State Security Brutality Mars Early Days of Lockdown

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The brutality meted against residents from the onset of the State of Emergency, at times at their homes, brought a reminder of the time the country was in a total crisis when laws of the land became practically non-existent.

-Many blame ambiguous messages from government

The enforcement of a new set of restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus often begin gently in other parts of the world, with warnings and explanations, but in Liberia, citizens have been greeted with brute force and as things stand, it is just a matter of time before the entire situation escalates into sporadic violent scenes in Montserrado County and other parts of the country.

This means that the breeding tension, therefore, needs quick intervention from central government to help deescalate the current anger that is flaring among residents across Monrovia and its environs.

The new regulations, which were precipitated by a state of emergency declared by the President Weah last week, aimed at keeping citizens inside their homes as much as possible, went into effect at 11:59 PM on Friday, April 10. The restriction starts from 6:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., the President said.

From that time, people are meant to stay at home unless they are going to an approved job, purchasing food or medicine.

But things started on an ugly note as viral social media footage at the onset of the restrictions, early Saturday morning through Monday afternoon, showed cases of joint security brutality against citizens in Monrovia, Paynesville and other parts of the country.

Security forces were seen punishing residents who failed to adhere to the lockdown directive from the President.

After announcing a state of emergency across the country, President Weah on Wednesday, April 8, announced lockdown of four of the fifteen counties as an enhanced measure to prevent increasing community spread having closed down all borders — air and land.

The brutality meted against residents, at times at their homes, brought a reminder of the time the country was in a total crisis when laws of the land became practically non-existent.

Whips and other brute force tools are being used to enforce social distancing in market places and to discipline citizens caught outside their homes without “valid reason.”

“Is it only through violence and humiliation our security officers can deal with the people?” one caller asked on Spoon FM in Monrovia. “It is unacceptable to see such inhuman and degrading treatment against the population,” “This is uncalled for and inappropriate. There is no need for torture, inhumane and degrading treatment and no excessive use of force. Why should we be treating our own people like this? Some people are even beaten while in their yard. Are we protecting the virus against the people or we should be protecting the people against the virus?”

The random brutality has left Liberians questioning whether what the President declared is a curfew or a lockdown.

The Montserrado County Senator Abraham Darius Dillon said there is the need for the Executive to clearly define whether there is a curfew or a lockdown.

Dillon: “There is no understanding. The security man can use his discretion whether you can get on your porch or you can leave your yard to go your neighbour for salt or you should stay in your room. A lockdown is to confine you to a certain locality, curfew means don’t come outside at all, stay within… As it is, because there is no clear defined measure that we can either modify or revoke, it is left in the hands of the security and sadly we have regime security rather than state security,” he told FrontPage Africa in an interview.

Many believe that the government may struggle to keep citizens indoors and the security forces may just retort intimidation tactics.

Ambiguous messages, undefined role of state security

If care is not taken, the fight against COVID might take an ugly trend if messages coming from the government are not synchronized and edited for simplicity and clarity, from what the Daily Observer has observed so far.

Some are blaming President Weah for not being too succinct with his messages during his state of emergency declaration—a situation that has created more confusion.

Many are confused as to who the 6:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. timeframe is for. Liberians were seen en masse early Saturday and Monday morning with the justification that the President said they can be allowed out of their homes until 3:00 p.m.

The communications arm of the government did not even help the President in simplifying or explaining his message to the people.

“We don’t even know who the period outlined by the President is meant for. We see everyone in the streets talking about they are supposed to be home by three. We are confused and we need clarity,” Diamon Slanger, a Liberian journalist, said on Monday.

Slanger thinks the messages need more explanation for the understanding of the people. “What I do understand is that the 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. period is for the workers of these essential businesses and government entities that the President talked about, but the way things are going, I’m not sure the people got the message rightly,” he said.

Disorganized security sector

Many fear that actions and measures that should propel the nation to defeat the Coronavirus pandemic are absent in the state of emergency proclamation.

Some are baffled that the President is yet to come up with any plan of action, apart from amassing members of the disorganized joint security at checkpoints and market areas to enforce the lockdown proclamation.

The composition of the joint security is still unknown as people complained of motorbike security, Boy Scouts and City Police officers are harassing them.

“If no comprehensive action plan is put in place and if the implementations of agreed measures are not placed in the hands of competent people with the requisite knowledge in fighting infectious diseases, COVID-19 would continue to spread regardless of the barricades erected by the paramilitary against the free movement of Liberians, coupled with the attendant intimidation and harassments,” Alex Harrison told the Daily Observer.

