Admitting for the first time that soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) were responsible for last year’s shooting incident in the slum Community of West Point that resulted in the death of young Shaki Kamara, the Minister of National Defense, Brownie J. Samukai Jr., has openly apologized to the family of the deceased and West Pointers as a whole.
Minister Samukai’s apology was made in his statement before an array of government officials led by CIC President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the full hierarchy of the AFL, the diplomatic corps and other foreign dignitaries, and hundreds of citizens who attended the Armed Forces Day program at the Barclay Training Center in Monrovia yesterday.
Last August a contingent of soldiers assigned to West Point to help manage efforts to quarantine that community to avoid the spread of the virus, got into a confrontation with residents who tried to resist the quarantine.
In the melee that ensued, 16 year old Shaki Kamara was shot in the leg and bled to death of his bullet wounds. One other person was taken to the hospital for treatment for a bullet that pierced his abdomen.
Following the shooting incident the AFL came under intense public criticism for its contentious first interaction with the public, particularly at the time of the Ebola outbreak in the country.
There was initial denial by the Ministry of Defense who claimed Shaki’s wounds were caused by barbed wire.
An investigation conducted by a board of inquiry set up by CIC, President Sirleaf, linked a few soldiers to the commission of the crime, accusing them of ‘illegal discharge of fire arms’ among civilian population. But there were no recommendations to reprimand those soldiers or their commander who were found culpable.
Minister Samukai in his apology yesterday explained that during the deployment of the AFL to support the quarantining of West Pointers, “a very unfortunate incident occurred in which Shaki Kamara was shot in the leg, and subsequently bled to death.”
“We apologize for this loss, and upon your orders we have taken the necessary After Action Review, and punitive measures to avoid a recurrence.”
Minister Samukai did not name those responsible for the shooting or disclose in yesterday’s statement what punitive measures had been taken against them and any compensation awarded to Shaki’s family for their loss.
Family members of Shaki are yet to comment on the statement of apology made by Minister Samukai yesterday. President Sirleaf had on previous occasions made a similar apology to the family on behalf of her government.
Meanwhile in his Armed Forces Day statement, Minister Samukai said that the AFL had collaborated with the joint security in deploying in seven of the 15 counties during the height of the Ebola epidemic last year, and participated in efforts to contain the spread of the Ebola virus disease (EVD).