Raised to the Fore: Questions on Relevance, Effect, and Impact of SSR on Police and State Security Conduct

Two victims of the gun battle; police claimed they were ‘unconscious’, but residents of the area said they had already died.  

The recent shooting incident between the Police and alleged gang members in the Kuwait, Duala (Dorleh-La) Market that left three innocent persons dead, several wounded with many business centers including stores, business and market stalls looted, has once again raised to the fore questions about the usefulness, relevance, impact and effect of the millions of US dollars spent on Security Sector Reform (SSR) vis-à-vis the conduct of Police and other state security officials.

There have been consistent reports about the infusion of notorious characters, including ex-fighters, into State Security structures, some of who were associated with gross and egregious abuse of human rights.

One of such individuals is the notorious ex-rebel general, Augustine Nagbe, aka ‘General Power’ and another is Siafa Norman, an ex- rebel general in the Charles Taylor led NPFL.

Both individuals were allegedly involved in the shooting incident yesterday and may have been active shooters in the incident that left three persons dead and several wounded. Both individuals are named in the TRC Report as perpetrators of gross and egregious human rights abuse.   A FrontPage Africa report quoting eyewitness accounts say that it was the Police and not the alleged armed robbers who were doing the shooting as has been alleged by Police spokesperson Moses Carter.

Informed sources suggest that the Police were probably acting on information received about an armed robbery incident which reportedly occurred a few days ago.  But from all indications, according to a local resident of the area, the Police opening fire in such a very crowded area was absolutely unwarranted.

Jerry Lepolu, a petty trader and long-time resident of the area described the Police shooting into the crowd as deliberate. He said it was meant to intimidate and convey a message that has deep implications for the future conduct of the 2023 polls in which President Weah has declared he is going to emerge winner.

He furthered that the area is awash with drugs and infested with drug addicts derisively referred to as Zogos. But he added that the security officials are aware of the activities of the drug dealers who, according to him, pay regular protection fees to DEA officials. Another petty trader told the Daily Observer that he lives on Gibson Avenue in Sinkor but does his daily hustle at the Dorleh-La/Kuwait Market area.  He said that a local drug dealer in the area, known as Mohammed, runs a “ghetto” (drug den) near a scrap dump where Zogos frequent. 

He alleged that DEA officials receive regular payments from Mohammed in return for protection from arrest. At night, especially after 9:00 p.m., the area becomes very dangerous with criminals, including Zogos, on the prowl. 

According to him, that entire area is under the control of a notorious gang leader known as “Man Devil” and although he (Man Devil) has since been wanted by the Police, he moves about freely, virtually hiding in plain sight from the Police. Coming back to the issue, questions are being asked about the timing of the armed Police. Normally, according to a retired Police colonel, such armed raids on criminal hideouts are usually carried out at predawn hours. 

This is when the element of surprise will be in their favor most, providing enhanced opportunities to effect arrests. During predawn raids, the retired officer added, the risk of collateral damage to persons are significantly reduced because there are hardly people moving about at those early hours of the morning.    

Further, according to the retired officer, such raids should be well planned and executed by units trained to handle such situations. But this does not appear to have been the case, said the officer in view of allegations that ex-rebel generals, “Power” and Siafa Norman, were involved in the shooting incident.

In the final analysis, Police Inspector-General Patrick Sudue should take full blame and responsibility for such a botched operation that left three innocent people dead, several wounded and businesses looted. In view of this, there is an urgent need for the Ministry of Justice to conduct a full-scale probe into the affair, which includes autopsies on the deceased.

This is required in order to determine what went wrong and establish who was/were responsible, under whose command were the officers acting and who gave the order to open fire and whether the alleged armed robbers did exchange fire with the Police as its spokesperson Moses Carter has maintained. 

As a result of the findings of the probe, the imposition of appropriate disciplinary as well as reform measures should be carried out without delay to help restore public confidence in the Police. 

Last but certainly not least is the issue of compensation to the families of those killed by what is increasingly being seen as reckless Police action. Appropriate compensation should also be provided to those businesses that were looted or damaged during the incidents. No amount of apologies can bring back to life those who were killed. Their families are grieving and definitely need closure on this matter. Similarly, no amount of apologies or bare faced denials can compensate for the losses sustained by looted and damaged businesses.

Finally, this newspaper, the Daily Observer, calls on President Weah to urgently address the question of poor, ineffective and ineffectual leadership of the Liberia National Police under the command of his boyhood friend, Patrick Sudue.

It is now high time Patrick Sudue be relieved of his duty as a first step to restoring public confidence in the Police and improving its tattered public image. This should be complemented by the provision of adequate logistics to the Police.

There should also be an improvement in their salaries and benefits, the weeding out of undesirable notorious characters and raising the bar of admission and recruitment into the LNP, which is currently at an all-time low, and a better and improved training regime for Police officers.