The footages brutality also prompted the former LNP Inspector General, Gregory Coleman, to caution the joint security forces against the harassment and intimidation of peaceful citizens. He sent out the warning on his social media page, reminding the security actors about their fundamental duty to serve the communities and protect lives and properties.

“The constitutional rights of citizens to liberty, equality and justice must be respected by all security actors,” Coleman cautioned. “As law enforcement officers are given the power and authority to execute such mandate, you should know your fundamental duty is to serve the community, to safeguard lives and properties, to protect the innocent against deception, the weak against oppression or intimidation, and the peaceful against abuse or disorder, and to respect the constitutional rights of all to liberty, equality and justice.”

The Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR) has already started sounding out a clarion call to state security personnel that they would be held liable for any rights violations during this 21-day State of Emergency.

INCHR Acting Commissioner, Rev. Bartholomew B. Colley, said over the weekend that “law enforcers” should be held liable for any violation of international human rights and humanitarian laws.

Gov’t ignoring bread and butter issues

Amidst all of these, for many Liberians, the need to make a living trumps both fears of catching the deadly virus and encountering the police, prompting law enforcement officers to step up their show of force.

Apart from a well-structured security team to enforce the restrictions, stimulus packages for the less fortunate, many believe, would have helped do the magic during this critical period.

But people throughout the country, but especially in Monrovia, are worried that the government did not provide any practical economic plan to assist low-income earners, extremely poor people and people with disabilities.

Against this backdrop, it seems that the risk of being whipped by security officers is doing little to stop citizens across the country from pursuing their daily activities.

Some eminent Liberians, including Senator Dillon and Representative Francis Dopoh, have been calling on the government to make some sacrifices and cater to the needs of the people.

Dillon has called for some interventions such as the temporary restoration of the three days ‘free call’ promotion; civil servants to be paid for a period of two months and the need for electricity supply to be regular and stable in order to make people comfortable as they stay at home. These are all meant to help ease the economic tension on Liberians during the state of emergency, Dillon advised.

Rep. Dopoh also said there should be incentives to ensure that supplies of staple and essential foods are regionally and sufficiently available for vulnerable communities.

“The Government should ensure that employees of Government receive salary advances, while private companies are encouraged to do whatever they can to give their employees advances,” he says. “Small businesses that have loan obligations should have repayment deferred, including tax returns filings.”

But such measures are difficult to enact in countries where most people live in poverty and work informally, often in packed urban slums with little access to sanitation.

Many stakeholders are of the view that if the government takes measures which starve everybody, the citizens would end up defying the measures. “This country lacks the means to enforce public confinement,” a top government official said.

26 COMMENTS

  1. But just recently the former Justice Minister, Cllr. Gongloe called for stringent measures to be taken, if the present measures failed . Well, the former Minister was asked to clarify his alleged statements concerning his called for more stringent measures to be used in the country like those that are being practiced in other countries. He was warned that as a prominent member of society, his called for more stringent measures to be taken would seriously be misunderstood by the regime and its security forces. But here we are again, faced with the same situations like before. The regime’s ways of politically expressing its intentions as an explanation of its intentions are predictable , and most times confusing. Perhaps without the former Justice Minister calling for more stringent measures to be taken against the virus, should the present measures failed , the manner in which the measures are enforced as it relates to violence, no one had to call for more stringent measures. The regime’s security forces are predictable to do it themselves as usual. But what makes the former Justice Minister, Cllr. Gongloe looks bad, he can be seen as someone who approves and associates himself with those very measures stated in the article and being carried out by the state security forces. Due to his calling for more stringent measures to be taken to combat the virus. Now the Counselor must come out and speak against the kind of brutality being measured out to citizens by the state security forces. Prominent citizens have to be careful with what they have to say for their 15 minutes recognition in a country made of mostly illiterates, especially when the regime in charged is seen as being politically predictable. The Counselor was not actually wrong in calling for more stringent measures when the nation is faced with a life or death situation. But he was wrong in his failure to explain exactly what he meant by calling for more stringent measures to be used by the regime of George to combat the virus. Knowing how predictable the regime is in taking advantage of any situation that will justify their political actions. Now you see.

  2. Police brutality has nothing to do with one (whether incumbent or former gov official) calling for “stringent measures”. Despite whichever regime or era, civilians generally do not respect ordinances or laws. To not expect such isolated cases as these as to say Liberia is an exception within the comity and community of nations, is to be totally disconnected with what is happening in other countries; whether it is China or Ghana, or Nigeria, where worst security actions than these are common. Notwithstanding, the authorities must ensure that security officers exercise restraint, and gov should punish those culpable officers as a matter of deterrence!

