Is State of Emergency Being Lifted?

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On Tuesday, September 30, 2014, the President and Commander In Chief (CIC) of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, is expected to withdraw to the barracks all Army deployments from around the country. The deployment of the AFL is constitutionally essential to the State of Emergency, which was declared by the President on August 6 and was approved by the National Legislature when it became clear that the Government was losing the battle to contain the Ebola epidemic that is killing hundreds of citizens and other residents of the country. It has an intended life span of 90 days.

According to Defense Minister Brownie J. Samukai when he appeared before the plenary of the Senate immediately following the deployment of armed troops at various checkpoints in the country, he said the action was authorized by President Sirleaf as Commander-In-Chief of the AFL.

Minister Samukai further informed the Senate that the army’s mandate was to ensure compliance from the citizens in the fight against the spread of Ebola virus, and to also help health workers with the necessary protections they need especially in areas quarantined as a means of fighting the disease.

But during one of her recent nationwide addresses,  President Sirleaf announced that effective September 30, 2014, the armed forces will be withdrawn from the various checkpoints and returned to their barracks where she said they will continue to render services as deemed necessary in the fight against the spread of the Ebola virus.

Since that statement, which came weeks after the shooting incident in the township of West Point that left a 16-year-old killed by bullets believed to have come from an AFL gun, many political commentators are wondering whether the withdrawal of the army is an indication of an imminent lifting of the State of Emergency.

In the event that the army is withdrawn, and the State of Emergency stays in force, two members of the Senate Committee on Defense, Intelligence, Security & Veteran Affairs in a chat with the Daily Observer’s Senate Correspondent noted that the deployment of troops and policing of territorial boundaries of the country during the period of a State of Emergency is solely the business of the Executive.

The two lawmakers who preferred anonymity said the withdrawal of the army, initially deployed in preparedness to man the territorial boundaries of the country, could mean that the CIC was satisfied that the army’s mission was accomplished, or that the President might have been advised to only use the army for protection of the country from external forces.

“Constitutionally, the President will not be in violation if she lifts the State of Emergency short of the 90 days requested for, although she will need to return to the Legislature if she needs an extension. Maybe the international friends, who might have advised her against the deployment of the army, will again do the same for the lifting of the State of Emergency.”

But another Senator, who is a member of the Senate Committee on Internal Affairs and Governance, expressed fear that the State of Emergency may be extended if the trend of the spread of the Ebola virus continues; saying the virus is spreading unabatedly.

The two lawmakers, however, remained non-committal when asked whether it was prudent to deploy foreign troops in the country during State of Emergency, especially when the country’s army is retired to the barracks.

Meanwhile, in the wake of announcement of the army’s return to the barracks, reports from neighboring Sierra Leone Wednesday, September 24, said the Government of President Ernest Bai Koroma has ordered the closure of its borders with Liberia and Guinea, and troops deployed to ensure compliance.

Sierra Leone, the second hardest hit among the three Mano River Union countries, Sunday, September 21, ended a three-day Ebola sensitization lockdown, which the authorities there described as “successful.”

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