July 26 Violence Prosecution: A Litmus Test for Liberia’s Judiciary and the Rule of Law

THE UNFORTUNATE situation that blighted Liberia’s 175th Independence celebrations in which a student of the campus-based Students Unification Party (SUP), Christopher Walter Sisulu Sivili, was stripped naked by thugs believed to be members of the CDC-COP, a pro-government group, may have given us a glimpse of what to expect ahead of the legislative and presidential elections next year.

SIVILI AND CO had gone to assemble in close proximity of the venue of the July 26 Independence Day celebrations to petition the government of President George Weah to “fix the country” amid tough economic hardships facing Liberians when they were attacked by thugs.

IN A VIDEO that went viral on social media Facebook, Walter was also tortured, a scene that reminded Liberians how former rebel leader now Senator of Nimba County,  Prince Johnson, captured and executed former President Samuel Doe during the country’s first civil war.

SIVILI MALTREATMENT has drawn a lot of commendations from Liberians and international partners alike. Samukai V. Konneh, a staff of Internews, described the situation as a replay of the country’s darkest situation, and called for the apprehension of those involved.

“THIS IS A SCENE of one group of Liberian youth torturing a fellow Liberian youth. The only difference between this event and what happened with late Liberian president Samuel K. Doe is the place and time. This is an exact replay of our darkest moment as a nation. I’ve been traumatized ever since I watched this video.”

“OUR DARK DAYS must never return, no matter what. If you truly believe that what happened to this fellow citizen today is wrong, and should never have happened, and desire for justice in this matter, please follow suit and make your voices heard.”

MEANWHILE, the Executive Director of the People Action Network, Amb Rufus Neufville, has called for speedy investigation and long prison sentences for perpetrators of violence against students of the University of Liberia.

THE FORMER STUDENT leader said the framers of the Liberian Constitution deliberately protected the right of all persons, at all times, in an orderly and peaceable manner to assemble to petition their government.

“THE BRUTAL ATTACK on Christopher Walter Sisulu Sivili and others must be condemned by all campus-based political parties and student organizations,” he said.

IN A JOINT  STATEMENT, the International Community in Liberia, wrote: “Having learned with the concern of the serious violence committed in Monrovia on 26 July, condemns without reservation, such acts which occurred on the 175th anniversary of Independence.”

“WE URGE A PROMPT and thorough investigation by the police, that will bring to justice the instigators and perpetrators of these acts of violence. We welcome the swift condemnation by political, governmental, and civil society actors of the violent acts which occurred, and we encourage all political leaders to act firmly in preventing and eliminating political intolerance and violence. Liberia has a record of free, fair, and transparent elections over the last two decades, making this country an example of stability and democracy in the region.”

“VIOLENCE IS NOT the right way to resolve disputes. Political differences should be resolved by dialogue. We, therefore, encourage all actors to act responsibly and embrace the principles of tolerance, democracy, and constitutionalism for an inclusive, transparent, and peaceful election process in Liberia 2022-2023.”

IRKED BY THE VIOLENCE on ’26 day,  President Weah vowed that the perpetrators would be apprehended and duly prosecuted. He said, “so, if you claim to love me or follow my political ideology, you can not do so with violence. Anyone or group that has my image on a banner in support of me and my government has to be peaceful, respectful, and tolerant.”

“MY GOVERNMENT would not relent in efforts to always ensure safety of lives and property. We shall ensure all perpetrators of the Independence Day violence are brought to book.”

THE PRESIDENT MUST walk the talk to convince Liberians and the world that his government would not condone any further acts of illegality.  President Weah must use the independence day violence to place a prohibition of such acts, particularly as 2023 beckons.

PRESIDENT WEAH should interpret the July 26 violence it as administrative incompetence if perpetrators are not brought to book. 

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