The Streets Of Monrovia are calm and normal commercial activities have resumed just a day following violent protest that left four persons in the township of West Point injured, including a 15-year-old teenager, who reportedly sustained serious wounds that would ultimately result to the amputation of his leg.
The Defense Ministry admits that security forces did fire shots in the air, but not at protesters. However, some residents in the township told this paper via telephone that the security forces fired at protesters during Wednesday’s event.
The Protest On Wednesday, August 20, 2014 was triggered after the Commissioner of the Township of West Point, Miata Flowers informed security forces that her family had been held by some residents of the township and that she wanted security personnel to rescue them. In the process, chaos erupted and the protesters started throwing stones and other objects at the armed officers.
The Protesters At some point became aggressive by throwing stones which reportedly resulted to some officers sustaining injuries. Security forces fired warning shots as protesters dodged for cover. News of the violence in West Point spread to other parts of the country, especially in Monrovia that was virtually shut down. Businesses were closed and the streets were completely disserted.
The Fight Against Ebola took a different trend far from the mandate announced earlier by the government. West Point, a densely population community, had been quarantined days after mob action in the township which resulted to some 17 suspected Ebola patients fleeing the isolation center. Some West Pointers criticized the government for creating an Ebola isolation center in their community believed to be densely populated.
Whilst We Believe that the Liberian government has the constitutional rights to impose a state of emergency and curfew based on emerging situations, however, we believe that certain mandates that have been given to security forces should be relaxed. The incident on Wednesday has already been condemned by two renowned human rights organizations. The Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (JPC) and Foundation for International Dignity (FIND) say the use of force by state security to ensure that citizens comply with government's measures to prevent the spread of the deadly Ebola virus is counterproductive. In a press statement read Thursday, the two groups claimed that the use of force by state security would “exacerbate an already fragile situation and cause citizens to resist these measures.” JPC and FIND said while they agree that there must be some stringent measures to adequately combat the Ebola virus, however, they maintained that the use of force is not in the best interest of the people.
The Use Of force against defenseless civilians appears to be triggered by statement made by the deputy Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, Col. Eric W. Dennis recently, authorizing the military to use of force against people crossing the Sierra Leone-Liberia border at night.
The Security Forces have a mandate to keep the peace and ensure that our country remains stable as it gradually takes over from the UN Mission in Liberia. What happened on Wednesday in West Point was simply the use of unwarranted power against powerless civilians. The behavior of protesters to challenge state security forces, whether by throwing stones or use of invectives is repugnant, but it does not imply that state security should use force against the very people they will defend in time of war.
Therefore, We Call on the government to ensure that security forces relax the use of force against defenseless citizens because we are not at war with each other; instead we [as a nation and people] are united in fighting against the Ebola virus.