When Overzealous Sycophants Shut The Door On Humanity: The Saga of Liberia’s Security Apparatus

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A FEW WEEKS ago, in the backdrop of President George Manneh Weah’s visit to his Baptist Seminary property, a young boy was hit by a Pehn-Pehn motorbike. As the young boy labored in pain and bystanders tried to get him to a hospital, overzealous police officers denied them entourage left the scene.

WE ARE PRETTY SURE that this matter never reached the president, neither did he endorse the action of those in his security details or the officers assigned to the area. Nevertheless, a young man, nursing a broken leg had to endured the pain and suffering while security officers and police guarding the president showed their might and power of being in the proximity of the President.

THE POLICE DIRECTOR was informed of the incident by this newspaper and to this day, nothing has been heard about the officers involved and why they denied an accident victim an opportunity to get treatment at a hospital.

LAST THURSDAY, another incident occurred. FrontPageAfrica sports editor Christopher Walker was inflicted bodily harm, his camera damaged and ruffled to the ground by unruly and overzealous officers of the Liberia National Police. 

TO DATE, THE LNP has not said a word about the embarrassment brought on to it by unruly officers or replacing the damage camera of FrontPageAfrica.

LIBERIA’S HISTORY is filled with similar stories. Governments have come and gone but the practice of overzealous security apparatus continue to linger.

IN 2006, TWO JOURNALISTS, Charles B. Yates of the privately-owned daily The Inquirer and Morris Gayboe of the privately-owned daily The Informer were told they did not have authorization to take photographs. When Gayboe nonetheless took pictures of a youth being arrested, several policeman began hitting him with their batons. Yates tried to intervene, explaining they were both journalists. But a policeman responded: “You too, you want your own like your friend?” And then Yates was also clubbed.

IN 2007, journalists, Daylue Goah of the privately-owned daily New Democrat and Evans Ballah of Public Agenda were severely beaten during a student demonstration. Goah and Ballah were sent by their newspapers to cover a student demonstration against conditions on the University of Liberia campus, which degenerated into rioting on the main streets of the capital not far from the presidential palace and which elicited a forceful intervention by the security forces.

IN 2010, TOGBA MULBAH, then a  deputy parliamentary speaker was ordered the flogged by a policeman and beaten unconscious after he tried to impound one of Mr. Mulbah’s vehicles.

OFFICERS OF THE SECURITY APARATUS must be trained and encouraged to use extreme caution in dealing with non-threatening ordinary citizens and conform to the principle of proportionality, that will not infringe on people’s rights human rights.

On April 29, 2018, a zone commander for the Liberia National Police (LNP), Roosevelt Demann, shot and killed an unarmed civilian, Beyan Lamie, when Lamie attempted to flee after a confrontation. An LNP investigation determined that Lamie posed no danger to Demann at the time. In September, Demann was found guilty of murder and sentenced to 25 years in prison. Demann’s legal counsel filed an appeal with the Supreme Court. The case is reportedly on the docket for March 2019.

SINCE THE END of the civil war, Liberia’s international partners and stakeholders have invested millions of dollars in reform of the security sector. The police in particular, have been subjected to huge international investment as part of the security-sector reform (SSR) process, which has sought to reform the LNP to be more responsive to the Liberian people and their security needs.

A 2015 report by the Overseas Development Institute indicated that there was a slight decrease in trust of the police between 2008 and 2012, particularly in rural areas. “It is not possible to determine the reasons behind this decrease from the data without further research; however, it could be due to the reported increase in crime rates in Monrovia, as well as the perceived failure of SJR to result in improved police performance,” the report noted.

SADLY, the security apparatus in Liberia today is on the wrong end of the stick, ignoring the decency of humanity, human rights and justice. 

FOR A NATION EMERGING from more than a decade of civil war and in the midst of a transitioning democracy, it saddens us that Liberia continues to be reversing the tide of the history book to an ugly chapter many should be looking to forget.

THE ROLE of the police and security apparatus in any nation is to provide safety and security for all members of society, not just the elite and those at the helm of power. 

TOO OFTEN we see the overzealousness of security officers taking a toll and threatening Liberia’s effort to remove itself from its ugly past.

SADLY, INSTEAD of being empowered by the state to enforce the rule of law and prevent and detect crimes, the police and security apparatus are now being used to torment and inflict harm on ordinary citizens. 

IT IS IMPORTANT NOW, more than ever before that those at the helm of power do all they can to ensure that police are afforded specific powers to enable them to carry out their rightful roles in society and not turn on those they should be protecting. 

OFFICERS OF THE SECURITY APARATUS must be trained and encouraged to use extreme caution in dealing with non-threatening ordinary citizens and conform to the principle of proportionality, that will not infringe on people’s rights human rights.

WHAT WE ARE seeing now is nothing more than a bunch of inhumane, underpaid and overzealous officers looking to impress their bosses at the expense of those languishing at the bottom of the economic ladder. This is not just wrong, but inhumane and done in poor taste. 

THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN leaders allow those at their disposal to fall prey to sycophancy. They shut the door on humanity without realizing the dangers they pose to the decency of life and those simply trying to live without the extraordinary chaos and confusion of those under the spell of the powerful.

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