Can and Should the Liberian People Trust Their Security Forces, Now that UNMIL Is Leaving?

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As UNMIL folds up in just a matter of days now, there are haunting questions about the extent to which Security Sector Reform (SSR) efforts have succeeded in curbing tendencies towards lawless behavior on part of state security personnel.

We recall that there have been several reports of lawless behavior by state security forces including members of the military. The shooting and killing in 2011 of CDC partisans protesting the results of the elections that year were never addressed to the best of public recollection.

Similarly in 2014 during the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus disease, a little boy, Shaki Kamara, was shot by military officers deployed to quarantine overcrowded West Point slum community.

Little Shaki Kamara subsequently died from his wounds but little is known to have happened to the soldier responsible for firing the fatal bullet. In other instances, the Police has been accused of brutality and lawless behavior against journalists and other members of the public.

And such behavior has drawn the attention of international human rights watch dogs including the United States whose State Department reports, including its most recent instance, have often pointed accusing fingers at the country’s security forces, particularly the Police.

In some cases ranking officials of government have used the Police to intimidate and harass people for personal reasons. Concessionaires are also complicit because much too often the Police is ordered into action to suppress workers protests.

In most of such cases and, almost invariably, as the evidence attests, the Police has resorted to using live ammunition to fire on protesting workers. Never for once has it been recorded that the Police under such circumstances has used non-lethal force or ammunition to quell protests by unarmed individuals or groups.

It can be recalled that the prolonged 14-year Liberian civil war bore witness to a plethora of atrocities committed against unarmed and defenseless Liberians by state security forces as well as by armed non-state actors from various warring factions.

During those dark days a person could lose his/her life for something as trifling as a can of sardines. Some of those active in the commission of atrocities are today parading the corridors of power as if their past actions never mattered at all.

AS the United Nations Mission finally winds up, at the end of March, public concerns abound about whether the peace and stability Liberians have enjoyed for over 10 years can be supported and maintained by the country’s security forces.

The recent Liberia Airport Authority (LAA) announcement disclosing that it had ordered Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) soldiers to shoot on sight individuals tampering with facilities at the Roberts International Airport has heightened public concerns and apprehension about a return to the dark days of wanton violence and lawlessness.

This raises the question about command and control structures of the country’s security forces. Who can order them into action and under what conditions are they permitted to use lethal force?

Questions also abound about how much and to what extent human rights concerns are factored or mainstreamed into training and mentoring programs of the country’s security forces.

Can and should the Liberian people depend on and trust their security forces when any Tom, Dick or Harry can order them into action such as the “Shoot to Kill” orders issued by the Liberian Airport Authority or the ransacking of people’s homes on the orders of some big shot Representative claiming to be acting in the public interest?

Thankfully, the AFL Chief of Staff promptly distanced the Army from the “Shoot to Kill” order issued by the Liberian Airport Authority.

State security personnel must always be aware that they are bound by international conventions forbidding them to obey unlawful orders.

Needless to say it smacks of downright disregard and disrespect for the human rights and the rule of law. And this is not limited to the officials of the Liberian Airport Authority alone for other officials are also known to be culpable of such digressions of the law.

Should President Weah, however, fail to lead by example to honor the laws of Liberia, the people must seek redress through the Courts. Why? because short of a return to the ugly violent past, the law remains the only recourse but, only if the Liberian people remain vigilant and ready to nip this growing menace in the bud before it gets too late.

As the late veteran journalist and pamphleteer Albert Porte of blessed memory reminds us, “Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Liberty.”

10 COMMENTS

  1. Can and Should the Liberian People Trust Their Security Forces, Now that UNMIL Is Leaving?
    • We first need to resolve a couple of issues that can and could help the security forces help protect us.
    • Members of our security forces should all be high school graduates (minimum education qualification).
    • Members of our security forces should be highly paid in order to curb corruption within the force.
    • The citizens need to RESPECT members of the security force, in return, they will also RESPECT the citizens.
    • The citizens should not look down on our security forces as mere beggars, but protectors. Again, it comes down to be highly paid.
    • The security forces should not and should never take orders from civilian authorities, but rather from their commanders.
    • Educate the forces to know their respective functions; police to take care of civilians matter and crimes, Immigration to care of border enforcement, Army, Airforce, Navy and Coast Guard are the take care external security, as well as border security and aggression, NSA monitor both internal and external security threats, CID/NBI help investigate all form of crimes.

