Liberia: A Kind Reminder to President Weah

The attention of the Daily Observer is drawn to reports carried on local and social media of officials of the Liberia National Student Union (LINSU) openly carrying arms. According to a Facebook posting by an official of the student organization, the young man, pictured sporting a side arm (pistol) tucked in his belt, is who he called chairman of the defense, security and intelligence committee of LINSU.

This newspaper is left asking just when the Liberia National Students Union (LINSU) become a military style organization with its officials brazenly carrying arms in reckless disregard for the law. Moreover comments made by Police spokesperson, H. Moses Carter, in response to queries put to him on the issue suggests that either the Police tacitly approves or that it is not up to speed with developments.

The posting by a LINSU official on social media justifying the so-called right of a self-styled defense, security and intelligence LINSU official clearly suggests that these individuals are making no pretenses about the fact that they are bearing arms howbeit illegally. Under Part V of the Act creating the Liberia National Commission on Small Arms and Light Weapons, subtitled: Possession and Use, Section 1:19: Prohibition of Possession of Light Weapons states that (a) "No natural person shall have in his/her possession or under his/her control any light weapon".

It says further, subsection (a) shall not apply to a person employed by the AFL or National Security Agencies acting in the course of his/her employment. Section 1:20 "Prohibition of Possession of Small Arms" (a) "No natural person shall have in his/her possession or under his/her control any small arm other than a shoulder fired single-barreled gun for which a possession license has been issued by the LNP and the Commission in keeping with the Act". (e) "Private Security agencies or non-state actors not defined under this Act as National Security Agencies shall be prohibited from arming their employees".

In view of what appears as clear violations of these provisions of the 2015 National Firearms and Ammunition Control Act, the LNP, which has a key oversight and control responsibility under the Act, has to act to restrain wayward elements who, by their brazen display of firearms, are sending a clear message to others to arm themselves as well. It can be recalled that Representative Yekeh Kolubah had reported that shots were fired at his home following the violent disruption by armed elements of a children's party he was hosting.

It can also be recalled that shots were reportedly fired when CDC supporters led by Monrovia City Mayor Jefferson Koijee violently attacked a political rally being held in New Georgia by Cornelia Krua Togba in last November. And then on March 21, armed thugs led by LINSU President Mohammed Kamara violently disrupted a MOJA anniversary program. And more recently was the disruption of an official requiem service for fallen legislator Adolph Lawrence by CDC supporters.

This newspaper notes with deep and troubling concern that the Police whose motto is "To Protect and Serve" is neither protecting the people nor is it serving their interests. Again the Daily Observer must warn that such policing practices now being seen under this current leadership are having a corrosive effect on respect for the rule of law and further undermining public trust and confidence in that institution.

According to Human Rights Watch, "the ability of the Police to enforce the law and investigate wrongdoing is severely compromised by lawlessness and abuse that Police officers inflict on ordinary Liberians especially those living on the margins". While this newspaper remains seized of the fact that the problems faced by the Police are longstanding and due to official virtual neglect of the institution, yet it cannot remain oblivious to what it appears to be a gross lack of leadership at the highest levels.

Such lack of leadership lends easily to Police abuse and tends to reinforce the commonly held impression that justice is not for the poor or the powerless according to Human Rights Watch. Thus, for example, when student auxiliaries of the CDC carry arms openly in breach of the law, the Mayor of the city of Monrovia leads a band of vagrants and thugs to attack a political rally, when a children's party is violently disrupted or an anniversary program is violently interrupted by hired thugs and the Police does nothing, the negative public impression that the Police is biased or partisan becomes etched even deeper into the consciousness of the people.

As June 7 approaches, there are concerns that the overt and brazen display of firearms by CDC supporters is sending a message of intimidation to participants of the June 7 demonstration, warning that they will not hesitate to use those illegally acquired firearms to maim and kill. And that will spell disaster replete with unknown consequences for all and sundry including this government.

Of course, the Baghdad Bobs will be sure to scream that such genuine concerns about the direction in which the country is headed are nothing but the "animus of angry elites convinced of their rights atop the political and socioeconomic ladders or better still their denial of democracy".

But, lest they forget, and they should be reminded at every turn, that when it mattered most, they jumped ship; Saddam Hussein was left to face his fate alone; so it was with Ghaddafi, Tolbert, Doe and even now, Taylor, spending the rest of his days on earth in solitary confinement.

These are all the more reasons why President Weah, in the view of this newspaper, must take charge and lead else he will allow others to take charge and lead him to an untimely and a most unkind fate! This is a kind REMINDER!

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