Pending protests, threats by ex-rebel generals, Charles & Agnes Taylor, possible terrorist infiltration from around sub-region, grounds for concern
It would appear that the recent threatening remarks by ex-rebel generals, which were later rescinded, against Montserrado County District #10 Representative Yekeh Kolubah, may have been nothing much but another round of rough talk from one ex-rebel to another. However, in Liberia’s volatile political context, the very re-emergence of the ex-rebel fighters appears to be the principal factor that prompted the British Government to issue a security alert for its citizens ahead of the planned June 7 “peaceful protest,” the Daily Observer has reliably learned.
A fortnight ago, over 25 ex-rebel generals and fighters were said to have received an undisclosed amount of money from the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Nathaniel McGill for them to go after people, who are “constantly criticizing President George Weah for his poor handling of the country’s affairs.
It was apparently in furtherance of their plans that on April 16, 2019, the ex-generals publicly declared they have an obligation to support President Weah, and “whosoever that will come after the President, let that person(s) be aware that we will support the President.”
The statement was attributed to G. Benjamin Taylor, a former chief of staff of the former rebel of the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL).
Also during the press conference, Daniel Bracewell, a former major general of the AFL, warned politicians to avoid anything that will disrupt the peace in Liberia, or else they will have themselves to blame.
“We ex-generals, we know war, we fought the war, we make war, we study war. If anyone thinks that they are coming in to derail this peace process, they will have us to contend with,” said Bracewell.
In the wake of their threat to politicians, the self-proclaimed chair of the ex-fighters, and former chief of staff of the rebel faction, Liberia United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), Ofori Diah issued a so-called 72-hour ultimatum to Montserrado County lawmaker Yekeh Kolubah to report to the cabal of ex-rebel generals, noting that he is also a former general and must adhere to their summon.
This newspaper has meanwhile gathered from a high placed source that it was based on the ex-rebel fighters threat that the British Government declared officers of the Liberian National Police (LNP) “have a very limited capability to prevent or detect crime, or to provide emergency response in any part of the country,” and warned its citizens to avoid public demonstrations and protests.
Ahead of the major protest planned for June 7, the United Kingdom (UK) has therefore, renewed a warning to its citizens in Liberia of possible indiscriminate terrorist attacks and the transmission and symptoms of the deadly Ebola virus disease (EVD). The Travel and Living Abroad warning by the UK urges its citizens to, among other things, specifically avoid protests, demonstrations, large gatherings and crowds in Monrovia and its environs.
The UK’s travel alerts to its citizens, updated March 22 and is “still current as of May 5, 2019,” does not specifically mention the pending June 7 protest.
However, the first paragraph of the UK’s alert reads: “Protests and demonstrations do take place in Monrovia on occasion. You should avoid protests, demonstrations, large gatherings and crowds and follow the advice of local authorities.”
Travel alerts are routine releases of information by countries seeking the wellbeing of their citizens traveling, working or living abroad. They are updated regularly and help expatriates in their host countries find their bearings, especially in terms of security and medical emergencies.
However, the UK maintains that large public gatherings with political undertones, such as the expected protest on June 7, and other demonstrations of activism, may become possible cover for terrorists to carry out their evil agendas. The UK government is reiterating its warnings that law enforcement authorities, mainly the LNP “has very limited capability to prevent or detect crime, or to provide emergency response in any part of the country.”
But our source said one other reason for the UK’s concern could be the arrest, subsequent trial and detention of Liberia former President Charles Taylor, and Taylor’s ex wife, Agnes Reeves-Taylor.
Though she has denied a string of torture charges, including one relating to a woman witnessing the shooting of her two children, while she was tied up, the British Government maintains Agnes Taylor is guilty of the charges.
Agnes Taylor is also accused of conspiring to use rape to torture women during the country’s civil war in 1990. Another allegation states that she was involved in the torture of a child, who was tied to a tree and witnessed the shooting of others.
PACA Defends Agnes Taylor
Recently, an advocacy group, the Patriotic Consciousness Association of Liberia (PACA), called on the government and its British counterpart to release Agnes Taylor, who has been incarcerated for close to two years in a British jail.
Mr. Taylor and Agnes Reeves-Taylor are currently jailed in British prisons. Taylor was convicted on seven counts to include aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Sierra Leone, while Agnes was on the other hand prosecuted for crimes allegedly committed in Liberia during the crisis, also on eight counts.
According to PACA, the charges of torture and alleged war crime offenses in Liberia, for which Agnes Taylor is held, “are unsubstantiated and cannot be proven.”
LNP: “We are equipped”
As regards the LNP’s incapacity to prevent or detect crime, and or provide emergency response to violent activity in any part of the country to any, LNP spokesman, H. Moses Carter disclaimed that assertion, adding, “We are equipped.”
“The LNP is equipped to prevent any eventuality; we have proactive means of professionally engaging protestors, taking cue from two successive demonstrations, which the Police handled without report of any incident,” Carter said.
According to him, “The LNP is prepared using conventional (crowd control) mechanisms. So, for anyone or institution to think that this Police is not equipped or prepared to contain any eventuality, that person or institution must think twice.”
But the UK appears to be very concerned about possible terrorist infiltration of what might otherwise be considered peaceful protests, such as the one planned for June 7. According to the security alert, “Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Liberia,” citing the proximity of incidents in the fairly recent past in Burkina Faso, Mali and neighboring Côte d’Ivoire. Terrorist groups continue to mount attacks on beach resorts, hotels, cafés and restaurants visited by foreigners. You should be vigilant in these locations and avoid any crowded places and public gatherings or events.”
The UK further warns about “a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria.” However, concerning the political situation in Liberia, the UK also notes that because former Liberian President Charles Taylor is serving a long prison sentence in the UK following his conviction by the Special Court for Sierra Leone, British nationals may be subject to reprisal attacks.
“Attacks could be indiscriminate. You should be vigilant, especially in places visited by foreigners,” the UK warns.
The UK also warns that the threat of exposure to the Ebola virus disease (EVD) still exists as most medical facilities throughout Liberia are unable to provide the same standard of healthcare as in the UK. It also warns that medical facilities in rural areas are rudimentary and most facilities require payment up-front for treatment.
It added: “Avoid traveling at night outside Monrovia, except to or from Roberts International Airport (RIA). Make sure you have pre-arranged transport from the airport. The small British Embassy in Monrovia can only offer limited consular assistance. If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy consulate or high commission. Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel.”
For a country reeling from investor fatigue due to corruption and unpredictability; and with an economy in the throes of spiraling inflation and predominant dependence on foreign imports, there is no telling the magnitude of effect the terroristic threats of these ex-rebel generals might have on Liberia. The British government has spoken. Just Monday, May 6, the US Embassy noted that it is “unacceptable for… ‘ex-generals’ or other former actors in Liberia’s civil wars to incite unlawful acts through ill-considered rhetoric that could jeopardize Liberia’s hard-won peace and security.”
“And we have the Minister of State, Nathaniel McGill, to thank for this,” our source said.