18 February 2013

Liberia: LACC's 'Jungle Justice' Provokes Public Works

Photo: New Democrat
Liberia's Anti-Corruption Commission leader, Frances Johnson Allison.

The Acting Minister of Public Works, Victor B. Smith has complaint Liberia Anti Corruption Commission (LACC) to the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) for "kidnapping, humiliating and brutalizing the Ministry Communications and Documentation Director Mr. Jesefu Morris Keita."

A letter addressed to Justice Minister Christiana Tah, quotes Minister Smith as saying, on February 4, 2013, operatives claiming to be acting upon an instruction from LACC Chairman Cllr. Francis Johnson Allison dehumanized Director Keita.

The communication dated February 7, 2013, registered the Ministry of Public Works (MPW) outrage of disregard or the rule of law allegedly displayed by the LACC and requested the Minister Tah as head of the legal arm of government, to intervene in the matter by launching an official investigation and further advise the ministry on how the issue can be redressed.

The communication indicated that Director Keita has informed the ministry that he reserves the right to bring appropriate legal action in his own name for the physical mistreatment and public humiliation as well as illegal detention he suffered at the hands of the LACC personnel.

"On November 27, 2012, the LACC wrote a letter to the acting Director of Communications and Documentation at the Ministry of Public Works Mr. Christian Harris, informing him of an investigation into a contract signed between the Ministry and Flashpoint, a media business operated by David Kortie. The LACC letter stated that the investigation involved an allegation that the amount of US$12,600.00 paid to Mr. Kortie was not earned by Mr. Kortie. The letter invited Mr. Harris to a hearing into the matter at the LACC'c office at a stated date and time, and was signed by Mr. Aaron Aboah and Mrs. Francis Johnson Allison, the Chairman.

Because Mr. Harris was a contract employee and his contract had expired, Deputy Public Works Minister Stephen Yekeson wrote to the LACC and asked for the meeting to be postponed pending an appointment of someone else to fill Mr. Harris' position. Subsequently Mr. Jesefu Keita, who served in that position previously, returned from studies in Ghana and was reappointed as Director of Communications and Documentation," Minister Smith narrated in the communication.

He added, "The new Director of Communication was contacted by persons claiming to be LACC investigators and they verbally requested for documentation in support of their investigation. Mr. Keita advised them to formalize their request in writing as they had done with Mr. Harris. The written request came, and it was honored, and the documents requested were turned over to the LACC.

Some other investigators from the LACC came to Public works to ask Mr. Keita to appear at an investigation at the LACC on January 31, 2012 and not seeing him left a message and a number to call. Under advisement of legal counsel and in keeping with their own precedence in making written requests for documentation or appearances, Mr. Keita informed the LACC personnel that his appearance will have to be based on a written notification so as to be able to inform his office of his whereabouts, and keep a record of his interactions with an investigation of the kind that was being carried out by the LACC.

LACC personnel came back to the Ministry again after Mr. Keita made the request for written notification, this time, to arrest Mr. Keita for refusal to cooperate with their investigation since he demanded to be invited in writing. They attempted to force his departure from the Ministry in the presence of some visiting journalists, but were unsuccessful."

"On Monday, February 4, 2013, while Director Keita was on his way to work in on board a vehicle duly assigned to him by the Ministry, five persons claiming to be LACC operatives acting on the orders of Mr. Aboah and Chairman Allison, allegedly seized Mr. Keita from his vehicle that they had stopped by blocking it with their own vehicle, dragged him down from the vehicle and proceeded to kick and beat him in the middle of the intersection of Somalia Drive and SKD Boulevard in Paynesville. The beating and humiliation continued until some personnel of the Executive Protection Service (EPS) that were passing by, intervened and separated the LACC men from the beaten and disgraced Director. The LACC men then forcibly put the Director in their vehicle, commandeered the Director's vehicle and carried him to their office on Gurley and Lynch streets in Monrovia. At their office they put him in solitary confinement in a filthy cell where he was kept until his release at 5pm following a period of prolonged questioning that lasted more than two hours. Meanwhile efforts by Public Works Ministry officials to intervene and have Mr. Keita released proved futile as the LACC officials contacted were adamant about the authority of the LACC to arrest without a warrant, to detain without charge, and to turn a request for cooperation on an investigation into a criminal matter. The LACC Chairman tried to justify her people's behavior by saying that Director Keita verbally insulted her people when they went to the Ministry of Public Works to effect their warrantless unsuccessful arrest attempt," the communication explained.

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