Just who is/are those advising President Weah is the question on the lips of so many Liberians coming in the wake of remarks he made during the signing of the Book of Condolence for the late Internal Audit Agency (IAA) Director, Emmanuel Barten Nyesua.
Whether those were off-the-cuff remarks not intended for public consumption remains unclear. However, the fact that President Weah, rather than consoling the bereaved families and pledging to leave no stone unturned to find and prosecute those responsible, he veered off instead, making remarks that tended more to deepen rather than soothe the pain and anger of the bereaved families.
What did President Weah actually mean when he told Liberians to be their own security, to buy and install close circuit cameras (CCTV) at their various homes in order to deter criminals? Did he mean that Liberians should no longer rely on the protection of the Police and related state security institutions but should instead resort to vigilantes including armed non-state actors?
In the face of what the public sees as a worrying and rapidly deteriorating security situation, the recent remarks by President Weah urging Liberians to take responsibility for their own security have brought them no added comfort nor reassurance about their safety and security.
Added to such troubling public concerns are reports of the recruitment of individuals into the Liberia National Police (LNP) outside the rules and procedures governing recruitment into the Police particularly those procedures requiring public vetting of applicants seeking enlistment into the LNP.
This latest development, according to security sources (identities withheld), tends to undermine the goals and objectives of the Security Sector Reform (SSR) process as well as gains made despite the challenges.
Now it does appear, according to security sources, that, this government is proceeding along the very same lines as did the government of disgraced former President and convicted war criminal Charles Taylor.
They, for instance, cite the mysterious deaths of the LRA auditors, the failure of the government to bring those responsible to book and President Weah’s recent exhortations to the public to provide for their own defense and security.
It can be recalled that during the reign of disgraced former President and convicted war criminal Charles Taylor, insecurity was rife while the abuse of human rights was routine. Such abuses, according to them, included extra-judicial killings as was in the case of Samuel Dokie, and his wife as well as former Police Director John Yormie, former Pubic Works Assistant Minister Isaac Vaye and the notorious Sierra Leonean rebel leader Sam Bockarie, aka. Mosquito.
By nightfall, Monrovia’s perennially dark streets become deserted, fearful and taken over by prowling street thugs and criminals. As the evening hours, 5-7pm approach, the various streets swell with people desperately hustling for transport vehicles to return to their various homes.
But by 10pm, and as if by magic, the streets become almost completely empty, drained of the throbbing daytime hustle and bustle that begins at about 5:30 in the morning. Anyone daring to leave his home before that time runs the risk of being attacked by armed criminals.
And it appears that this is all because of fear. For an economy that is barely afloat and virtually drowning, security needs to be improved as a first step in order to keep the economy on an even keel. It must not be forgotten that the general state of insecurity, pervasive during the Taylor years, was a prime factor driving the attempt to violently unseat him.
Taylor had considered himself nigh invincible, relying on the size of his arsenal and the number of men he had under arms. He had the notorious Navy Division commanded by Roland Duo, the Strike Force Marines, noted for their cannibalism and commanded by Melvin Sogbandi.
There were, as well, as a host of other armed units including the also notorious and murderous Anti-Terrorist Unit (ATU) commanded by his son, Chuckie Taylor. Chuckie Taylor is now serving a 90-year jail sentence in a Florida jail following his conviction on charges of crimes against humanity.
But at the end of the day, with armed rebels banging at the gates of the Capital, Monrovia, and his forces in virtual disarray, Taylor was forced to flee into exile in Nigeria. However the pleasantries of a luxurious lifestyle in exile came to an abrupt end when he was extradited, first to Liberia .
He was subsequently transferred to the Special Court in Freetown, Sierra Leone and then on to the Hague in The Netherlands, where he was tried, convicted and slapped with a 50-yr jail sentence. He is now serving his sentence in a British jail.
All this goes to say that President Weah should be very careful in his utterances because the danger is such utterances could be interpreted as a pronouncement of public policy. Thus, it is not surprising that the public is interpreting the President’s latest remarks as a call to arms.
The logic behind such reasoning is simple. If the state, which is charged to defend and protect the people and territorial integrity of Liberia is incapable of protecting and defending the people, the people will naturally of course seek out alternatives, amongst which insurrection and regime change cannot be ruled out.
President Weah has to be aware of this danger and, in case he is not, then he needs to sack his corps of advisors because they tell him falsehoods that tend to undermine his ability to analyze situations and make sense of what is unfolding around him.
He should not leave this to others. This newspaper continues to receive hints that a few individuals have surrounded and locked him within their orbit.
Some of them, the public believes, have become so rich that they tend to openly challenge his authority with threats of exposure if he dares dismiss or publicly chastise them. But President Weah does have a choice, howbeit difficult such may be. He must however muster the courage and political will to make the desired changes that may succeed in turning things around for the better. And he has only three (3) years left to do so.