Liberia: Extra-Judicial Killings Must Stop, Mr. President! 

 President George Weah.

Another killing has occurred again and it is by state security personnel, according to Daily Observer reporter David Menjor in a July 5, Daily Observer front page story, headlined: ‘EPS Agent Kills Unarmed Civilian’.

According to reporter David Menjor, quoting eyewitness accounts, the victim Valentine Johnson, whose family members have described him as a peaceful young man, was gunned down in the early morning hours of July 4, by an EPS Officer for no apparent reason. 

The Daily Observer notes that this recent killing of an unarmed civilian by security forces is just one of several in a spate of killings and unexplained murders and disappearances which have occurred since this government assumed the reins of power in 2018.

This newspaper recalls the killing of an EPS officer, Melvin Railey in Tappita Nimba County, allegedly by fellow EPS officers but which the EPS leadership has since strenuously denied, insisting instead that the security officer fatally shot himself thrice.

But relatives of the deceased insisted that he was killed by fellow EPS officers in the wake of suspicions and allegations that he was a hired hand with instructions to clandestinely take compromising photos of President Weah’s alleged paramours.

In the face of heightened public concern, the EPS promised an investigation into the affair but, since then, nothing has been heard. In another instance, the Police Commander of Grand Gedeh County was shot in the head and killed by a security agent of the National Security Agency (NSA).

It has been alleged that the shooter is the brother of Grand Gedeh County Senator Zoe Pennue. And so far nothing has been heard of the case amid allegations that the shooter has since resumed duty at the National Security Agency.

As regards this recent killing, the Director of the EPS acted swiftly to disrobe the security officer and turned him over to the Police for investigation. There are, however, public concerns that the case, like previous cases, will go the way of other reported killings into which investigations have been promised or conducted, but with no head or tail in the final analysis.

This is because the EPS officer involved in the shooting is said to be assigned to National Port Authority (NPA) managing director, Bill Twehway, otherwise known as Gbehkugbeh Jr, owing to his alleged closeness to President Weah. Whether this case will end up as the previous ones with ‘no head, no tail’, may be too early to tell.

However, it appears more likely than not that, given past experience, the alleged killer, EPS Agent Patrick Kollie, may get off the hook. After all said and done, the killers of the LRA auditors and Barten Nyeswah, head of the Internal Audit Agency (IAA), are yet to be apprehended and brought to trial.

It all boils down to the culture of impunity, which somehow appears to be deepening by the day. And the failure of President Sirleaf to implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission during her administration, especially those on criminal accountability, is largely responsible for the strengthening of the culture of impunity which is evident in the unexplained killings, disappearances and the alleged reckless plunder of the national coffers by state functionaries. 

Prior to his ascendancy to the Presidency, President Weah had declared his commitment to the implementation of the TRC recommendations. However, since coming to office in 2018, he has so far not actualized his declared commitment. As his term of office draws to an end, it appears unlikely that any significant progress will be achieved in this direction.

But the need to curb such ugly practice is more than manifest because impunity eventually leads to a complete or near complete breakdown in the rule of law. The Liberia National Police, into whose custody the EPS officer has been taken, is itself faced with public trust issues.

This is primarily because the Police by its unprofessional conduct and inefficient handling of safety and security issues has led to the erosion of public trust in the Police and other law enforcement agencies in general. In the face of a deteriorating security situation, the need for action at the highest level cannot be overemphasized.

The public is living in fear, a virtual state of siege. For example the streets of Monrovia are dark after sundown and generally deserted by 8:00 pm. That is when criminals are on the prowl, sporting dangerous weapons including knives, machetes and single-barrel pistols, etc. 

The rise in violent crime, for example, including mob justice, clearly attests to the need for urgent official action. An underfunded Liberia National Police (LNP), compounded by a host of challenges including the lack of political will to provide adequate financial support, poor training, low salaries and lack of benefits and corruption is incapable of providing adequate deterrent effect against rising crime.

This most recent killing incident, according to analysts, should provide an ideal opportunity for President Weah to reassure the public that all hope is not lost. His call to Liberians to provide security for themselves has not gone down well as it conveys a distinct impression that the Government is failing to live up to its responsibility to provide security for its citizens.

It is an impression that this government, under the leadership of President Weah, should not allow to linger. It is his responsibility as a Duty Bearer to ensure the protection of Rights Bearers — the right to security and safety of all Liberians and those who reside within her borders as the Constitution demands.

Extra-judicial killings must stop, Mr. President!