24 August 2014

Liberia: Sources - Inquiry Board to Probe West Point Ebola Riot 'Shooting'

Photo: FrontPageAfrica
Liberian security forces patrol the streets after clashes with protesters as they enforce the quarantine of Monrovia's heavily populated district of West Point.

Monrovia — The government of Liberia has ordered an investigation and inquiry into last week's shooting in the populated West Point district in Monrovia, FrontPageAfrica has learned.

A senior administration official speaking on condition of anonymity said the process will be fair and transparent as the government seeks to bring closure to a matter mired in controversy.

Determining Circumstances

"We are in the process of setting up a board of inquiry to determine the circumstances of what happened that day and the board will be given ten days to submit its findings," the source added.

It is unclear who would make up the board of inquiry but a senior administration official confirmed that the setup is still in the work and would be announced very shortly.

"Once the membership of the board of inquiry is named we will announce the chair of the board."

West Point took a violent turn last Wednesday shortly after the government declared the area a quarantine zone. Soldiers opened fire and used teargas on crowds as they attempted to evacuate the township commissioner and her family.

Prior to Wednesday mele, some residents including club-wielding youths stormed an Ebola isolation center last Saturday and looted the facility.

At least four residents were injured in the clashes as government shut off the area in new security measures aimed at containing the deadly Ebola virus. One of the injured, Shaki Kamara, 16, bled to death prompting fears that he was shot by soldiers who later declared that his injury was from barbed wire fence, claiming that no shot was fired at rioting West Pointers. Defense minister Brownie Samukai said the wound was a superficial one caused by a barbed wire that has been placed in the buffer zone and that the boy had tripped and fell over it with a wheel he was pushing.

Eva Nah, the boy's mother is demanding that the government allow her to view the dead body of her son. She told FrontPageAfrica that on Wednesday morning she sent her son to buy tea for early morning breakfast only to hear later that he was shot by security officers. "They fired my son, I just sent the boy to buy tea that morning and people telling me they fired my son, they don't want me to see his body, I feel so bad", Eva told FPA.

Victim's Mom Demanding Corpse

The grieving mother has said since the West Point Isolation center incident her son has not left the house until the shooting incident and is therefore demanding to have access to his body. West Point Community Chairman Paul Kieh also expressed frustration at the manner in which state security forces reacted to the incident which he said involved shooting live bullets at civilians.

"I believe more people got shot by the soldiers, but some are not known yet," Kieh said. An uncle to Shaki who preferred to be called Gabriel also expressed anger at the action of state security forces. "They were just shooting not only in the air", Gabriel said.

Families of a second boy, identified as Benny-Boy reportedly also sustained a bullet hole in the stomach during the riots in West Point.

The bullet was reportedly removed from his stomach at the S.D Cooper Clinic in Monrovia on Friday after his family with the help of the commissioner and health workers rushed him to hospital.

The boy's family confirmed that a bullet was removed from his belly. His uncle Mr. Arthur Gurley said the boy sustained the injuries during Wednesday's riots and that the boy's condition is not yet stable. "Well, according to reports from the hospital, he is in critical condition. They did the operation and took a bullet from inside his stomach," said Gurley via a mobile phone interview with FrontPageAfrica. He said the wounded boy was earlier taken to the Redemption hospital and discharged, but he continued to bleed from his wound, which led them to take him back to a health facility.

Samukai said no order was issued to any soldier to shoot ammunitions at the crowd: "Once again, I want to make it very clear, that the Armed Forces of Liberia have not been issued any orders to shoot to kill anybody out there at this point in time," said Defense Minister Brownie Samukai immediately following the riots on Wednesday. "Those soldiers are under orders from this point, no decision on the use of those weapons against any person can be issued without any clear instructions from the commander in chief to the minister of defense and through the chain of command of the Armed forces of Liberia."

The head of the United Nations Mission in Liberia Ms. Karen Landgren, said during a news conference Friday said President Sirleaf has vowed that security force would not use such deadly force again. She said the deadly Ebola outbreak is having negative repercussions for Liberia. "We've seen the potential for security to deteriorate, even in the context of health efforts. The government is committed to applying the right measures together with communities, especially Ebola affected communities who need support, who need understanding and who need basic services," said Ms. Landgren. "And UNMIL welcomes the President's statement earlier today that under no circumstances would lethal force be used again. This epidemic is unprecedented, not only for Liberia but for the world. It's extraordinary. Liberia's many partners are determined to find an extraordinary response to meet these needs."

1,427 Ebola Deaths So Far

Sirleaf quarantined West Point along with Dolo's Town, located east of the capital, and imposed a night-time curfew as part of drastic measures to fight the disease.

According to the World Health Organization, at least 142 more cases were recorded last week, bringing the new total to 2,615 with 1,427 deaths.

Most of the new cases are in Liberia, which is being overwhelmed by patients that were not previously identified. One center with 20 beds opened its doors to 70 possibly infected people, likely coming from "shadow-zones" where people fearing authorities won't let doctors enter, the UN health agency said Friday.

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