Liberia: Sen. Zargo Craves Senate to Summon National Security Architecture Amid Wave of Violence, Hate Speech

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Capitol Hill, Monrovia – The Chairman of the Senate’s sub-Committee on National Security, Lofa County Senator Stephen Zargo has called for the appearance of heads of Liberia’s Intelligence agencies before the Senate’s Plenary for inquiry into wave of violence in the country.

In a communication to the President Pro-Tempore of the Liberian Senate, Albert Chie, Sen. Zargo also called for heads of media regulatory ministry and agencies including the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism, the Liberia Telecommunications Authority and the Press Union of Liberia to explain reasons behind the increasing wave of hate speech and what their respective agency is doing in curtailing the speeches. He also wants the agencies to assist the Senate in handling the “looming security concerns.”

Plenary voted in favor of a motion authorizing its Committee on Defense, Security, Intelligence and Veteran Affairs for review and make recommendations on the way forward.

Meanwhile, in an interview with legislative reporters following session on Friday, September 27, Senator Zargo pointed out that several “acts of hate and speeches of hates,” are taking place.

He singled out Freedom FM, owned and operated by the National Security Agency’s Deputy Director for Special Services, Sam Siryon as being in the constant habit of spreading hate messages through its radio program, ‘Freedom Morning Rise’.

“To have a Deputy NSA boss for Special Services owning and operating a radio station that propagates hate messages, [this] undermines the very peace he was appointed, confirmed and commissioned to keep. This is considered as a national security breach to say the least,” he condemned.

He furthered, “Considering the sustained wave of misinformation and disinformation permeating our country, which have the propensity to put one group of people against another and eventually put the country into flames, there is a need for security actors to exercise caution in the discharge of their duties.”

The request from the Defense, Security and Intelligence sub-Committee of the Defense, Security, Intelligence and Veteran Affairs Committee, he noted, stems from the behaviors and attitudes exhibited by the Liberian Security-especially the Police and the NSA in the face of all of these developments.

He also wants the Minister of Justice, National Security Advisor, the National Security Apparatus, especially the National Fire Service, the Liberia National Police, Crime Services Division and the Public Safety Section appear to give the Senate a “thorough benefit of the doubts reference to the fire incident that left about 30 of our peaceful citizens dead in the Bassa Town Community in Paynesville. This will help us to know what went wrong and lessons learned so as to put in measures to avoid a recurrence of the situation.”

On September 18, a fire at an Islamic school in Bassa Town near the commercial hub of Red-light in Paynesville killed 26 children and two male teachers. Preliminary reports suggested that the fire was caused by an electrical fault. But there have been a series of conspiracy theories, some insinuating that the fire may have been caused deliberately.

The police is yet to state the actual cause of the fire.

Another point raised by the Lofa County Senator is the ‘publicized allegation, arrest, search and seizure and intrusion into the home of the former Passport Director on allegation of passport theft by the National Security Agency and the subsequent diplomatic implication about Liberia Passport being stolen and in the hands of the wrong people.”

“We request that the Senate Committee on DIS/VA demand a comprehensive report so as to allay the fears lingering within diplomatic circles that the Republic of Liberia’s passports are in the hands of international criminals to include terrorists, drugs and child traffickers.”

He mentioned the alleged flogging of the LNP Deputy Inspector General for Operations at the entrance of the Coalition for Democratic Party’s headquarter in Monrovia in the build to the Montserrado County by-elections in July.

The proliferation of media institutions and social media platforms, couple with the wide use of mobile phones in post-war Liberia, observers say, is not only enhancing communication and promoting free speech, but promoting widespread hate messages.

There have been growing concerns of hate messages being propagated on local radio stations and social media platforms including Facebook of recent.

Serving as guest speaker at the induction ceremony of the newly elected leadership of the Legislative Press Pool over the weekend, the President of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), Charles Coffey named the Deputy NSA boss’ Freedom FM and Henry Costa’s Root FM as two of the local media institutions that are constantly in the habit of committing ethical transgressions with their hate messages and foul languages.

He noted that although the PUL does not have the authority to close down the stations, it has complained them to the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism.

Nimba County District #6 Representative Dorwohn Twain Gleekia has also expressed concerned over the widespread of hate messages and diatribes on social media.

Rep, Gleekia who heads the House’s Committee on Peace, Religion and National Reconciliation, called for a concerted effort to tackle the “menace that poses a serious threat to our hard end peace.”   

President George Weah, addressing the United Nations General Assembly last Wednesday stated that Liberia is “beginning to witness the emergence of a creeping threat to our democratic space and to our hard-won peace and stability.”

“Some individuals within and out of our country, particularly those who have lost democratically-held elections, he noted, have resorted to incitement, threats of violence, misuse of social media, and hate speech, with the aim and objective of achieving power through undemocratic means.” 

“This is unacceptable, and must not be encouraged by those who would wish Liberia well. For democracy to thrive, all Liberians, including both the ruling parties and the opposition parties must respect the rule of law, and abide by the procedures and regulations prescribed therein,” President Weah stated.

However, the President failed to mention that at his party’s political rally, he had openly said under his watch as President “no Urey will ever win election.” Also, the President is on record of his critics as “enemies of the State.” The President’s party’s Youth Chairman, who is the Mayor of Monrovia, Jefferson Koijee, who threatened to counter peaceful protesters as “We will meet in flesh and blood,” as neither knowledge, as well.

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