On the day the state of emergency declared by President George Weah took effect, Ganta residents who flooded the main streets in what appeared to be a panic buying spree were seen running helter-skelter as soon as the clock struck 2:30 p.m.
They feared the wrath of security officers who they believed would have come to take their goods and possibly subject them to whipping with rattans specially purchased for the purpose. Even motorcyclists could be seen driving at top speed to avoid getting stopped by security officers which would have meant a sure loss of their bike.
Despite their compliance with mandatory security measures for fear of inviting the wrath of state security Ganta residents claim they are still not free because they are being harassed by individuals claiming to be officers of the Ganta City Police or the Community Watch Forum.
Calls made on community radio stations in Ganta suggest that some residents have lost their mobile phones and money to unidentified men roaming various communities forcing residents indoors.. “We are not allowed to sit by our goods right at the front of this shop. People in black clothes come and say we should be inside instead of being out, and it makes us wonder whether the government meant this for curfew or stay home. They have to really explain to us,” a woman selling rice and dry goods near the main Ganta Market said on Sunday.
The declaration of a state of emergency by the President, according to most residents spoken to, was taken to mean that beginning Saturday, April 11, people should be off the streets but could however remain outdoors in their various locales and refrain from congregating in places like the bars, ghettos, nightclub, or a residence for a birthday. However, beginning Saturday afternoon there were men in black uniforms moving in communities harassing people in Blaygaye Town and other parts of Ganta.
On Radio Voice of Gompa, several callers called and registered complaints that they were being harassed with one account indicating that a cell phone was taken away from the caller while another said his LD$600 was taken from him. Another person in the LPMC Community was beaten on an allegation that he was outside in his yard.
But it appears the Liberia National Police Detail in Ganta takes serious exception to such lawless behavior.
“The City Mayor has his Ganta City Police and there is this community watch forum group going around communities carrying on harassment, but we the joint security here in Ganta told them to stop their activities not to create the situation that will implicate the police and others that are part of the joint security team here,” said Inspector Adolphus Zuah, Ganta Police Detail Commander.
According to Inspector Zuah, they are concerned about the main streets where they move in daily to ensure that people are not in groups celebrating a birthday or attending other convivial ceremonies, so they are proceeding with caution being aware that when the Coronavirus is eventually brought under control they will still need the community members to work along with.
“Even when some people are late for their areas and walking fast to go home, we tell them to hurry and leave the street without beating or arrest, but those guys in community watch forum and the city police are they whom people are complaining from as you may hear on the radio here,” Inspector Zuah added.
“For what some of those people did that the commander talked about, we got some of them in Blaygaye Town and beat them, and cautioned them to stop that or take another drastic action,” a police officer interrupted.
“It is actually difficult tracing those guys carrying on this act because we are not mobile and before we go to a community where reports are from, we have to make an arrangement with motorbike riders,” Inspector Zuah said.
On account of Ganta City Corporation Police involvement, City Mayor Amos Suah confirmed that a man he only identified as Marcus, who has since been dismissed, was posing as a city police officer and harassing people.
“This man had some properties of the City Police in his possession after being dismissed long ago, but we have taken it from him now and totally disassociated with him,” declared Mayor Suah.
Besides harassment, Mayor Suah complained also of stubbornness and reluctance on the part of residents of Ganta to observe the preventive measures put in place by the government. “The daily market behind the LBDI building is giving us a tough time because people do not want to follow the health protocols, and so we are catching so much hard time with them,” said Suah.