Defense Minister Brownie Samukai has emphatically refuted recent media reports that soldiers deployed at the Liberia/Sierra Leone border at Bo-Waterside, Grand Cape Mount County, have been ordered to shoot at sight anyone violating the Presidential mandate ordering the closure of all borders.
Addressing a press conference at the Barclay Training Center Wednesday, August 20, Minister Samukai said the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), Col. Eric W. Dennis, who was quoted to have issued the order, had intended to admonish the soldiers assigned at the Bo-Waterside entry point to perform and execute their duties in line with their duty manual.
The duty manual lists four cardinal military rules of engagements to which the AFL officers and enlisted men are strictly to adhere.
He said that while on duty, soldiers do not directly take orders unless they come from the Commander-in-Chief (C-I-C). Whether under a State of Emergency or not, they are not to shoot and or kill anyone violating any mandate, even if they are crossing porous border points under the cover of darkness.
“Orders to the soldiers in the case of any eventually will have to come from the C-I-C, who is the President of the country. Right now, we have not received such an instruction to shoot and or kill, because that order is not reflective of the C-I-C’s mandate and of the Liberian refurbished army.”
At the Wednesday press conference, Minister Samukai further told newsmen and women that the Liberian authorities’ efforts and frustrations for now are geared toward containment of the spread of the deadly Ebola virus sweeping across the country.
“Our intention for now is to support those that are helping the country in our quest to contain the Ebola virus, but people who violate our laws will have to be arrested and sent to court to face the full weight of the law.”
According to him, Liberia has up to present maintained excellent relations in the West African sub-region as well as its with her immediate neighbors, to the extent that AFL soldiers assigned at the various border points are holding series of coordination meetings with their counterparts from Sierra Leone, to maintain peace and stability as well observe the border closure.
The West Point Saga
As to the situation in West Point, Minister Samuaki warned that Liberian authorities will not condone or cooperate with people who intend to loot other people’s hard earned properties and business establishments.
According him, an unidentified lad sustained deep injury in his leg when joint troops from the Police Support Unit (PSU) of the Liberia National Police (LNP), the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN) and officers of the AFL attempted, by shooting in the air, to disperse hundreds of stone-throwing West Pointers.
The rioting West Pointers took over the main road throwing stones and marching in their numbers towards the security personnel who were manning the blockade situated in front of the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) from the Water Street entrance to the township.
But Minister Samukai told reporters that as of the afternoon hours Wednesday, the West Point situation had been contained by the combined forces of Liberian Joint Security.
He denied that soldiers had shot at any of the residents, but rather resorted to make humanitarian intervention by providing ‘free medical outreach’ to some those who had sustained minor injuries.
The onward marching residents almost overpowered the security team detailed at the ‘quarantined checkpoint’. It was at that juncture that members of the AFL team began firing in the air in an apparent attempt to disperse the crowd, which was fast becoming unmanageable.
“After the security detail finally overpowered the rioting crowd by firing in the air, members of the disgruntled crowd quickly sought assistance from the few soldiers assigned in the area as the situation gradually subsided.”
The soldiers, the Minister said, gradually took up their assignments there to contain a situation that would have burst into a full breakdown of law and order. But they quickly re-established law and order to the delight of thousands of on looking residents, who were not involved in the melee.
As to the fate of those being quarantined, Minister Samukai said, government has plans to provide them basic daily needs to sustain them, at least for a month.