M. Weah. According to credible reports, Kollie and other fierce critics who have already been described as ‘Enemies of the State” by President George M. Weah are being viciously pursued by ex-Rebel Generals and hired agents of government.
Kollie as standard bearer of Liberia’s largest mass-based student movement has been a leading voice and driving force of almost every peaceful and successful protest against Mr. Weah and his government. On September 24, 2018, Kollie led thousands of Liberians in a peaceful protest dubbed “Bring Back Our Money” in demand of missing local currency amounting to L$16 billion (US$104 million). (Link: https://www.voanews.com/africa/liberians-take-streets-demand-return-lost-millions)
Before this protest, Kollie had led 2 successive and peaceful protests which compelled president Weah to declare his assets and address Liberians on The Declining State of Liberia’s Economy. CFC International bares full testimony to harsh economic hardships in Liberia, rampant corruption and harassments of human rights defenders and activists by state securities and government supporters under the Weah-led administration.
On June 7 of this year, activist Kollie and other patriots under the banner Council of Pariots again led thousands of Liberians in a peaceful protest against entrenched corruption, declining economy and creeping dictatorship. (Link: https://frontpageafricaonline.com/news/liberia-student-unification-party-eyeing-50000-youths-for-june-7-save-the-state-protest/)
Before June 7 mass protest, heavily armed police officers stormed UL Capitol Hill campus in an apparent move to arrest student leader Martin Kollie. They fired teargas, brutalized peaceful students, vandalized properties and disrupted normal academic activities. After a failed attempt to arrest Kollie, police arbitrarily arrested some students and detained them as political prisoners for more than 7 days. (Link: http://www.theperspective.org/2019/0611201902.php)
Kollie, as reported by several news outlets in Liberia and Africa, has been a target of death threats, attacks and harassment due to his fierce and consistent advocacy in Liberia. In less than 6 months, student politics has been banned two different times under president Weah for fear of Kollie ascending as student council leader or president of over 19,000 students studying at the State-run University of Liberia.
On June 21, 2019, prolific columnist and activist Martin Kollie was viciously attacked and severely beaten by some hired agents and state security while leaving a local entertainment center en route to his home. He became unconscious and was rushed to a local health center in Monrovia (Link: https://frontpageafricaonline.com/news/liberia-student-activist-beaten-mercilessly-allegedly-by-drug-enforcement-officers/)
Speaking in a brief interview with CFC International Press Office and Voice of America (VOA), activist Kollie confirmed vicious such attack on his life and blamed president Weah and his government for masterminding this concocted conspiracy due to his critical stance against societal ills.
Kollie said, “Liberia has become a hazardous and dangerous zone for activists and advocates. The democratic gains made so far are fast diminishing under Mr. Weah. The visibility of dictatorship is prevalent. Those basic rights and freedoms we once enjoyed are being muzzled. We say NO to any form of dictatorship and misrule. I can say without any doubt that my beating was pre-planned and engineered by this government. Before this incident, I received a lot of threats and messages of alert. I still have them in my phone and screenshots from Facebook. This is not the first, second or third attack. In fact, attacks on Martin and like-minded activists under Weah, have become habitual. The dark days of Taylor and Doe are fast emerging and we call for a cut-off to this anti-democratic posturing which is already damaging our country’s image and democratic credential.”
Kollie who spoke to us from his safe home in Liberia after undergoing intensive medical care at MedLink Medical Center in Central Monrovia said he has not been safe and secure since he led his first protest under president Weah. Activist Kollie said being involved with advocacy in Liberia especially under a ruthless government means a risk of your life and family’s life.
“All is not well. It is risky and tough to speak out against a corrupt and powerful system but we have no choice. It is about Liberia and our collective future. Silence is not option. I will continue to stand up for justice (war crimes court in Liberia, equality and equity. This is my mission and no amount of threats can silence me. I have not been home for almost a month. My family is unsafe as I am. There is terror in Liberia and our lives are at serious risk. But we are not giving up for Liberia’s sake,” Activist Kollie said. Other articles, related news stories, and works of Activist Kollie can be found through Google (Martin K. N. Kollie)