Liberia: Independent Human Rights Commission Calls on Government to Accelerate Food Distribution Efforts

Independent Human Rights Commission Chairman, Atty. Bartholomew Colley

Monrovia – The Independent National Human Rights Commission (INHRC) has called on the Government to accelerate its efforts in distributing food to vulnerable communities to help alleviate multiple constraints confronting citizens during this lockdown period.

Report by Obediah Johnson, [email protected]

On three occasions, President George Weah has extended the lockdown as part of the State of Emergency to help curb the spread of the novel Coronavirus in Liberia.

And a National Steering Committee, headed by the Minister of Commerce and Industry, Wilson K. Tarpeh, was also appointed by the Liberian Chief Executive to provide oversight for the COVID-19 Household Food Support Program (COHFSP) which comprises of all stakeholders to implement the stimulus package distribution.

At a very discouraging pace, the committee on May 23 kicked off the distribution of rice, beans and oil to handful of orphanages in Montserrado and Margibi counties.

But according to the Chairperson of the Independent Human Rights Commission, Atty. Bartholomew Colley, citizens are hungry and as such, government, through the committee, must speed up the distribution process.

According to him, the current lockdown period continues to violate the economic, social and cultural rights of citizens and therefore, it is prudent for government to live up to its commitment by distributing food to citizens across the country.

“We think that the food distribution is delayed and government should accelerate efforts to reach the targeted communities. The whole process is delayed,” Cllr. Colley stressed.

“There is a mounting outcry within the communities – people keep asking where the food is? When will we receive the food?”

At the sametime, Mr. Colley has warned against the politicizing of the extension of the State of Emergency by President Weah.

He predicted that things would become worse if scientific suggestions are not followed in directing a lockdown, or the current SOE, which expires on June 10.

“Scientists and doctors who are helping us to fight COVID-19 should advise us on the extension of the State of Emergency. People should stop politicizing the current situation we are faced with. What we want as a commission is that, based upon scientific proof, we can reduce certain things. It shouldn’t be done politically or by sympathy. It should be done based upon the results we are getting,” he said.

Meanwhile, the INHRC Chairperson expressed delight over the decline in the amount of state security brutality against peaceful citizens during the lockdown hours.

He stated that although the latest situation is welcoming, state security actors enforcing the lockdown should continue to follow the rule of law in executing their duties.

Mr. Colley maintained that human rights responses must be used and proritized by members of the Joint Security Team enforcing the 6 PM stay home order declared by the President.

“When somebody violates the State of Emergency or curfew, treat them kindly under the rule of law-not by brutality,” he said.

He, however, called on citizens to collectively work together to defeat the Coronavirus pandemic in Liberia regardless of political affiliation, religion or social status.

“We need all hands on deck to fight the COVID-19 and we also need to be very proactive in this fight,” he said.