    That said, now I see why someone commented that you gallop into issues you know nothing about; and to fill that gap, you often prefer to lie. James Davis, there has been no time when Tiawen Gongloe was ever Justice Minister. The only ministerial position Tiawen has had was when he was appointed as Minister of Labor; after which he was sent on compulsory leave along with several other ministers and officials of government, as a result of their individual poor performance.

  3. VERY STUPID REPORTING! This news story IS WORST THAN YELLOW JOURNALISM! Kenneth Best, whosoever you have left to head your Paper or news outlet, is degrading this once credible news outlet.

    How on earth can an editor caption such images of three wounded people WITHOUT MENTIONING ANYTHING THOSE WITH BRUISED FACES HAVE SAID AND WHAT REALLY TRANSPIRED BETWEEN THEY AND THE SECURITY OFFICERS!?!?

    Was it Diamon Slanger, high school drop out Dillon, Dapoh, or Rev. Bartholomew B. Colley, who have experienced this obvious yellow journalism “security brutality”? VERY STUPID REPORTING!

  4. Mr. James Davis,
    The last few words that you uttered in your diatribe above reads, “now you see”. Well guess what? If anyone should see something funny, it’s got to be your polemics, young man.

    Tiawon Gongloe: “Now you see”, the man you appointed as Justice Minister in your dream is a phony. The real Tiawon Gongloe we all know about in Liberia was never appointed as a minister at the Justice Ministry.

    Also in your comment above, you clearly state that the country is “made of mostly illiterates”.
    James Davis, we all know that illiteracy is high in Liberia. There are a number of reasons for that high rate of illiteracy. First of all, the high rate of illiteracy does not exist because of Weah. The inference one gets from your assault on Weah gives the impression that Weah is somehow responsible for illiteracy in Liberia. That’s totally false!

    Secondly, we’ve had a bloody”uncivil war” for nearly fourteen years. During those painful years of the war, there were no schools and the institutions of the Liberian government fell to the ground. When the guns stopped firing, our poor brothers and sisters returned to what they knew as home without education. Of course, a good number of returnees obtained good education before going back home. Without a shred of doubt, the 14-year “uncivil war” is partly responsible for our country’s high illiteracy rate.

    Bottom Line:
    You are an unapologetic critic of the Weah government. It really doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is the false narratives that you and your colleagues spread all over the place. Example, by telling your readers that Gongloe was at one time a Justice Minister appointee is not a mistake on your part, but rather a false narrative!

    Lastly, we have a common enemy. Covid-19 is the enemy. In my view, Weah’s imposition of a lockdown, curfew or State of Emergency (call it whatever you want) is meant to save lives. I truly understand how our poor friends and relatives are in Liberia. I feel their pain and sorrow. Because of politics and our pride, let’s not take our eyes away from the enemy. Politics should come later. Let’s work together in order to defeat Covid-19!

    Peace

  5. Rant Rant, Nothing But RANT.

    Mr. James Davis is part of that old school who think that Liberia belongs to only one set of Liberian. We have seen that for too long brother/papay in Liberia. I don’t think, Mr. Davis is reading the news headlines from around the world. How did China, Singapore, South Korea etc, curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus. I m not advocating violent against any of our people, but equally so, Liberians need to understand the danger.COVID-19 poses. Powerful and rich nations have caved in to the virus, What’s about poor country like ours. Some world leaders have lost their footing and result to anger when addressing news writers. Some have clearly admit shortcomings, in dealing with COVID-19.

    Mr. Davis may be tweeting form his comfort zoon somewhere across the ocean. God forbid, when the COVID-19 cases begin to rise, (something I really don’t want), those are the people who will blame the government for not doing anything.

    Brother Davis/ papay, please slow down, this is not the time for that. Our main aim, for all Liberian is to fight this virus. Anyone can infect anybody. Your wife, your girlfriends, son, daughter, mother etc. Tone down the rant. To some of our religious leaders, just look back at where your faith begin:. Mecca, Jerusalem, the Wailing Wall, etc., are all on a lockdown. Let’s lock it down or we will all loose it.

