The United Nation Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) last Sunday continued its campaign against mob violence when its Community Outreach Unit gave out nonviolence wristbands to hundreds of soccer fans at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium (ATS).
Over 10,000 white and blue wristbands were handed out to players, match officials and spectators from the preliminary rounds to the finals of basketball and volleyball at the Sports Commission on Broad Street.
The wristbands have the message: “Stop Mob Violence and Use the Rule of Law – Mob Violence is a Crime.”
The UNMIL Community Outreach Unit of the Public Information Section kicked-off the distribution on Sunday, January 3 at the crowded Sports Commission during the preliminary rounds of the basketball and volleyball games and throughout the games on Saturday, January 16.
The wristbands were also distributed at the ATS up to the finals on Sunday, January 17.
Mr. Sabato Neufville, team leader of the UNMIL’s Community Outreach Unit, told the Daily Observer in an interview: “Taking into consideration the UNMIL drawdown on June 23 whereby Liberia will be taking care of her security, we are faced with mob violence, and being that sport is a motivating factor, we deemed it necessary to send a message of nonviolence to everyone.”
The Unit distributed similar wristbands and T-shirts in Ganta, Nimba County, following a situation that escalated into mob violence in that city last year.
There is a growing concern over the upward trend in mob violence incidents in 2015. From January to September 2013, there were 46 reported mob-violence related situations, up from 32 for the same period in 2012. This 44% increase is particularly disturbing as the recorded activities were more violent, with the tendency to kill victims and turn against security forces who attempt to intervene.
At least 12 victims were confirmed to have been killed by angry mobs, while many others sustained serious injuries requiring hospitalization.
The recent mob violence in Ganta, officials say, indicated an unusual occurrence for an alleged criminal to be literally lynched, sometimes to death, by an angry mob, including bystanders who simply have no inkling about the issue or the person involved.
UNMIL, in its message, announced that the law says that any person accused of committing a crime is presumed ‘innocent until proven guilty’ in a competent court which exercises appropriate jurisdiction on such matters, and that an accused person is entitled to bail as a constitutional right, unless in capital offence cases or if the offence does not qualify for bail.
“So people must understand this, and be patient to allow the system of law to play itself out,” Mr. Neufville said.