Fears of a return to the nation’s bloody past appears to be awakening in face of what most agree is a sharp decline in respect for the rule of law. And this is happening under the George Weah administration.
Just why President Weah does not seem to understand the dangers implicit in a decline of the rule of the law is troubling. Under his watch, several mysterious deaths/murders of government functionaries have gone unsolved. State security or their hirelings have been linked to most of these unsolved murder cases.
But most troubling is the impunity associated with these acts. For instance, most acts of violence perpetrated against civilians by Police officers have gone unpunished. In some instances even Police officers have fallen victim to such violence, which have of course gone with impunity.
We recall the case of Police Deputy Inspector-General Marvin Sackor, who was ordered flogged by CDC stalwart Representative Acarous Gray. The incident was much talked about but at the end, nothing, absolutely nothing came out the case and Gray, as well as those who acted on his orders, went with impunity.
In a more recent development, female Police Sergeant Rebecca Nimley was physically assaulted by the commander of the Maryland County Police Detachment.
She sustained bodily injuries from the brutal assault but, as of yet, nothing has come out of the case although the Police maintains it is investigating circumstances surrounding the incident.
Most recently and perhaps more serious than all the previous incidents is the recent development in Dorgbor Town-Gbi-Doru District involving elements believed to be state security officers.
According to media and eyewitness reports from that area, on Friday April 30, 2021, armed men stormed the town firing indiscriminately and sending locals fleeing into the bushes for safety and survival.
A local resident was reportedly shot while others were abducted and taken away to an unknown destination. Just who were those men and at whose behest were they acting remains an issue of cardinal public concern.
The heavily forested Gbi Doru area lies in the lower part of Nimba County, bordering Grand Bassa and Rivercess Counties. Its extensive stands of prime tropical timber have attracted many predator logging operations that derive millions of dollars annually but, virtually nothing accrues to the people, leaving them in a state of destitution.
According to a FrontPage Africa report quoting Michael Tiah, a resident of the town, men dressed in plain clothes arrived in their town driving a pick-up truck under the guise of doing a demarcation survey of the Liberia Timber and Tree Corporation (LTTC’s) operating area.
Being apparently incensed by the refusal of the local people to accommodate their request, they quickly returned to their pick-up truck, changed into all black clothing and with automatic rifles in their possession began firing indiscriminately into the homes of terrified residents sending them fleeing helter-skelter into the bushes.
These accounts provided by terrified villagers appear like a scenario taken out of Nigeria’s long running conflict with Islamists of the Boko Haram terrorist organization. In this case, it is Liberia and appears to be the handy work of state security and not a terrorist organization.
Suffice it to say, however, incidents like these going with impunity leaves the people feeling helpless and distraught. The LTTC is reportedly owned by a former member of the House of Representatives from Nimba County, Ricks Toweh.
It remains unclear at this stage whether it was the former Representative who ordered the men into action, neither is it clear just who those men were and which state security organization they are members of or whether they were private militiamen.
In any case, this is a very dangerous development laden with gross conflict potential. This is a matter of pressing urgency that demands prompt and drastic response from government. It means President Weah should get on top of this.
We hope our international partners, friends and allies are taking this seriously. After all, this development has all the hallmarks it requires to kickstart an armed rebellion. But our allies will sit on their haunches fold their hands and do nothing until the people begin to rise up.
Then the next thing will be the arrival of a horde of military advisors seeking to impose a military solution to a problem that defies such responses.
It is very easily forgotten that endemic poverty, corruption and gross abuse of human rights with impunity are factors that inspire and drive armed rebellions against state authority and, in some cases, fuels extremist behavior.
US author Sarah Chayes, in her book, “Thieves of State”, highlights this phenomena and attributes as reasons for the long running conflict in Afghanistan mainly to official state corruption and US support for a corrupt regime.
And the situation is not much different elsewhere around the world. Take Nigeria for example, with the largest population in Africa, which is very richly endowed with mineral wealth from which billions are generated annually but yet most of its population live in abject poverty.
Popular responses to such social deprivation are manifested in strikes, go-slows and in extreme cases, armed rebellion. The outbreak of armed conflict in Liberia in 1990 can rightly be considered a popular response to a bloody dictatorial regime but which fitted perfectly into US designs for regime change in Liberia.
This much we know from scholars and researchers, amongst them Oxford professor Dr. Niels Hahn, as well as from direct hard experience. Perhaps it may be too early to pass value judgement on the attitude of our partners to this latest development.
But taking a cue from experience in history. We recall that an armed flotilla of ships and 5,000 troops idled off Liberia’s coast in 1990, fidgeting and twirling their thumbs while the Liberian nation burned.
We fervently hope and pray that scenes of sick, starving people, dead bodies stacked up before the US Embassy, while desperate people cried for help that never came, will never return again to haunt us. But with Impunity alive and well there is no guarantee that those scenes of desperation would not once again return to haunt this nation.