On Tuesday, August 19 the Liberian government quarantined the Township of West Point, shortly following a riot there. The rioters had stormed and looted the quarantine center installed by GOL to contain the Ebola virus, which GOL feared was about to spread in the town of over 75,000.
Following the imposition of the quarantine, the townsfolk went on another riot, determined, some said, to march on the Foreign Ministry which houses the President’s office and ask her to step down. GOL immediately deployed there a contingent of heavily armed soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) and officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP). This resulted in a bloody confrontation, in which two youths were shot, including a 16 year-old boy, Shakie Kamara, who subsequently died of his wounds. The heightened the tension in the township led President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to West Point to commiserate with the slain youth’s mother.
The President later commissioned an inquiry into Shakie’s shooting. She included on the panel of inquiry Defense Minister Brownie Samukai, who immediately following Shaki’s shooting, had said the boy’s lethal wounds had been were caused by barbed wire, not gunshots.
The Daily Observer yesterday quoted the opposition Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) as being critical of the Defense Minister’s appointment to the panel of inquiry. CDC acting chairman and secretary general, Nathaniel McGill, said Mr. Samukai had “no moral” [authority] to be part of the board, because it would mean that he would be “investigating himself.” That would be “inaccurate and biased,” said McGill.
Since Mr. Samukai had earlier denied that Shakie had been shot, it would seem to us prudent that Mr. Samukai should recuse himself from the inquiry.
About a week following the shooting incident the GOL announced that it was lifting the West Point quarantine on Saturday morning, August 30.
The people of West Point awoke that Saturday morning to find that all the security people—the LNP and AFL contingents—had unceremoniously and without a word, departed the area. Had the GOL security run away from West Point? Why? Why had they neither the courtesy nor the integrity to take leave of the West Point Commissioner and the Tribal Governors and Elders?
Perhaps we need to use a few synonyms for the word integrity to help the GOL understand our concern about what looks very much like their absconding of their assignment at West Point. Integrity also means honesty, truth, uprightness and honor. For us, the most important, most applicable synonym is HONOR. Why did not the government have the honor to say goodbye to the people of West Point, after causing them so much pain and trauma in the naked and fatal shooting of one of their promising youth?
Worse yet, the Daily Observer, in the preparation of its story on the quarantine ending, called several government officials last Sunday in an effort to obtain an explanation as to what had happened last Saturday morning, and why GOL security contingent departed without a word to the West Point people.
Our first call was to the Defense people, who led the contingent to West Point, and they declined to speak on the matter. Our second call was to Health Minister Walter Gwenigale, who told us there was only one spokesperson for the GOL—Information Minister Lewis Browne. West Point Township Commissioner Miata H. Flowers had the identical response when contacted: call Information Minister Browne.
So we called Minister Browne, a man who usually has no problem talking, only to be totally ignored by him. He neither answered our repeated calls has he called back.
Does the Liberian government really and honestly believe they owe absolutely no explanation to the people of West Point, as to the purpose of the quarantine and why the sudden, unceremonious, discourteous and even dishonorable departure?
We think the people of West Point deserve an explanation. Even though Health Minister Gwenigale did visit West Point yesterday, to assess the health situation, some high official of government needs to show up in the township and talk with the people and explain why they were quarantined in the first place, and why did the joint security depart suddenly and without saying goodbye.