    Mamadu Bah (N/P) Meridian

    • Well, young man , and James Davis is not addressing as so to speak, but respectfully addressing you in a friendly manner. But as stated in your post, that you are not advocating for violence, the post by James Davis is sharing that opinion. Neither is the post concerning the Counselor is suggesting that the Counselor is advocating for violence while calling for more stringent measures to be put in place should the present measures failed. Along and through out the present post and that of previous post concerning the Counselor’s alleged statements, James Davis offered a word of advice or caution. Be careful because the regime of George and his security apparatus a politically predictable when enforcing orders. Because the statements without clarity may be misunderstood. This has nothing to do with the Coronavirus and its enforcement orders of the day. James Davis is expressing a concern that has a political pattern over the years. Not just for the first time as it relates to the Coronavirus enforcement orders. The lockdown fine . Here in the comfort zone, if there was an Executive Order passed for distancing and individuals have to ware face mask, some states have issued orders to arrest, while others have issued tickets with penalties. Why ? Because there is a database system. Over there, the every regimes have been successful into brainwashing the citizens that the country cannot afford this or afford the other thing. The only other chance left to the regime is brutality or ruffian political methods. Why don’t we see lockdown in Israel as you have mentioned as to see a bloody political thing ? If that country is to practice what they see in other countries ? Or here in the comfort zone of James Davis ? The post is not a rant, neither is it accusing the Counselor of advocating for violence. Just holding responsible for what he says as someone who should know better based on legal training and profession that the regime of George is politically predictable. So was the caution: Now you see. But thanks again young man for us having this opportunity to share our opinions. The direction of our country matters.

  6. Matilda Witherspoon: you have the gall to call someone else high school drop out. What is your educational level? Unfortunately, you are far beneath the intellect of Senator Dillion. Do you know the origin and definition of yellow journalism? Go somewhere and get your some education before criticizing other people.

  7. In law enforcement situations, in most cases where thigs escalate to the point of injuries or death of the subject, it is when the ego of a police officer gets to his head. That’s why there will always be bad cops. When a guy with volatile temperament and violent tendencies is given a weapon and granted police powers, oh, the sky is the limit as to the number of things that can go wrong!

    The pictures of the victims of police brutality in Liberian news are nothing new. This article is not a surprising outlier that raises concerns because it demontrates an anomaly. Now, apologists for this government will argue in favor for the use of strong-handed tatics for maintaining order (the ‘any mean necesary’ crowd) as justification for the use of excessive force. But the problem is Police corruption and abuse of civilians on behalf the government de jour is a natural consequence of Liberia’s disinterest in the value of maintaining the rule of law and a fact. So often police do not show through their actions respect for themselves in their transactions with the community. Consequently, disrespect and redicule is what they get. But given that police are the face of the law, it is a matter of must that they are representative of the best of us who must be held to a higher standard and who must be held accountable for their actions.

    I saw a FB video last weekend where I thought the police did everything right by the book. When they got to a church and pleaded with the leadership to observe the social- distancing ordinances, the church leadership unwisely refused to respect this mandated safety measure and held their ground. After some more time trying to persuade the church to rethink the matter and quietly leave in peace, they instead chose intransigence and argued in favor of their right to freedom of worship. As the last resort, when the police deployed teargas, the singing ceased abruptly, pandemonium ensued, the sit-in was abandoned and the congregation emptied the sanctuary faster than you could count from 1 to 0! That police commander exercised great judgement and restraint in a delicate stuation and established order. I respect that.

  8. The idea of using vituperation just because you do not agree with a person’s point of view, is, in my mind, very ignorant. It speaks volume of the person using it.

    this site is a forum to exchange ideas or for keen minds to engage in robust intellectual exercise, at least to me, that is what is should be about.

    Lets do away with the foul language against each other just because we dont see eye to to eye on a particular topic. No one person has monopoly over offensive language

    That is all from me for now.

    Peace

    • Joe Moses, on matters within a given intellectual, academic, or political, exchange; to entertain the belief that “angry criticism” (eg. very stupid reporting on the part of a news outlet, etc,etc) or a blunt truth or reality(eg. Dillon being a high school drop out, etc) is “foul language”, is an error!

      A “foul language” is one which reflects that which is abominable and or anathema to oneś moral duty of self control viz utterances.

      And neither “angry criticism” (eg. very stupid reporting on the part of a news outlet, etc,etc) or a blunt truth or reality(eg. Dillon being a high school drop out, etc) is “foul language”; nor are they anything near your conceptualization of “foul language, vituperation, or offensive language.”

      Assimilate this forthwith, and henceforth! For as it is often said here and elsewhere by others: “TRUTH KNOWS NO BARRIER”!

