Liberia: Hunger Drives Security Officers From Gbarnga Hub

Security officers assigned at the Regional Justice and Security Hub in Gbarnga, Bong County, have reportedly abandoned their residences, because of hunger. A report from the hub, quoting reliable sources, says some of the officers have abandoned their area and have gone to their respective counties of origin in search of food.

In an interview with Radio Gbarnga, some of the officers, who appear embittered about their living conditions, said their action to leave the regional hub residences stems from what they described as "unwanted situations at the facility."

The officers named the lack of electricity at the hub, unavailability of food, acute water shortage and the lack of mobility to make routine patrols as enshrined in the protocol that established the hub.

"We used to eat three meals a day during the administration of the late Hezekiah Siakor as then manager of the Hub but, since he died in 2017, our food ration has been cut down to the extent that we eat once a day, no electricity, coupled with the constant shortage of water," a noncommissioned officer, Sergeant, Harris Tokpa voiced out.

"Since last year (2018) up to now, our benefits, including incentives and other entitlements for patrol services have stopped coming. But what we are experiencing now, if one is not careful, it can lead to all the officers being dehydrated. The situation is seriously affecting us now. How do you expect us to work when we don't eat, but to sleep in the dark with hunger," PSU Officer Emmanuel K. Weah told one of the radio talk-show hosts.

The officers, who are all assigned to respond to incidents involving public disorders that may break out in Bong, Lofa and Nimba counties, have meanwhile abandoned their normal regional patrols.

According to some of the officers, efforts to seek redress from the Ministry of Justice and other relevant authorities have yielded no positive results, "therefore, we the officers have promised not to return to the hub until our plight is addressed in the soonest time possible."

Security officers at the 9th Judicial Circuit, which is within the Hub

When contacted, the manager of the Hub Tokpa Gowee, declined to comment on the situation, but promised to engage authorities at the Ministry of Justice, and the Bong County leadership on the situation.

On February 12, 2013, the government in collaboration with the then United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), the Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO) and the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) of the United Nations launched the country's first regional justice and security hub in the country.

With support from the UN Peacebuilding Fund, amounting to over US$13 million, the government plans to open a network of five regional justice and security hubs to increase citizens' access to justice and security services throughout the country beginning with the one in Gbarnga.

The Gbarnga hub is staffed with 139 personnel, including police officers, human rights monitors, public defenders, prosecutors, probation and immigration officers, whose Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) include, but are not limited to serving the communities in Bong, Lofa and Nimba counties as security backup in case of any threat to destabilize the country's peace.

Another major function of the regional hub is to house the Justice and Security Joint Program (JSJP), which was designed as a three-year program between the government and the international community, based on the Liberia Peace Building Program (LPP). The LPP was developed in May, 2011, by and among the Liberian government, the United Nations and international partners.

The purpose was to prepare Liberia for the UNMIL transition by providing a decentralized and holistic approach to enhancing access to justice and security at the regional and county levels. The JSJP concept demarcates Liberia into five regions, and is working to construct five regional hubs to increase service delivery and strengthen justice and security agencies by improving their human capacity to provide effective service.

In the Hub, officers of the Liberia National Police assigned with Police Support Unit (LNP/PSU) and those from the Liberian Immigration Service (LIS) Border Patrol Unit, are deployed to respond to criminal activities, public disorder and to provide confidence and surveillance patrols.

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