A breakfast roundtable meeting conducted by the Pen-Pen Peace Network of Liberia was held over the weekend at a resort in Sinkor, Monrovia.
Grace Yeanay-Mayson, Country Director of Purdue Peace Project, the organization which sponsored the meeting, said it was meant to create awareness between the motorcycle unions of Liberia and the Liberia National Police (LNP) and begin a dialogue that could reduce political tension in the 2017 presidential and legislative elections.
Held under the theme “Bridging Election Tension and Conflict come 2017,” the Country Director said the police, the motorcycle unions, and other stakeholders are key actors to a violence free election in 2017 therefore it is important to hold such meetings.
The meeting brought together members of the LNP, leaders of the Pen-Pen unions of Liberia and The Pen-Pen Peace Network.
The dialogue solicited the views of participants on how to curtail violence and tensions in 2017. Most of the participants stressed the need for adequate dissemination of information between the police and the motorcycle unions.
They also highlighted the need for additional dialogue between the two parties, which according to them, should be geared toward understanding the role of the police and the motorcycle unions.
Mr. Christian D. Brownell, president of the United Motorbike Transport Union of Liberia (UMTUL), called on the Pen-Pen Peace Network to continue the initiative to sensitize motorcyclists on the important role they have to play in the upcoming elections.
He emphasized the need for periodic meetings between the Pen-Pen Peace Network, the National Elections Commission, the LNP and other groups to help resolve upcoming issues surrounding the elections.
Superintendent Richard B. King of the LNP assured the Liberian public that the upcoming elections will be violence-free.
He stated that the police will continue to uphold its mandate of protecting the citizens of Liberia and to keep the peace.
He cautioned motorbike riders to abide by the rule of law and said that “the rule of law should prevail in all circumstances.”
The issue of the “No Go Zone,” the Vice Squad and other key areas of discussions were addressed, with the motorcycles unions claiming that their riders are often manhandled by members of the Vice Squad, even if they do not enter the No Go Zones. Bike riders said the No Go Zones should be specified, and that the Vice Squad’s mandate should be clearly stated.
The police, for their part, informed the motorcycle leaders that the Vice Squad was formed more than ten years ago, but was brought into force because of the increase in accidents across the country.
The participants called for more meetings in order to establish a close working relationship between the police and motorcyclists. They stated the need for the two groups to work together in the election process.
The Purdue Peace Project, which sponsored the meeting, said it would take the dialogue into other counties around the country.