Silence Is Not An Option, Mr. President!
Barely two months ago in its September 16, 2021 editorial headlined- “The People of Liberia Are Under Siege-Break That Siege Now”, the Daily Observer pointed out that rising insecurity had become an issue of grave concern to Liberians across the board.
There have been persistent media reports of unexplained disappearances as in the case of the Blamo brothers who were reportedly hired by the proprietor of the St. Moses Funeral Parlors and extrajudicial killings including ritualistic killings carried out by individuals with alleged links to this government.
We recall the deaths last year of the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) government auditors under mysterious circumstances. President Weah’s comments, suggesting that Gifty Lama and her colleague who were found dead in a vehicle on Broad Street were both lovers making out in their car, sent a wave of shock through the public.
Another LRA official, while driving along the SKD Boulevard, was attacked by machete wielding motorcyclists, causing him to run off the road and crash into a nearby house.
In yet another instance, the head of the Internal Audit Agency was killed after allegedly falling from the balcony of his house on SKD Boulevard.
President Weah’s response to that development was to urge citizens to install close-circuit television (CCTV) cameras around their homes. That was well before the spike in reports of ritualistic killings around the country, which has served to create a climate of fear and uncertainty amongst the citizenry.
It is safe to say that Police response to such reports of extrajudicial killings have been at best ineffectual. Police Inspector-General Patrick Sudue, responding to expressed public concerns about the rise in ritualistic killings, dismissed such reports, adding that Liberians are freely disposing of their dead in the streets because of their inability to give their relatives a decent burial.
He further declared that it was against such a backdrop that reports of bodies being discovered with parts missing were all fake news, intended to discredit the Weah administration.
But as events have shown, the fears of the people appear justified, given the spate of recent brutal murders of John Hilary Tubman, son of the late President William V.S. Tubman; William Richard Tolbert III, son of the late President William Richard Tolbert, Jr; and former immigration officer, Maude Elliot, in their respective homes.
Those tragic events, all unfolding within a very short period, have again raised public concerns about what they see as no end to the growing wave of insecurity under this government.
Not a single perpetrator has been apprehended in all of the cases cited earlier. This is giving rise to a heightened sense of insecurity. After dark, the streets of Monrovia become virtually deserted.
By 10pm latest, all stores, shops and supermarkets are shut and business comes to a grinding halt, except for a few night clubs which remain open until midnight.
Only recently, in broad daylight, a group of armed thugs invaded a restaurant and bar located on 19th Street near the beach, shaking down bartenders and customers alike, taking away their valuables and money.
To the best of public knowledge, no suspects have, as yet, been apprehended by the Police. The Police, as is well known, is hamstrung in the effective discharge of its duties and responsibilities by the critical lack of logistics including communications.
However, concerns about corruption remain an abiding concern. Salaries are low, discipline poor, and effective leadership is lacking. Under the leadership of current Police Inspector-General Patrick Sudue, public confidence in the Police has waned significantly to the point where the Police is now being seen as partisan.
This negative public impression of the Police persists despite pronouncements by a local civil society group, National Youth Movement for Transparent Elections (NAYMOTE) declaring that public confidence in the Police is increasing.
Given the current outlook, it appears that the restoration of public confidence in the Police is still a long way off. The disconnect between the Police and the public appears to be widening instead.
Official government support to the Police rather than being directed at countering public dissent and clamping down on freedom of speech and assembly should instead be increased to aid its effectiveness and ability to provide protection to the people of Liberia.
This newspaper once again reminds President Weah that there is a climate of fear being created by such gruesome and mysterious killings as well as unexplained disappearances. The Daily Observer has consistently reminded this government that the creation of a climate of fear is in no one’s interest.
This is because of the recognized fact that a climate of fear also induces feelings of hate and ill-will towards the government. Such feelings can be suppressed but only for a time. They simmer and without warning can explode like a volcano with dastardly implications for social cohesion, national stability and security.
Accordingly, it behooves all -- the public and government alike -- to work in tandem to curb the rise in violent crime and politically motivated murders such as ritualistic killings.
Above all, it bespeaks the urgent need to end the culture of impunity. And lest we forget, the TRC report provides a proper starting point -- that is implementation of its recommendations, especially those recommendations on criminal accountability.
Quite clearly, the rule of law can never thrive in a situation where mass murders and war criminals parade the corridors of power lording over the victims of their crimes.
Equally so, can it be said that unscrupulous individuals, driven by greed and feeling emboldened by the fact that warlords have since enjoyed impunity, could also attempt to follow their example.
As leader, President Weah should ensure that matters concerning the safety, security and wellbeing of the Liberian people be treated with foremost and not benign concern.
This means President Weah must break his silence, speak to the Liberian people and reassure them. For, anything short of this would suggest complicity. Silence is not an option Mr. President!