The Liberian government and its international security partners launched the Security Sector Reform (SSR) project, undoubtedly, to preempt the domino effects the short-circuited UN-mandated Disarmament, Demobilization, Rehabilitation, and Reintegration Programme (DDRRP) would have on Liberia. The project produced robust police and army units, all right; but one effect of the failed DDRR programme that would not go away is armed robbery. There is a number of conspiracy theories about the ‘why’. What is clear, though, is that the armed robbery is observing no boundary, making observers to demand that it must be an issue for the 2011 presidential election. The Analyst has been looking at the reported attack on presidential aspirant, TQ Harris.
Several armed men have reportedly broken into the bedroom of 2011 prospective presidential candidate, TQ Harris, making away with US $40,000, L $100,000 in cash, and several valuable household and personal possessions.
Mr. Harris he intended to use the cash for his 2011 presidential campaign.
The stolen items included a US $25,000 gold Rolex watch, a US $500 gold watch, a Sony Laptop, a Memorex Flatbed color scanner, a Pentax 35mm X 200mm lens camera, and a Samsung Digital Camera.
The armed men reportedly also took away a LoneStar Cell Internet modem, two 2-GB flash drives, and six cell phones, including a US $600 unused touch-screen cell phone.
Along with these items, the visibly terrified and dejected standard-bearer of the opposition Freedom Alliance Party of Liberia (FAPL) told our reporters yesterday, the armed men took several gifts he received from a relative several years ago.
The FAPL leader, who walked into the offices of The Analyst to ‘bring his mishap to the knowledge of the Liberian people’, said the incident started at about 2:30 a.m., Monday, July 18, 2011 when a group of armed men forcibly broke into his bedroom, wielding deadly weapons.
He said as they trained their weapons – which included clubs, knifes, and automatic rifles – on him, they demanded that he hand over all cash and valuable items in his possession, lest they be forced to kill him. “If you move, you will die!” Mr. Harris quoted the man who appeared to be the ringleader as bellowing, as he ordered his associates to begin rummaging for cash and valuables.
The presidential candidate said the armed men, most of whom he said were in their mid-20s, told him that they were sent to his home to carry out the robbery. He said the robbers did not say who sent them; neither did he say if he had any idea who might be the senders.
This is the sixth time armed robbers have attacked Mr. Harris’ home; but he said Monday’s attack was the first time the robbers succeeded in breaking in.
In previous attempts, according to Mr. Harris, the robbers tied up, gagged the security offices on duty, and made away with a large portable generator, over 40 gallons of diesel fuel, and several other items.
Mr. Harris had reportedly reported all of these incidents to the Zone 5 Police Depot in Paynesville and to UNMIL; but according to him, there had been no redress.
What was strange about all of these incidents, he said, was that no one has been caught, neither has any of the properties been recovered.
Another striking coincidence, he noted further, was that all of the armed robbers – though attacking his home at different times and dates and perhaps comprising different individuals – have always claimed to be acting on orders.
Monday’s brazen attack on Mr. Harris came only two days after he moved into his Paynesville Community home and less than a week after he took over the leadership of the FAPL as its political leader.
Meanwhile the prospective FAPL presidential candidate said he is currently in consultation with his counsel to explore the possibility of petitioning the Ministry of Justice for permit to purchase and possess a firearm.
As part of UN effort to control the use of small arms in crimes and warfare in the country, the government of Liberia has placed restriction on the private ownership of firearm.
But Mr. Harris, who is terrified by continued attacks on his home, said there was no question that the restriction was doing more harm than good to the Liberian people.
He said if armed robbers could be brave enough to attack and rob him, despite the fact that he has security details in place and lived in a fenced-in compound, it was not difficult to imagine the ordeal ordinary Liberians have to go through every night.
Whether Mr. Harris thought the reduction of violent crimes, as a civil right issue, should be part of the 2011 presidential debate, he did not say.
Neither did he say whether the prevalence of violent crimes in the society, eight years after the official cessation of hostilities in the country and five years after President took over, is the failure of the Liberia government to address the nation’s unemployment question, adequately.