By: Kadiker Rex Dahn, MA, M.Ed, PhD
When Ebola, indiscriminately was killing Liberians, former President Madam Ellen Johnson declared a state of emergency in an effort to curtail, prevent and eliminate the spread of the disease. Thank God that as of now in the Liberian context, the death rate of the covid-19 is not high as compared to Ebola. At that time of President Sirleaf, several factors came to play in the elimination of Ebola. Prominent among those factors included real leadership demonstrated by President Sirleaf, focused health team, outstanding presidential press team for information dissemination among others. State securities at that time were much matured and whenever a crime was committed by any security personnel, certainly, that person faced the full force of the law. That was then when Ellen Johnson was President, but now it is George Weah. Like former President Sirleaf, President Weah declared a state of emergency to fight the Covid-19. What is unlike President Sirleaf’s administration is the unprecedented level of criminalities perpetrated by state’s security officers in the name of enforcing government’s mandate. Whatever such mandate entails is convoluted, confused and blurred. We will argue that the state of emergency declared by President Weah, meant for the good of the citizenry, has been distorted and abused by criminals and here and now, we appeal to President Weah to join the AFL’s Chief of Staff to send a serious warning to would be criminals.
Sadly, the history of Liberia has always contained shedding of blood. Whenever a major pronouncement has been made by the President of Liberia centering on national security issues, some elements within the state’s securities charged with the responsibility to protect lives and properties, have always taken contrary steps to undermine the government. The April 10, 2020 state of emergency declared by President Weah is a case in point. In this proclamation, there was a bit of confusion. State’s securities confused the President’s mandate of being home by 3pm to the curfew imposed from 11:59pm. Thanks to Police’s spokesperson, Moses Carter for some clarifications on the dates and time mentioned by President Weah. Even though as always, President Weah’s communication team consisting of the Ministry of Information and the Executive Mansion’s Press team, have failed to perform to expectation and the pronouncement in question is not an exception. In good communication, when the Commander-In-Chief addresses the nation like what President Weah did, it is always better and proper to emphasize and re-emphasize dates and times for clarity and comprehension by stressing, “AND I REPEAT.” This, President Weah did not do in his national address, nor his communication team after the pronouncement. The President equally refused and failed during his pronouncement to warn state securities and would be criminals against intimidation and harassment of civilians. Normally, whenever a president speaks on national security issues bordering state of emergency and curfew, the Commander-In-Chief usually gives stern warnings to state securities and would be criminals not to engage in any form of criminality. Such stern message against criminality from the Commander-In-Chief with an authoritative voice, can intimidate any would be criminal. This in our opinion, President Weah did not do. We put the blame squarely on the Office of the President and his weak and disoriented communication team.
Certainly, this state of emergency is causing chaos and uncertainty among civilians as some state security officers, unlawfully engage in brutalities against civilians in the Republic. Since President Weah’s state of emergency announcement, there have been reports of sporadic military and police brutalities against civilians. On April 17, 2020, FrontPage Africa carried a story under the caption, “Army Chief Recalls Soldiers after Curfew Rampage on Slipway Neighbourhood.” In this story, soldiers were seeing rampaging homes and injuring residents. When the Army Chief, Major General Prince C. Johnson was informed of the incident, he immediately took remedial action. Front Page quoted General Johnson as saying, “We will investigate tomorrow. I need more information for my military police to conduct investigation. For now, the commander for tonight has been called to base for investigation. Trust me, they will face the full weight of the UMCJ. I have sent AFL medic to treat the lady while the patrol commander was detained.” The Army Chief of Staff was swift in addressing soldiers’ brutality. On April 21, 2020, Daily Observer published an article under the caption, “Police Face Citizens’ Wrath with Brutality in Grand Kru County.” In this article, Daily Observer stated,“The Buah District’s Joint Taskforce is headed by Josiah Sloh Nagbe and there are tons of complains of police brutality in enforcing restriction aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus of which up to date, Liberian has recorded 101 confirmed cases with Grand Kru having recorded one.”
