News that came out of Gbarnga, Bong County last week Wednesday, December 12, 2012 that a soldier of the Armed Forces of Liberia at the Camp Tubman Military Barracks on the outskirt of the town allegedly stabbed a commercial motorcyclist multiple times in the neck and chest, leaving him severely wounded is disappointing and embarrassing.
It is particularly embarrassing because when all efforts seemed to have been applied both by the Government of Liberia and international partners to building a discipline army for the country that would depart from the excesses of the past, the military appears to be reverting to those previous misconducts that eroded public confidence in its activities.
The victim, Perry Togba, last Wednesday took the fiancé of an army officer from the Gbarnga market to the barrack for an agreed fair of (LD30), but upon arrival there, the girl paid Perry 20 Liberian dollars instead, an action that led to a quarrel between her and Perry. She then sought the intervention of her boyfriend, who came and joined the quarrel that eventually led to the stabbing of Perry Togba.
The motorcyclist was subsequently admitted at the C.B. Dumbar Hospital in Gbarnga, where he is said to be receiving medication. Even most disappointing was the fact that the incident transpired when the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and her entourage were in Gbarnga, attending the three-day national conference on the Vision2030.
This incident is neither the first nor the second, involving soldiers' mal-handling peaceful civilians as if they were enemies in combat. Where is the much publicized discipline and professionalism in the new army that authorities of the Ministry of National Defense continue to brag about?
The behaviors of our men and women in arm are still wanting, and unless they consciously have it at the back of their minds that they took oath to defend the civilian population and the territorial confines of the entire country, wearing the uniform with the national Red, White and Blue colors could become meaningless. The new army is under obligation to make a departure from its predecessor by demonstrating those discipline and professional qualities that would make the civilians to run to them for protection rather than escaping from them due to unbecoming brutality.
Perhaps what is even more important is that senior officers of the military, including authorities at the Ministry of National Defense should act with all of the urgency it deserves in bringing those perpetrators to justice to avoid a repeat of such actions that seem to be dampening the image of the organization and consistently reminding us of the excesses of the past. Immediately following the incident, the Assistant Defense Minister for Public Affairs David Dahn called a local radio station in Monrovia and confirmed the act, giving assurance that disciplinary measures would be taken against the soldier involved.
It is our hope that such disciplinary action would be taken without delay and that the public is accordingly informed to build confidence in the people. All citizens should be treated with due respect regardless of where they stand on the social ladder, but when one of them or a group of them, including our foreign friends are being treated like sub-human beings, there should be cause for concern.