Shoot to Kill?

Roberts International Airport runway which is soon .jpg
To prevent theft of navigational equipment, the RIA advised the public to keep away and not to unlawfully interfere with the aerodrome at any time as these measures will be strictly applied to the letter.

Airport statement ‘ordering’ AFL to use lethal force against theft of RIA equipment receives public condemnation

Liberians, especially those on social media, were shocked when a public announcement emanating from the management of the Liberia Airport Authority (LAA) ordering officers of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) to shoot on sight or, in other words, shoot to kill (S2K) anyone trespassing on the premises of the Roberts International Airport (RIA), reached the public-sphere on Wednesday.

Justifying its decision, the LAA said it observed, with grave concern, that criminals are bent on entering and are attempting to steal very important equipment from the RIA. This, the announcement noted, would have crippling effects on the operations of the Airport.

The announcement, signed by LAA, noted: “The Management of the Liberia Airport  Authority (LAA) in collaboration with the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) wishes to inform the general public that additional security have been put in place at the RIA.”  This, according to the LAA, is to secure the premises of the Airport, especially the aerodrome or the airside, from theft and unlawful interferences.

The new measures include stringent patrols by officers of the AFL at every entry point of the aerodrome or airside at RIA; authorization to the AFL to shoot on sight anyone who attempts to steal any of the navigational equipment within the premises of the RIA. In view of these new security measures, the RIA advised the public to keep away and not to unlawfully interfere with the aerodrome at any time as these measures will be strictly applied to the letter.

The AFL responded, saying that it was taken aback by the announcement as it had no connection to such a pronouncement. AFL Chief of Staff, Major General Prince C. Johnson, III, promptly distanced the army from the LAA’s statement. He said though the AFL is there to protect the RIA, the AFL “does not take orders from the Airport Authority” and has reached no agreement with the LAA in such regard.

When contacted to ascertain the authenticity of the announcement that went viral on social media, LAA General Manager, Will Bako Freeman, confirmed that the document was a product of his entity. He however admitted that “because the current one is causing a lot of confusion in the public,” since it was released, the LAA is working with the AFL and other stakeholders to rephrase the announcement.

Freeman however indicated that the document did not say AFL officers should shoot people. “This is a misunderstanding of the content of the document. We want that disregarded because we are working on another one to be released tomorrow [today],” he told the Daily Observer yesterday.

AFL Chief of Staff confirmed that a revision of the statement was underway, with the involvement of the Assistant Minister for Public Affairs at the Ministry of National Defense, Sam Collins. Said revision is expected today, March 22.

Meanwhile, the LAA’s measure has received a barrage of condemnation, not just from the public but also some veterans of the security sector.

A retired security veteran who worked with the government of Liberia for over 30 years noted that there exists no such order as “S2K” and that law enforcement agencies can only fire if they’re being fired upon. In some cases, he noted, law enforcement agencies’ hands are tied by national human rights laws or commission, as well as global instruments that we, as a country, are signatories to.

“Everyone is entitled to be taken to court and arrested on specific grounds if it is deemed that s/he has committed a crime,” the veteran noted, adding: “If a group of people rioting using sticks and stones, the police or any paramilitary group can only suppress the agitation using non-lethal weapons.”

Quoting universal police security law, he said “even if a group deemed to be terrorists and armed AK-47s are in front of a police team—The police still have to make sure they use non lethal methods unless fired upon by them.

“Using lethal force in only self-defense or to avoid a grave public killing, an officer takes the liability on him the moment he puts his hand on the trigger. If the situation is worth a long investigation then he will fire to protect himself and those around him.

“Once you fire even one round in the air or at a person, you are liable for an inquiry. The moment he shoots, the control room is to be notified and also the chief of police of that area.  They will investigate the issue, and determine under what circumstances the rounds were fired.

Needless to say if you’re not a cop, you will be jailed and investigated,” the veteran, who requested not to be named, explained.

A top UNMIL official, expressing surprise at the LAA’s announcement on social media, asked, “Is it ever OK to defend a policy or measure that can mean the loss of human life in order to protect material things?

