Berets Are Resurfacing in Liberia Warranting A Serious Cause for Concern

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AT THE HEIGHT OF THE LIBERIAN civil war, the fearful “Black Beret” troops triggered fears amongst Liberians. Organized, armed, and trained by the Interim Government of National Unity(IGNU), headed by then interim President Amos Sawyer, the group was a “Special Anti-Terrorist Unit” which until this day remains one of the blemishes of the Sawyer leadership.

THE ARMED GROUP was known as a “secret army” comprising approximately 500 men trained in Guinea. At first, they were meant to patrol the streets and help safeguard the city.

IT DID NOT TAKE long for the accusations to follow. Various human rights reports suggest that the group was engaged in rapes, murders and intimidation of ordinary Liberians under the guise of safeguarding the city.

SADLY, MANY of those who formed part of that group are still around today.

THE BLACK BERETS came on the scene at a time when Liberia was still in a state of uncertainty. Police and security officers were often described as notorious for poor handling of cases of sexual and gender-based violence, such as domestic abuse, child abuse, and sexual assault.

FOR MANY WHO around during that time, the ghosts of the period lives with them to this day.

WHEN PRESIDENT ELLEN Johnson-Sirleaf appointed her son, Fomba Sirleaf, to head the National Security Agency(NSA), shortly after her inauguration in 2018, he came under immense questioning from the Senate regarding his role in the Black Berets.

THE INTENT MAY have been good; but the outcome proved deadly  and painful for many.

AT THE TIME of the Berets formation, Liberia was still under grenades attacks and rising arms robberies, the stark reality of a nation rebounding from a brutal civil war.

THE SAD REALITY is that the Berets, to this day are still haunted by allegations that they were involved in armed robberies and murders in Monrovia.

OVER THE PAST YEAR, the berets appear to be resurfacing. Ironically, various personalities in the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change, including the President appear to have forgotten the history of Liberia and the negative connotations and reminder the wearing of berets bring to many who experienced the pains, suffering and hurt of the war.

PRESIDENT WEAH and his supporters appear to have forgotten that they are no longer in the opposition, that there’s no longer a need for a revolution when they have state power within their grasp. The negative connotations of donning red berets when many are still trying to heal speaks volumes about the direction of Liberia in the aftermath of war.

LIBERIA REMAINS deeply divided. Yet, President Weah, his officials and supporters continue to project an image that they are fighting a war with the rest of Liberia.

THE PRESIDENT has himself, on a few occasions told his supporters that the elections are over and it is time to put aside partisan rhetoric and work and reconcile.

THE PROBLEM with the President is that he often fails to follow up these pronouncements by leading by examples.

THIS IS NOT the time for a party in power to be reminding Liberians about an ugly chapter no one wants to remember, especially when very little or no effort is being done to implement the findings of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission.

IF LIBERIA is to progress as a nation, we must avoid the mistakes made yesterday. If we are to forge a new direction, we must do so, bearing in mind, the negative connotations that brought so much heartaches, headaches and pain to so many, should never be shoved down the throats and in the faces of victims.

THE LAST THING anyone who went through what Liberia and Liberians experienced during the war, is a constant reminder of an ugly past, and a chapter, no one really care to read, or be reminded of.

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