14 December 2012

Liberia: Chaos in Gbarnga - As Police 'Pen-Pen' Riders Clash

Gbarnga City, Bong County was a scene of chaos on Wednesday, December 12, 2012 when officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP) and some "pen-pen" riders( motorcyclists) clashed.

Bong County, which was created in 1964, is situated in the north-central portion of Liberia. It is one of the 15 counties that comprise the first-level of administrative division in the Liberia, with twelve districts. Gbarnga serves as the Capital City of Bong County, with the land area of the county measuring 8,772 square kilometers (3,387 sq mi). Bong County is named after Mount Bong in the southern portion of the county, it is bordered by Lofa and Gbarpolu counties to the north, Margibi and Montserrado counties to the west, Grand Bassa County to the south, and Nimba County to the east. The northeast part of Bong borders the nation of Guinea.

The clash between the police officers and pen-"pen-pen" riders ensued after a motorcyclist only identified as Kollie was allegedly stabbed by an officer of the Armed Forces of Liberia(AFL). According to eyewitnesses, the AFL officer, who is only identified as Maquincy, allegedly stabbed Kollie after an argument ensued between two of them over balance payment of transportation fare.

The victim, the eyewitnesses narrated, had demanded the AFL officer to pay him L$40(Forty Liberian Dollars) as transportation fare for the service rendered. But the AFL officer, the eyewitnesses further narrated, gave him L$30 on grounds that the fare should be L$30 and not L$40 as claimed by the victim.

While the argument was intensifying, a lady said to be a fiancée of the AFL officer, who was travelling along with him(AFL officer), backed her 'boyfriend'. At this juncture, the AFL officer 'fiancée' irritated the victim with invectives. Infuriated by the invectives, the victim forcibly grabbed her bag with the intent of taking his balance money(L$10). It was at this point that AFL officer allegedly stabbed Kollie with a pair of scissors, said the eyewitnesses.

Kollie was immediately rushed to a hospital for treatment. But up to press time, this paper could not establish his health condition. In retaliation of their colleague, the motorcyclists went on the rampage in Gbarnga at which time they encountered the police. The police had moved in to protect lives and properties as a result of the violence instituted by the angry motorcyclists.

The protesters (motorcyclists) said that they were retaliating for their wounded colleague because the alleged doer of the act had escaped with impunity and that was their way of seeking justice. During the chaotic incident, the protesters set road blocks and burned car tyres.

Their action impeded traffic and normal business activities for at least three hours. Several properties were destroyed during the incident . The incident, which turned the entire Gbarnga city upside-down, coincided with the final day of the just ended Vision 2030 National Conference, which was held in the same city.

Although the incident did not interrupt the official closing of the Vision 2030 National Conference, some of the delegates, mainly government officials moved to the scene of the incident and urged the angry "pen-pen" riders to abandon their violent action.

However, the police later brought the situation under control after engaging the "pen-pen" riders. This paper gathered that some of the protesters got wounded during the incident. But it did not get information regarding injury on the part of police.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Brownie J. Samukai has expressed regrets over the incident. Speaking on a local radio station in Gbarnga, following the incident, he assured that an investigation will be conducted into the matter.

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