It has long been speculated that most motorcyclists in Liberia, especially in greater Monrovia, are foreigners. We do not know whether or not this is true. If it is, then we can understand why they would be so quick to take the law into their own hands, The violence with which the cyclists retaliated for the death of their fellow rider, even to the extent of openly challenging the Liberian National Police (LNP) and burning down a police depot, as happened last Thursday at the Paynesville Red Light, leaves many wondering if perhaps the authorities have lost control of this growing transportation sector.
The question of the identity of motorcyclists is no attempt to exonerate (clear, excuse) the LNP officer who allegedly hit a rider on the head with a baton, causing his sudden death. We think that particular incident, which sparked last Thursday’s riot, should be thoroughly investigated, to determine what led the officer to that fatal action. If he acted unnecessarily, he should be prosecuted.
The police should strive at all cost and at all times to refrain from taking lethal (deadly) action when faced with a potentially riotous situation. It is part of their code of conduct. Hopefully it is part of their training. The Bible warns us not to take a life we cannot replace.
The National Police Academy, in its training of riot squads and all other officers, should require recurring practical and theoretical instruction on how to be firm and decisive without being deadly. They, like the rest of us, have seen in the United States and elsewhere the results of rash and lethal police action. It can lead to devastating consequences, particularly death of the victim and life imprisonment or worse for the perpetrator, not to mention weeks, often months of protests and other disturbances in communities, sometimes spreading nationwide.
Teaching alternatives to lethal action should therefore be one of the key components of police AND military training.
We repeat what President W.V.S. Tubman told a young reporter in the late 1960s as the two one day passed a group of well armed soldiers seated in a corner on the fourth floor of the Executive Mansion. “Be careful with those ones,” the President told the reporter. “They are mean men.”
The nature of the beast, one might say. For as aforementioned, military and Para-military officers throughout the world, even some that hail from good families, can be lethal in their interactions with others. This does not mean that all have to be that way. It can depend on temperament, but, to some extent, also on upbringing and training. This is why we urge the Police Academy—and by the same token—all military and Para-military training institutions, to expose their commissioned and non-commissioned officers to alternatives to lethal force. It is possible, for example, for individual officers to be equipped with teargas that can be used when faced with a potentially dangerous or violent individual or crowd, as was the case last Thursday.
We raise these issues of alternatives to lethal force to save lives and to prevent chaos and confusion in society and, ultimately, to preserve the peace. As the Bible says, “the peace of God—for only He can bring true peace—passes all understanding.” But peace also supersedes everything in the lives of individuals, families, communities and nations; for without peace, nothing good can happen.
We move now from emphasis on our police to the motorcyclists. Who are they? Is it true that most of them are non-Liberians? One can then understand why they, feeling absolutely no sense of loyalty to Liberia, would be so inclined to rush in uncontrollable anger and take any action they pleased—arson, or even fatality. We are told that in the melee last Thursday, the motorcyclists stripped a police woman buck naked. But we have seen some Liberians in a rage behave in the identical way towards each other when they felt wronged, taken advantage of or confronted with deadly force. The most recent case was the West Point Ebola rampage.
The time has come for the Liberian authorities to develop and maintain an efficient, comprehensive registration of all motorcyclists, commercial and private, operating in the country. If they are found to be mostly non-Liberian, the authorities should find ways to address that. Do they have residence and work permits? Immigration and Labor should immediately look into this.
It has also been alleged that certain foreign elements are massively recruiting and financing foreign motorcyclists in Liberia. Is this true? If so, what is the motive? This could well have serious security implications and must be investigated as a matter of urgency.