  9. Mr. Joe Moses! I totally accord with you about this platform should never be about hate or insults if we don’t agree on opinions. Yes, we can honestly exchange our views about issues affecting our country, Liberia because she serves as a common denominator for all Liberians. Many of us are not politicians but absolutely want the best for Liberia and that’s our motive for shouting out. I will salute one Mr. P. Dolo for absorbing all the insults without retaliation and as the saying goes, it takes 2 to fight. Thank you so much Mr. Moses for bringing this to everyone attention.

  10. Matilda Witherspoon

    perhaps, the line between insults and blunts have become blurred to you. So, once you do not agree with a person’s opinion, you lash out. Many a person have suffered your wrath simply because you did not concur with what she/he had to opine. You will disagree with what I have said, but you and i know that I speak the fact.

    You are a very gifted writer, no doubt about that and I, for one, truly admire your writing style, but I am slowly arriving at the conclusion that you are thin-skinned and I hope that I am wrong in my assessment about you.

    You are a very persuasive writer and continue to be persuasive.

    I hope you and your family had a very wonderful Easter Sunday and you all stay safe

    Peace

    • Joe Moses, you are absolutely wrong that I am “thin-skinned”. I am simply highly intelligent, and will not give credence to lies and pretenses.

      Accordingly, what you are saying IS NOT a fact. Its a delusion at best, and a fiction at worst!

      You simply do not know the difference between “lashing out” and delineating the lies or ignorance of one. You cannot prove a single evidence where “we” went “insulting” anyone. It does you good to assimilate this forthwith! Hence, “sorry” for yourself.

  11. Matilda Witherspoon

    I have said my piece and you have said yours. I stand by what I have said and you stand by what you said. Going back and forth is, for me, an exercise in futility.

    Peace

  12. Joe Moses, in the future, before galloping into your wanton presumptuous posturing, and totally unnecessary paroxysm, you should think about its myopic implications; for which a free pass, for you, is impossible!

    • Petarus Dolo, you are making a mistake. Joe Moses does not have the required academic acumen, nor the common or advanced intellectual disposition or erudition, to dare believe he can ever get into ANY intellectual fight with me. He can only get into an “intellectual fight” with his fellow high school dropouts.

  13. One thing I have learned over the years in navigating the comment sections of online publications is not to be drawn away from the matter that had initially drawn my attention. Whenever somebody responding to me goes ad hominem, I usually refuse to take the bait, because it will set into motion a cycle emotion- driven, useless exchanges. There is really nothing intellectual or noble about trading barbs, x-rated invectives and name-callings. There is really nothing more potent in dealing with an ad hominem post than ignoring it entirely.

    I might not agree with them all the time, but as a frequent visitor to this site, James Davis and HF Hney have my respect in this regard.

  14. Matilda Witherspoon

    Presumptuous posturing, myopic implications, blah blah and blah. You use your fancy words to assure yourself of your self importance and to inflate your false sense of ego. But, if it makes you feel better, by all means, go for it. I am sure, for you, it is a form of therapy.

    But, please, don’t be under the illusion that, by using your unnecessary words, you are impressing anyone here, because you are not.

    And let me give you free advice, if you are not careful, sooner or later, you may become the laughing stock or Court Jester of this forum.

    Like L. ZLando so aptly put it, there is really nothing intellectual or noble about trading barbs, x rated invectives and name callings.

    But, for you, it seems that is your stock in trade. So, bring more of your fancy words.

    This forum waits, breathlessly.. stay safe out there.

    Peace

    • Joe Moses, an intellectual expanse as this is not a forum for grade school mentalities, toddlers, clowns, and whichever level of ignoramus. While it is true it is a right for anyone to participate herein, if Joe Moses observes the dictions are above his mental capacity, all he has to do is quit , and not bore others or display the disposition of a clown.

  15. It is rather silly to use this platform to offend one another with useless vocabulary that does not bring relief to our people. Keep the focus on the administration and its failure to provide clarity in their directives.

    • David Koah, you are very stupid to believe people should adopt such silly mindset of “focusing on the administration and its failures”. That is the tunnel vision and track thinking mentality of GULLIBLES like you.

  16. Comrade Zlando,
    You’re one of the most read. I am not surprised that you are one of the most persipient commenters on this blog.

  17. Mr. David Koah,

    You are so right. This unnecessary bantering does not bring relief to anyone here. This issue could have been handled differently and perhaps, I exercised poor judgement.

    There are folks on this site that I have profound respect for and, among them, Uncle PD, Uncle H, please blame this on my youthful inexperience.

    peace

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