    If our security forces can know and understand their various role, then the nation should fear nothing.
    CIVILIANS, PLEASE HELP YOUR SECURITY FORCES: IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING. SECURITY IS EVERYBODY’S BUSINESS.
    LET’S STOP THE BRIBERY FROM BOTH SIDES OF THE AISLE: The briber and the receiver are both guilty.

  2. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt!

    Without a shred of doubt, Liberia’s service men and women must and should be given a “benefit of the doubt”. The benefit of the doubt does not give a tacit approval of all things they do, rather it is believed that the service men and women will do a good job.
    To say that the soldiers of Liberia should not be trusted brings a chuckle or a big laughter. Who can be trusted? Even your own teeth can bite your tongue, right? But you hope that when you chew carefully, you will not accidentally bite your tongue.

    Let’s get deeper. In the New Testament, a bunch of erudite lawmen, (The Sanhedrins) demanded an answer from Jesus because Mary of Magdala (otherwise known as Mary Magdalene) was accused of a sin. However, the Sanhedrins were dubious about whether Jesus was the real Son of God. So, Jesus was undoubtedly framed. The Sanhedrins’ strategy called for using Mary of Magdala as a scapegoat. The Sanhedrins became aggressive and demanded answers. In the drama, Jesus called the Sanhedrins’ bluff and rhetorically asked “is there any amongst you who has never ever sinned? If so, cast a stone.” None was freed of transgressions.

    Question:
    Are there people who reside in the 15 counties of Liberia who have not had pre-marital sex? Or, are there Liberians who reside in the 15 counties of Liberia who have never ever stolen money or food or their friend’s girlfriend? What’s about in the government or let’s say in the Lower and Upper Houses of Liberia or in the National Police Force, NPF?

    Bottom line:
    The last time I checked, the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) comprised less than 3,000 men and women. That’s not enough to defend 4.6 million inhabitants during the event of an emergency. Also, when I googled for the 10 wea-kest armies in Africa, Liberia was one of them. So that challenge is for everyone who cares! Get on your computer or your handset and type in the “10 weakest armies in Africa”. You’ll know whether Liberia’s army is weak or powerful. Liberia is one of the weakest chain links. That factor is the only reason why I withhold praise or downright criticism.

    Finally, the UNMIL leaves Liberia for good soon. Should we trust or rely on our service men and women? Yes! Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt, because something tells me that “all have sinned”.

  3. Mr. John H.T. Stewart

    Certainly Mr. Stewart, the shooting of Shaki Kamara was a very tragic and sad incident. What an irreparable loss to his family and the Liberian society!

    However, this incident should also cause us to take an introspective look at some of our politicians; their accomplices; and how they would often capitalize on events and use our poor, unexposed and unsuspecting people for their political gains.

    At the time when Shaki was killed, the United Nations had disseminated some very important information telling all governments of the Ebola affected countries (Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea) to warn their citizens of mass gatherings including political demonstrations; that such reckless behavior was only conducive to amplifying an already catastrophic situation.

    Nevertheless, the CDC began to spread the propaganda that Ellen was stopping people not to stage political demonstrations because she fell that such a timing would cause President Weah who was then running against Ellen’s son for the senate, not to win the election. Taking this deadly lie and falsehood to the highest level, a Liberian website named: http://www.theperspective.org/2014/1220201401.php, wrote a very inflammatory article stating that Ellen’s actions were a prelude to her declaring herself as, “President for Life.”
    Thus, this scenario set the stage for a deadly confrontation between the unarmed and gullible civilians and the government para-military forces. Finally, it led to the untimely death of the young man — a death which could have been avoided. May his soul rest in peace. Freedoms of assembly and free speech are dear to the heart of many democracies. Even though these freedoms cannot be curtailed and neither discarded, the citizenry of those democracies also have duties and responsibilities in exercising them.

    Liberians must strive to be honest in their political discourses and interactions because, one maybe the opposition today, but tomorrow that opposition maybe the one in power and the other becomes the opposing force.

