Once again the Liberia National Police (LNP) is in the news and all for the wrong reasons. This time around, it is the death of a two-year old child.
News reports say the child died as a result of injuries (burns) sustained when a pot of boiling water spilled over him after it was kicked from the fire by Police officers enforcing curfew lockdown measures in West Point.
Further, according to news reports (Daily Observer, June 29,2020) six Police officers are undergoing investigation for their involvement in the death of the child.
In a related development, another Police officer is being held in custody for shooting to death an unarmed young woman following an altercation between both individuals.
But the use of deadly force against unarmed civilians by officers of the LNP and state security in general is by no means surprising as there have been several reports of such instances over the years.
Extra-judicial killings and other forms of violence perpetrated against unarmed and defenseless civilians by state security was a major factor that precipitated the 14-yr civil conflict that saw the exit of two brutal dictators from the political scene.
Once again the trend of extra-judicial killings and other forms of lawless behavior appears to be rearing its ugly head in this administration. Lawless action and reckless disregard for the rule of law by public service officials is becoming more common place by the day.
These recent killings by armed Police officers have once again raised to the fore the question of the relevance of the UN backed Security Sector Reform exercise (SSR) in addressing the security needs of the people.
Did the UN sponsored SSR for example place emphasis on human rights awareness including rights, duties and responsibilities of every citizen especially security officers?
These are indeed hard and difficult questions to which answers may not be readily forthcoming. Just imagine within barely 48 hours two lives have been lost at the hands of our National Police.
Its motto, “To Protect and Serve” appears to have lost its meaning under the leaderships of Chief of Police, Patrick Sudue and Chairman of Joint Security, Justice Minister Musa Dean.
Once again, it can be recalled that the Daily Observer in its March 23, 2018 editorial headlined “Can and Should the Liberian People Trust Their Security Forces, Now that UNMIL Is Leaving?”
That editorial raised questions about the extent to which SSR had addressed genuine security concerns of Liberians given reports about lawless behavior by state security personnel.
The Daily Observer wrote the following: “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.”
From the look of things, these extra-judicial killings of civilians by state security feeds on a culture of impunity which has been and is being sustained by the lack of concrete action by the past government as well as this to hold accountable perpetrators of violence and gross human rights abuse committed during the civil conflict.
The situation is not helped by the ineffectiveness of the Independent Human Rights Commission which appears still struggling to find its footing. could worsen largely because of the seeming lack of political will to clamp down hard on such corruption. Corruption stymies economic growth and development; it fosters criminal tendencies and behavior, promotes impunity and breeds violence.
What is by the day becoming clearer is the stark reality of a failure of leadership at the highest levels of our national security apparatus and this is potentially very dangerous as it poses enormous risks and challenges to national peace and stability.
The lessons of the civil conflict should remind all and sundry that ruling by might and fear is dangerous and non-sustainable for it invites and provokes popular resistance. Such resistance may not necessarily be in the form of armed military confrontation.
Yet, however such mass resistance can be powerful enough in their unarmed numbers to sweep unpopular governments from office just as what Africa bore witness to in Burkina Faso where a highly corrupt bloody despot, Blaise Compaore was driven from office into exile where he is today.
Not even his elite Red Beret paratroop commandos proved capable of saving his hide and today he resides in disgraceful exile probably twirling his thumbs and dreaming of past glorious. Chances are he may face future prosecutions for the killing of Thomas Sankara as well as that of journalist Norbert Zongo who died in detention.
Now, twenty years later since his death, in last December a French court ruled in favor of the extradition from France of Blaise Compaore’s brother Francois Compaore to face charges for inciting murders.
In view of the above, the Daily Observer cautions that those soliciting and counting on the support of notorious criminal gangsters in the likes of “Man Devil” and others to stem what is being seen as a rising tide of popular protest against this government are courting and inviting trouble unto themselves.
This is because the Liberian people have by dint of hard experience within less than two decades shaken off two populist leaders each with the blood of thousands of innocent souls on their hands. One has already paid the final price at the hands of Prince Johnson while the other will spend nearly the rest of his miserable life behind bars
All this goes to say that lawless behavior by state security including extra-judicial killings coupled with a what is reported to be a rise in violent crime, armed robbery etc, is gradually becoming a national emergency and it needs to be checked as matter of urgency. But who will do it is the question.
As a common folk saying goes, “to circumcise a baboon is not the thing but who will hold(restrain) it”. Can Patrick Sudue hold the baboon for Musa Dean to circumcise it? QUESTION!