19 August 2014

Liberia: Monrovia on Lock - Riots in W. Point; Protesters,Army, Police, Clash

Photo: FrontPageAfrica
Police officers patrolling central Monrovia.

Monrovia — Heavy rioting is taking place in Monrovia as Liberian army troops and residents in the slum district of West Point clash, less than 24 hours after President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf announced a 9pm to 6am curfew and other stringent measures to contain the deadly Ebola outbreak.

FrontPageAfrica reporters on the scene say, some angry residents of West Point stoned security officers at the West Point LEC entrance as they attempted to enforce a quarantine and rescue the area's district commissioner.

"West Point locked down with heavily armed men, police have taken over Ashmun Street and everybody running away," a FrontPageAfrica reporter on the scene said.

Several security personnel are said to be denying people entrance into areas from the Vai Town route into West Point while army personnel are said to be parading the waters and sending fisher man back on land.

Several government ministries and agencies as well as private business are locking up to avoid getting caught up in the melee.

Angry Youths, Prices Hike

The exodus of leading air carriers in recent weeks has prompted increase in several commodities.

Early Wednesday morning several calls from the quarantined West Point community indicated that some angry youths were planning to break into stores and other businesses to get food. Accordingly, prices of basic commodities including rice, water and others have skyrocketed resulting to anger amongst residents. A 25KG rice is now being sold for LD1700; a sack of mineral water is sold between 150- 200-Liberian dollars although the government has warned businesses not to hoard prices.

West Point is a slum community infested with hard core criminals and drugs users and on Saturday, Ebola suspected patients at a holding facility escaped and residents looted the facility taking away mattresses and other materials used by the suspected Ebola patients.

The local residents expressed anger that the government was bringing in suspected Ebola patients from other communities to West Point which they frowned on. The residents are also complaining that they do not want such facility in the community which they believe will lead to further spread of the Ebola virus in their community.

West Point was the scene of chaos last weekend when residents mobilized and forcefully broke into the M.V. Massaquoi School in that community, which is currently being used as an isolation centre for confirmed and suspected EVD patients. Reportedly, the mob looted supplies and destroyed equipment. Additionally, a number of patients left the isolation centre, some having been taken by family members while others reportedly fled out of fear of the mob. The group reportedly went to the location to collect the body of an EVD victim. They expressed anger about their relatives being kept in isolation, while reportedly claiming that they were not EVD patients. The mob allegedly shouted denials about the existence of EVD in Liberia. The situation is now reportedly calm.

The government announced Monday that all 17 of the patients had been found after turning themselves in but no eyewitnesses saw them do so. Sirleaf announced Tuesday night: "All entertainment centers are to be closed; All video centers are to be closed at 6:00 PM.; Commencing Wednesday, August 20 there will be a curfew from 9:00 PM to 6:00 AM," she said in a nationwide address on Tuesday. The President said West Point in Monrovia and Dolo Town in Margibi is quarantined under full security watch meaning there will be no movements in and out of those areas.

The President has blamed Liberians, refusing to let go of cultural burying practices, disregard for the advice of health workers and disrespect for the warnings by the Government, as a key reason why her administration has been struggling to keep to contain the outbreak.

The President made it clear that the new measures are meant to save lives and make the Government's efforts to combat this disease made more effective and timely. If we can all do our part, we can defeat this disease. With your support and participation, we can return to our normal activities."

Monrovia Standstill

Besides the West Point mele, the nation's capital, Monrovia is at a standstill with no commercial activities with many running helter, skelter for shelter as reports of the West Point incident spread.

On the busy and main broad street and other streets, people locked up their stores and other business centers and gathered along the road watching as police officers led by the Deputy Director of Police for Administration patrols the main streets using megaphone to ally fear amongst the civilians.

"Go about your normal business, your security is 110% guarantee, there is nothing happening, some unscrupulous people want to cause problem but everything is under control", a police officer riding RL 106 loudly expressed.

Accompanied by five other police vehicles occupied by armed police officers, the convoy has been patrolling main streets calling to citizens to reopen their businesses but the fear of looting has all businesses to remain closed.

Blockades have been posted at the streets leading o the Waterside busy market including Randall, Gurley and Mechlin Streets with police preventing people from crossing to Waterside which is not one of the communities quarantined.

As of August 15, 2014, the cumulative total of suspected, probable and confirmed cases of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in Liberia was 826, including an updated total of 194 confirmed cases. The cumulative total of deaths stood at 455, including 172 confirmed Ebola-related deaths, according to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare latest situation report.

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Some residents of the densely populated slum community of West Point are claiming that young people went on the rampage… Read more »

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