… during Funeral of their colleague who was choked to death by a police officer
Friday, November 27 was another scary day in the commercial City of Ganta when angry motorcyclists went on the rampage attempting to vandalize the police station and a funeral home. The agitation sparked during the burial of their colleague who was allegedly killed in March 2020 by a police officer in a fistfight.
On Thursday, November 26, 2020 the motorcyclists, headed by their union president Emmanuel Sarty, along the family of the deceased, began the funeral arrangement by soliciting funds from the cyclists to enable them bury their colleague, whose death is still pending for trial at the court.
In the process, the motorcyclists temporarily blocked the road while collecting money to help the family but, on Friday, November 27, 2020, the removal of the body from the funeral home turned violent, especially after the family refused to bury the body on a claim that it was not the body of their son. According to families and friends who observed the body, the corpse had a beard on the chin when the deceased did not even grow a beard while living.
After the body was removed and taken to the family cemetery, the family opened the coffin and discovered that the body was not the body of their slain son, Samuel Selleh.
The angry cyclists and family members took the body back to Ganta and began throwing stones and bottles at the police, perhaps for a perceived reason that their friend was killed by an officer of the LNP. Later, they took the body to the Gompa Funeral Home, vandalized the funeral home by throwing stones and demanding the funeral home to take back the body and give them the real body of their colleague.
Upon the arrival of the Riot Police from the regional security hub in Gbarnga, they immediately proceeded to the funeral home and defused the tension. However, the situation escalated when the regional commander, Morris Teman, sustained injury on his head from stoning.
The situation at the funeral home took a desperate turn when the aggrieved motorcyclists smashed the windshield of the police patrol vehicle. The cyclists’ protest led to the shutting down of businesses across Ganta as they took to the streets in demand for justice.
At about 5:20 p.m., the Emergency Response Unit of the Liberia National Police, coming from Yekepa, entered with force characterized by firing of tear gas and light bullets to disperse the violent motorcyclists.
Some street vendors lost most of their goods in the process; however, no one sustained injury except Regional Commander Morris Teman.
In March this year, Deputy Ganta Police Detail Commander Sensee Kowo had a tussle with a 17-year old motorcyclist, Samuel Selleh, around the Jackie Guest House at about 10 p.m. local time. In the fist fight, victim Samuel Selleh was choked to death by officer Kowo.
Motorcyclists in response to this act went on the rampage in an attempt to burn the police station, but the situation was brought under control when the ERU responded promptly.
The suspect, officer Sensee Kowo, was arrested, disrobed and charged with murder and he is awaiting court trial at the Eighth Judicial Circuit Court in Sanniquellie. During the first hearing in the August Term of Court, former officer Kowo plead for change of venue and his plea was granted with the case pending transfer to Grand Bassa County this term of court.
Tension has been brewing since the death of Selleh, the cyclist about nine months ago, until it blew out of control during the funeral ceremony.
From the onset of the situation, the Motorcyclists Union provided security to guard the police station to prevent it from being vandalized by the angry motorcyclists, because the Ganta Police is not capacitated enough to secure the station, let alone the entire city, from any escalated violence.
Meanwhile, the police is enforcing a temporary stay order to the movement of people after 10 p.m. until the situation can totally be brought under control.
The LNP Regional Commander, Morris Teman, told reporters that there will be some restriction on the movement of people, especially the motorcyclists, for the time being.
He told the business community to go about their normal business as the situation was being contained.
Violent protests by motorcyclists are common in Liberian society since the end of the country’s civil war. It has been observed that motorcyclists quickly comet together in solidarity whenever their friend is involved in an accident or killed in an altercation with another person as in the case of Selleh. In the case of an accident, cyclists would attack the driver of the vehicle involved and then set the vehicle ablaze. This was the case just last week in Monrovia, where two instances of violence involving motorcyclists and drivers in Monrovia and commercial buses were burnt and damaged. During those incidents, bus drivers themselves wasted no time to retaliate as they also seized and burnt a number of motorcycles, halting the flow of traffic along the Somalia Drive.
On September 30, 2015, motorcyclists and other residents attacked the Hotel Alvino, belonging to businessman Prince Howard and burned the entire facility. This, too, came about when rumor circulated that Mr. Howard was allegedly connected to the murder of a motorcyclist that year, an allegation that is yet to be proven.