10 August 2017

Liberia: Sellers Driven Away to Erect Campaign Billboards

Authorities here are driving away street sellers from petty trading sites in Monrovia and its surrounding to allow parties and independent candidates to erect their campaign billboards here.

While touring market sites here in Montserrado County on Wednesday, 9 August, the NewDawn's reporter witnesses armed officers from the elite Emergency Response Unit (ERU) of the Liberia National Police enforcing the removal of sellers from congested streets corners and marketplaces while billboards are being planted.

While the police are clearing sellers from the streets, political parties including opposition Coalition for Democratic Coalition (CDC) of presidential candidate Sen. George M. Weah, Movement for Economic Empowerment (MOVEE) of Dr. Mills Jones, and some representative candidates are seen erecting their billboards at the sites that are being cleared.

But when contacted Wednesday evening to ascertain whether police were called in to aid the operation, Police Spokesman Sam Collins says the issue of billboard planting is being controlled by the city government and not the police.

He says they have nothing to do with billboard planting because it does not fall under the purview of the police, and adds that the city government controls the city. "... I don't know what you're talking about, if the police were launching any operation like that I would know," he concludes.

Notwithstanding, the NewDawn's reporter says several parts of Monrovia and its surroundings including the ELWA Intersection, Redlight in Paynesville, and the Duala Markets have seen armed ERU officers ordering street sellers to vacate the main streets or risk losing their goods.

Goods of some petty traders and marketers who refused to adhere to the police directives were confiscated while other traders were apprehended and turned over to the Paynesville City Corporation on grounds of allegedly violating city ordinance.

Speaking anonymously to our reporter, a police officer says the move by the Liberia National Police (LNP) is in line with its constitutional mandate to ensure the protection of lives and properties as political campaign activities intensify in Monrovia and its surroundings.

He warns that the police in collaboration with authorities of the Paynesville City Corporation would continue the streets clearing campaign until intransigent petty traders and marketers return to market places rather than selling in the streets.

He says selling in the streets poses grave danger to the lives of the very sellers. Meanwhile, some parties supporters including CDC's local office supporter Jefferson Martin, MOVEE's Miatta Dennis, have backed the action of the police.

They claim that anything that could hinder the ongoing political campaign of political parties and their candidates would be counterproductive to the attainment of peace in the country.

They used the medium to appeal to marketers, petty traders and wheelbarrow operators to stop selling at prohibited locations in Monrovia and its environs, and instead relocate themselves to areas directed by the LNP. They claim that it would help to avoid confrontation which could serve as impediment to ongoing political activities.

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