Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Armed Robbery And The Challenges Of National Recovery (Part I)
Ibrahim Al-bakri Nyei

The trends of invasion on the poverty-stricken people of Liberia had come in many forms from the time of colonialism to the present-day post-war Liberia. During the pre-colonial period, there were tribal invasions, slaves capturing and traditional wars that kept fears amongst the people. The colonial days witnessed wars between the settlers from the West and the aborigines, and the tribes were still at wars with each other. The Post-colonial days; the Republic of Liberia, witnessed problems ranging from political, economic and military calamities that rendered the people insecure from all dimensions. Tribal wars were still prevalent, the Kru War and the Gola War (both between 1915 and 1918) are still in the pages of history. The German submarine incursion during World War I, political dictatorship and brutal handling of oppositions and elections riggings, like the 1927 chess charade, were parts of the horrors after independence. The D. Twe incident of 1951, The Coleman Dilemma of 1955 and the Fahnbulleh predicament of 1968 are all reminiscent of that era. Economic sabotages against the state by public officials are all situations that still maintain fears and horrors in the lives of the people particularly the peasants, the rural dwellers, and those who situations have suppressed to eke living in the absence of economic options.

These and many more incidents counterproductive to civilization set the nation in a volcano with many craters to erupt. Finally, in 1989, the volcano erupted leaving the people at the lowest layer of civilization, the state and its resources pillaged by fighters. As time had passed, the people have concluded their differences with the election of a new government supported by major multinational institutions and super powers. Also supporting the government is the presence of thousands of soldiers, police officers and civilian staffs under the United Nations Mission in Liberia. What has become the new trend of invasion against the people of Liberia; already trying to rebuild shattered lives is the upsurge of armed robbery on them. This has been considered by many analysts as inevitable post-conflict situation perpetrated by ex-fighters. But the point of logical departure is drawn from questions like ‘what is the mission of the DDRR program? Had both the Disarmament and the Rehabilitation segments of the program failed after expending millions of dollars? These questions are asked because small arms are still in the hands of the wrong people, and the people expected to live better lives with skill are still dangerous.

The uncontrollable wave of this armed robbery situation is today posing a major threat to the rebuilding of the state and the recovery of the people. Unfortunately, those who are not even living middle class lives are the most victims of the robbers. People from almost all status, but some, have been victimized. Lawmakers have their ordeals; the journals of journalists are flooded with stories of armed robbery, even those with no fixed income have some testimonies. A particular municipality in the country, Paynesville City and its residents continue to fall prey with no signs of relief. An old woman, explaining her ordeal, inquire why the robbers can not attack the President, the Vice President or top Government Officials who she claimed are affluent. An elderly man was quick to declare that all those people have ‘semi military barracks’ at their gates, ‘only we the poor people will suffer’.

The Effects on National Development

No nation develops or progresses in the absence of aliens or foreigners who contribute to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) through employment, petty trade and large-scale investments. At the same time development does not take place when the lives of the citizens are threatened by problems of insecurity, particularly in the midst of harsh economic conditions. There must be a favorable climate that guarantees the safety of all against aggressions and injustices. Whilst the Government is making strides on the international stage, attracting investors, tourists and experts to the country, the safety of those investors and tourists in the country is a major challenge to the government as cases of violence and armed robbery is reported daily. Mid this year, a trainee at the MVTC stabbed an innocent Chinese woman who had come to contribute to the Human Resources to death. In November alone, a used car dealer was armed robbed on Bushrod Island, a Belgium National who left his home investing in Liberia was shot to death by unknown men in LAC in Grand Bassa County, and a Global Bank Van, transporting the sum of 150,000 United States Dollars was armed robbed on the high way to Buchanan. At the same time, local residents in the Cow Field community in Paynesville openly cried on the Government to immediately cease the situation. These incidents have occurred barely one month after the World Bank had reported that Liberia has a terrible climate for business. The consequences of the actions will undoubtedly scarred investors away, because there is nothing more precious than the life for which the money is invested.

The Role of the Government

Whilst the situation continues unabated, the government is still studying options of arming or not arming the national police to combat the robbers. As the debate of arming the police has taken the whole country with views expressed in articles and on radio talk shows, the casualties increase in geometric progression, particularly at the single most ‘engagement point’- the Paynesville-Gardnerville Belt. In 2006, the then Justice Minister challenged community residents (who by themselves are armless) to defend themselves against the armed robbers. I view the challenge as something that undermined the Social Contract of 1847 signed by the people of Liberia in the creation of a sovereign state that will defend them against aggression in return for the submission of their rights. Moreover, the Government, through its information machinery had continued to intellectualize the calamities. About a month ago, after the media reported that armed-robbery tops police charge sheets, the Solicitor General, in one of his intellectual show-off, challenged that report; but the upsurge of the crime in recent days had drown the dichotomy between his claim and that of the media.

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