The leadership of the Police up to composing this article has not publicly acted like in the case of the Army Chief of Staff. Perhaps as a result of such inaction by the leadership of the police, it seems citizens are taking laws into their own hands, a situation, which is not good for a country like Liberia with laws. In the same publication mentioned above, Observer informed us that one Alfred Sudue was beaten in West Point, Monrovia by some citizens. Referencing further brutality by citizens in retaliation against the police, Daily Observer stated, “Angry Youths in Taybue Buah District have unmercifully flogged an officer of the Grand Kru Joint Security Taskforce as retaliation of police abuse across the Administrative District.” On May 1, 2020, Observer carried a headline under the caption, “IG Sudue to face Human Rights Probe.” In this article, the Inspector General allegedly gave order to his tainted police officers to brutalize anyone found to be out after 3pm during the State of Emergency. If the information with respect to citizens’ brutality against the police is true, it seems that the public may be losing trust in the police while at the same time imposing full confidence in the Army Chief of Staff and his men and women uniforms. In fact comparing and contrasting the performances of the Armed Forces of Liberia and that of the Liberian National Police, there are visible distinctions.
The AFL and LNP
The Armed Forces of Liberia, even with what happened in the Slipway area as discussed above, we still maintain is a Professional Army. When things go wrong in the Armed Forces of Liberia, the Army Chief of Staff is swift in taking a decisive action. The detention and subsequent investigation of the Commander and those involved in violence against civilians in the Slipway area is a case in point. The professionalism of the Liberian Army is not only seen in discipline but outward appearances. When a Liberian soldier appears in a complete military attire, he or she looks descent and admirable. Army vehicles are cleaned and well maintained. We noticed also that perhaps as part of their training and discipline, the men and women in uniforms in Liberia are slow to anger. The Army does not accept bribes and are not known for accepting bribes. Unlike the Army, Liberian police seems to have issues with integrity. Over and again, the Liberian National Police has been besieged by claims of corruption. The form and manner some police officers behave to commercial drivers at checkpoints does not speak well of the police. Some police officers’ dress codes apart from senior officers are not decent compared to those of soldiers. The appearances of some police officers look poor and dull. Could it be that police officers do not have more than one uniform? This entity’s record of vehicles maintenance is extremely poor. Almost all of the vehicles owned and operated by the police except senior officers, are in dilapidated conditions. Leadership of the police has not been able to forcefully work on police officers’ misdemeanor like the Army Chief of Staff to inculcate discipline. Criminals are quick in getting possession of police’s uniforms. Routinely, how such thing happens whether it is a concealed collaboration is difficult to tell. In any event, the admonition of Sissela Bok, a moral philosopher is instructive for the Liberian National Police: “Trust and integrity are precious resources, easily squandered but hard to regain.”
We salute the Army Chief of Staff and his men and women in uniforms for the level of professionalism always display by the Armed Forces of Liberia. The Police Inspector General has a lot of work on his hand. Based on what we know thus far, the reputation of the Liberian National Police under the leadership of Patrick Sudue is demonstrating more criminality than civility. Certainly, not every police officer is corrupt, undisciplined with indecent attire but there are number of elements within the police that are tarnishing the Organization’s name. The Liberian National Police needs a complete overhaul not only in discipline, dress code, maintenance of vehicles but LNP’s alleged corruptions and brutalities are undermining its reputation. Equally important, whenever a president speaks, it becomes a policy. The President told Liberians in his speech to the nation that the government will help to provide masks for the citizenry and up to now, such effort has not been actualized. It would be prudent for the government to empower local tailors and seamstresses to make masks for distribution. Instead, the LNP is seen with rattans whipping noncompliance when the government has not lived to its commitment in providing masks. An oxymoron is at play on what the President said and the reality of what is unfolding. President Weah on the other hand, pronounced free foods, electricity, and water among others for citizens in the lockdown areas but to present, citizens are still waiting. Dr. Togba Nah Tipoteh, a Liberian politician’s admonition is instructive here, “the worst crime a government can ever commit is to lie to the people.” The habitual lack of full implementation of policy after President Weah has spoken is making us to think and believe that sincerity, honesty and truth telling are getting scarce in President Weah’s government and thus creating serious problem of trust and integrity. We appeal for the President to make real of all of his promises. We also appeal for the President to publicly warn criminals of serious consequences of brutality against citizens as inaction could mean that the state of emergency meant for the wellbeing of citizens is gradually turning into a state of criminality.
About the author: Kadiker Rex Dahn holds a PhD in Historical, Philosophical and Social Foundations of Education from the University of Oklahoma. He is member of the North America Scholar Consortium, membership with the Highest Honor. Contact: [email protected]