“It makes unclear the more truthful and important dimensions of S2K policies, mistakenly implying that loss of human life is effective at protecting equipment. It also neglects the negative consequences, which extend beyond ‘externalities’ and into the realm of unethical policy,” he said.

It can be recalled that the last time officers of the AFL were given an S2K order was during the height of the Ebola outbreak in the country. They were instructed to exercise such order along the border between Sierra Leone and Liberia, in the case of any forced or illegal entry into the country at the time.


  1. I disagree with you Mr. 30 year security expert. The Airport Authority and the Government of Liberia have the right to protect it’s property. If a do not tresspass sign is posted and you refuse to obey the posted sign and ignore it,” you will be shot to be stopped”. Read between the line. I can defend myself in court for saying that and I know I will walk free.

  2. The difference between your lousy utterance and that of the expert’s, is that the man’s is backed by facts gleaned from internationally accepted codes of security operations, versus the feel-good irresponsible freelancing crap you spew here. What your hackneyed brain needs to know about these circumstances and just as the expert said, unless the responder’s life is threatened before any “self-defense” stance could be plausible or tenable. Otherwise your behind will fry accordingly.

    What gives you and role model in this regard the right to take another’s life, or act as judge and jury over another’s life in situations like this? Because you happen to be director at some slapdash or makeshift airport? And what so much could hapless folks be after on the grounds of the airport, if not scrap metals? Is that sufficient ground for a “shot on sight” order? Imagine Mr. Bako Freeman as commander at some military installation, apparently no one would be allowed to pass before that establishment!! The adage, “give a man an inch and he’ll take a yard,” has really been taken up another level by Mr. Bako Freeman. Wish him all the best with such new-found power.

  3. Criminals, for that is what they are, intent upon stealing items of equipment from the airport (e.g. maybe stealing crucial navigation equipment and / or approach aids which pilots need available to help them to land their aircraft at night and / or in bad weather) those people can and do put at risk the lives of passengers & crew onboard an aircraft. As such, serious consequences must ensue for perpetrators of such selfish & dangerous criminality.

  4. The hypocrisy around the legal rights of citizens and due process versus theft of navigation equipment at RIA which could isolate Liberia and render navigation into Liberia unsafe as the case was of Joseph Tate and others who perished while landing at RIA must not be taken lightly.

    When one travels through Washington DC to Los Angeles or Houston to Chicago or Charles de Gaule in Paris, to London , or Berlin there are armed police and military personnel who are armed to their teeth and carrying body cameras and vehicular cameras who will not hesitate to shoot any criminal, terrorist, or robber who attempts to commit a crime inside terminals or within the fenced perimeter of their facility.

    Stop the politicking and secure our limited public infrastructure so as to grow the Liberian economy especially in economic gateways like the airports, seaports, and borders.

  5. It’s just plain crazy that someone would even dare to steal navigational equipment from an airport of all places. Plain crazy

  6. And what convinced any of you gullible sparrows that “navigational equipment” were stolen or under that threat? Because some jackals says so? What would be the end use, or benefit of such equipment to the would be thief? Set it on top their shacks for radio/TV reception? Even if were airplanes getting missing at RIA, the response by any freaking means cannot be a “shoot to kill” order. And most especially given by some nobody in the grand scheme of things. And to those of you self-proclaimed “social chief justices” in this matter, what your honors, has been your dispositions on the perennial white collard thieveries in Liberia that have resulted in the loss of lives due to lack of any adequately functioning hospitals in the country? Bad roads as prime factors in most fatal accidents? Shackling illiteracy rate responsible for this other leadership curse we are grappling with today? Tell us how impartial and retributive you have been about impropriety across the board, with no regard for the social status of the perpetrator. We shall be awaiting whatever the attempt at a response.

  7. Airport Security is no joke in many parts of the World. Liberia should be no exception. Let Liberia’s Ministry Of Justice make it known to would be trespassers, what the consequences of their LAWLESSNESS may lead to. If need be; anyone trespassing restricted “Airports’ Premises” may be fired upon by an authorized security personnel(s). It’s a matter of SECURITY…


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here