Liberia: EPS, Police Heads’ Incompetence Embarrass the President
MOST LIBERIANS AT HOME and abroad were somewhat shocked on Monday, January 6, following the police and other security agencies’ handling of the Council of Patriots’ peaceful protest that degenerated into a brief riot sparked by direct show of force from the security. These Liberians were also bamboozled by the last dramatic event that climaxed the entire protest episode of the day.
TALK-SHOW HOST and harsh critic of President George Manneh Weah, Mr. Henry Pedro Costa, along with other folks, including Representative Yekeh Kolubah, Senator Abraham Darius Dillon and others, led hundreds of Liberians out on Capitol Hill to peacefully demonstrate their disagreements with the President’s handling of the nation’s governance.
THE JANUARY 6 protest was a follow up of the COP’s June 7 #SavetheState protest in which thousands of Liberians came out to vent their anger at the way the President is running the state of affairs.
ON THAT PARTICULAR day in June 2019, Costa and his friends didn’t present their petition document to the President, even when representatives of the government and the international community had come to receive their petition. They had put forth other demands, including the release from police custody some young men whom the Liberia National Police (LNP) had incarcerated a day or two earlier. Those arrested were said to be some of the supporters of the COP.
HOWEVER, early the following week, the COP announced that they had taken their petition document to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which also houses the Offices of the President and had presented it to the President through the Office of the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Mr. Nathaniel F. McGill.
FEW WEEKS LATER when they felt that the President wasn’t paying any attention to what they had demanded, including firing the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Mr. Samuel Tweah, Mr. Costa announced another round of protest, which they had scheduled for December 30th, 2019.
MANY MEDIATION efforts were made in order to cancel and/or postpone the date of the protest. When it seems talks had broken down between the Government of Liberia’s mediators and the COP, the Ministry of Justice released a statement in which it unilaterally pushed all protests, including those who wanted to protest in favor of the regime, to January 30, 2020. The COP vowed not to abide by this new date. Eventually, the December 30th protest was cancelled at the eleventh hour and pushed ahead to January 5, 2020, through the direct intervention of the International Community.
HOWEVER, the effect of Dec. 30th protest was still felt across the country, including in Monrovia, even though it wasn’t staged.
THE COP MET and announced that they were not willing to protest on Sunday and gathered in the Antoinette Tubman Stadium (ATS). They were asked to do it on Saturday and they said the purpose of their protest won’t be achieved if they did it on Sunday or Saturday and in the stadium. They insisted on doing it on Monday, January 6 and on Capitol Hill, which contains the three most important landmark structures of the land.
THE DAY STARTED off very slowly partly due to the fear factor as the government and its supporters had done all to intimidate those who wanted to join the protest organizers to get in the streets or meet on Capitol Hill.
EVENTUALLY, the protesters’ number swelled unimaginably taking into accounts all the immediate preceding events, including security threats, which had taken place.
THE PROTESTERS were very peaceful. They chanted and sang anti-Weah slogans and songs as the day worn on slowly. The organizers had said they were going to stay on Capitol Hill for as long as it takes until the President had made some tangibles in relations to their demands, which they had reduced to five.
ACCORDING TO the Council of Patriots, during the mediation of the Inter-Religious Council and the international community, they resubmitted their requests to the government – this time streamlining them to five major concerns they want addressed. They had said they would have called off the protest if President Weah had agreed to make some concessions to them.
AMONGST THEIR request were the call for the dismissal of Mr. Tweah, the publication of the President’s asset declaration forms, making the investigative report of the US$25 million mob-up exercise public, an investigation into the L$16 billion saga and more support to the Gender Division of the Ministry of Gender Children and Social Protection.
THE DAY was peaceful as the joint security personnel kept their lines to keep the protest that way until they (police) blew everything up negatively and gave themselves another bad record in the first month of the first year of the decade. They didn’t only embarrass themselves, their incompetence also made people to badmouth the President, who should take some serious actions against the heads of those security agencies.
THEY WERE so foolish in their tactics that after they had used force without warning to disperse the protesters, who were never rowdy nor did they provoke the joint security personnel, including the Executive Protection Services (EPS), Liberia National Police (LNP) and Liberia Immigration Service (LIS), they endeavored to put a crime on Rep. Kolubah, one of the lead organizers of the protest against the regime.
LNP INSPECTOR General Patrick Sudue and Trokon Roberts, Executive Director of the EPS, heads of two of the most powerful security agencies in the country, couldn’t corroborate or fine-tune their narratives as both gave conflicting statements on the arms and other deadly weapons allegedly found in Rep. Kolubah’s Toyota RAV 4 and a Ford Explorer.
THERE ARE VIDEO clips on social media showing police conducting search and finding none of the deadly weapons before the RAV 4 was driven from the protest ground to the basement of their headquarters. It was in their basement that they alleged they had found several weapons including a 9-Millimeter Lugar black pistol with one magazine and four rounds and a barrister Pistol in the two vehicles belonging to Rep. Kolubah of District #10, Montserrado County. Even though they had checked the vehicles in open view and didn’t find any weapons only when it entered in their basement.
IN ALL FAIRNESS, this tactic is too cheap in this 21st Century when everything is now laid bare before the naked eyes of the hungry press and citizen journalists.
THE POLICE action has even received more condemnation from the human rights community.
THE COUNTRY’S Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR) has accused the LNP of the use of force against “peaceful protester” when they dispersed them by the use of teargas and hot water cannon.
IN THE RIGHTS GROUP’S press statement Wednesday, January 8, Atty. Bartholomew B. Colley, Acting chairman of the INCHR, called for investigation of the National Police over the use of excessive force by state security against peaceful protesters.
THE INCHR and CSO platform said, their monitors observed that the Liberian National Police team on the protest ground headed by Deputy Inspector General for Operation, Marvin Sackor, without any prior warning, ordered the use of water cannon and teargas against the protesters and bystanders to disperse the crowd.
THEIR STATEMENT is true as our team of reporters, who covered the protest, didn’t see any provocation from the protesters.
IN THEIR DEFENSE, the Public Affairs Section of the LNP on that Monday evening, had put a very weak and lazy statement in which they among other things said, “Officials of the Joint Security including the Independent Human Rights Commission made all frantic efforts to have them put off their fire but to no avail. The situation left state security with no option but to use less force through the means of tear gas and the water canon to cut the fire off and disperse the crowd.”
DID THEY NEED the powerful force of the water cannon truck to quench the fire of charcoal pots? Were they fighting a forest fire? The protesters had already brought in at least 60 gallons of water in six-gallon containers. The joint security needed to just use the water in one of those gallons to put out the fire.
MR. PRESIDENT these people’s incompetence is not only an embarrassment to themselves but also to you. You should not allow it to be a part of your regime’s legacy. You know what to do!