  4. I like the response from C.D. Akoiwala – “Educate the forces to know their respective functions; police to take care of civilians matter and crimes, Immigration to care of border enforcement, Army, Airforce, Navy and Coast Guard are the take care external security, as well as border security and aggression, NSA monitor both internal and external security threats, CID/NBI help investigate all form of crimes.”

    A policeman in uniform cannot be Jack of all functions. Please separate the duties of security personnel.

  5. Paul

    Mr. John H.T Stewart

    Can and Should the Liberian People Trust Their Security Forces, Now that UNMIL Is Leaving?

    I would say “yes’ but only under one circumstance. And that is, if the major factors that led to the security forces being corrupt; inept; and unprofessional in the past have been corrected. Other than that, Liberia will again have a recurrence of the past. This brief essay brings to mind two parables. They are:

    1. When you put old wine in new bottles, the result is the same old, stale wine regardless of the containers. A true change occurs when people radically abandon old systems and belief structures that tend to keep their societies backward and disintegrated.

    2. Insanity is repeating the same thing over and over and expecting a difference. It will be insanity to believe that reverting to the mistakes of the past will move the country forward. IF UNMIL did truly contribute to the tranquility of the country for the past 10 years, then we must learn from what they did right and adopt it to the country’s present state.

    The government should not create an environment that motivates the security apparatus towards accepting bribes and behaving unprofessionally; and neither should it accept such unethical behavior to go with impunity.

  6. The government of President George M. Weah, is now faced with daunting task when it comes to the national security of Liberia. Our national security has to have the full support of the government, logistics, manpower, resources, more training, and well deserved pay. Instead of paying lawmakers $10 to 15 thousand dollars a month for sitting on their buttocks hardly doing the work that they were elected to do. Some of that money should be taken away from the the lazy Liberian lawmakers and paid the security sector for hard work. It is our government officials that make the government to look brook in eyes of the world. Liberia has vigilant men and women that are well capable of keeping our country safe when the appropriate resources are put in place. National security is not just Police, military, EPS, BIN, but it includes fire marshal, paramedics, . The bedrock for any strong nation is our first responders. The government has to have a 911 call center for any occurrence emergency. This will be the first step in a long direction. Lawmakers don’t deserve two or three vehicles but one. The extra vehicles should be diverted to the first responders for quick response to a crime. It is left with the government to have the will that is all required.

    • Who develop this kind of pay system for the Lawmakers and what can be done to reduce their pay? This is why everybody want to be lawmakers, even though they sit on their butts and do nothing for the people that elect them. Take for example, district#17th -Arthington, Millsburg, all around the St Paul River Banks, no roads, and it is about 30 minutes from Monrovia, you got people who are elected for 6 years, but do nothing to develop nothing, yet they get big pay to do nothing. So our security forces (all) are force to take bribes because of the low salaries they get or become beggars.

  7. The question is whether the security forces of Liberia should be trusted? The question is being asked because UNMIL leaves Liberia in a very short time. So, my answer is yes. The security forces should be given the benefit of the doubt. I strongly believe that we can try our level best in all we do if we show respect for one another. Secondly, we should do an introspection, after that, we will be okay.

    My second point is why shouldn’t we trust our security forces? I ask that because no one amongst us has a clean record. None. Not even the priests, the bishops of various denominations or the members of Liberia’s National Assembly! If any reader can point a sinless person out in Liberia, I will the Golden Gate for that reader. I gave a Biblical perspective in my earlier post. The point was and still is that no one has the moral fortitude to judge or prejudge. Knowing that, it is unfair to question the recklessness of an agency when there is none that can be counted on. During the past 15 years, Liberia’s security forces have not been given a full support or a lassez-faire attitude because of the presence of UNMIL. That’s not to suggest that UNMIL is morally corrupt. I strongly believe that the security forces of Liberia will do a good job if they act on their own. Therefore, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt.

  8. we as people in the world need to trust jesus Christ. why because he is lord and he raise the dead to life he make the blind to see he heal the sick.and so on… you see so is good to be obedient to his words.apostle: saide president & ceo of all

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