Press Statement on current situation in Liberia

Operation We Care for Liberia (OWCL)
Bernard Gbayee Goah
Operation We Care for Liberia
(503) 333

According to AFP news, during a protest called by Opposition Leader Winston Tubman on Monday, at least four of his supporters were shot dead following clashes that broke out with the Liberian riot police when the rally was prevented from turning into a march.  A radio and television station owned by opposition and three other radios were shut down overnight following the violence. “Right after our evening broadcast police came and asked us to leave the premises of the station and closed it down,” said Samukai Dukulay, senior broadcaster at Power television and Power FM. Liberia’s opposition had complained that the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Sirleaf days before the first round was tantamount to foreign interference in the elections.
Operation We Care for Liberia is deeply concerned about the manner in which peaceful Liberians were treated by police loyal to the President and the potential consequences it may cause, not only for Liberia but also for the West African sub region. Much has been witnessed with regard to the disproportionate use of force by police and army forces loyal to sitting Liberian Presidents and the violation of citizen’s integrity and rights especially so FREEDOM OF THE PRESS, THE RIGHT TO PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY, PROTEST AND DEMONSTRATION, ABSTAIN FROM A POLITICAL PROCESS WITHOUT INTIMIDATION, AND THE RIGHT TO LIFE.  It is unacceptable for radio and television stations owned by opposition to be force to close by government police.We believe that the premise of the Liberian police argument — that it acted fully within its rights in defending its laws to the detriment of its own citizens — has gone unchallenged not only by the United Nations and the United States, but also by the current Liberian Government under the leadership of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
Liberian police, the argument goes, had to resort to the use of force in order to restore calm before elections runoff because there were fire arms present among members of opposition party. We believe that such argument does not hold water because credible information from eye witnesses revealed that at no time were opposition partisans in possession of fire arms during the shootings nor are civilian Liberians allowed to carry fire arms at any time after 2003.  It is our understanding that all warring factions and their members were disarmed by the United Nations before Liberia’s 2005 elections and UN peace Keepers have controlled the security of the country since the end of the civil war which ended in 2003.
Operation We Care for Liberia is concerned about the use of constitutional responsibility by the Liberian police force only to infringe upon the rights of its own citizens. After all, these are the very citizens the constitution must protect.  We believe such actions are a complete violation of the rights of the people of Liberia.
While we recognize the good will of the United Nations peace keepers in Liberia, we are concerned that its silence on situation that took place on Monday resulting in the deaths of peaceful Liberians is unacceptable at all levels.
We condemn the Liberian Government for not handling the situation peacefully to calm whatever condition(s) that may have led to such inhumane action carried out by its police force against its own citizens.
Interestingly, whereas; citizens were killed in a wake of peaceful protest from opposition camp on allegation of   elections fraud, opposition party absence in the electoral process without representation, elections runoff continued to take place in Liberia. Nobody seems to be in any rush to remind the Liberian government the importance of equal representation in any process, and – what “responsibility to protect” means under international law.

We call on ECOWAS and the international community especially the United States of America to pressure Liberia to desist from such practices and that all voting activities cease and are postpone immediately until proper investigation is carried out.

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s anxious desire to become president the second time, as well her continuous silence on the deaths of her own people, and lack of intervention about what may have gone wrong, compel us to believe she has no interest in upholding her constitution responsibilities to protect her people. We, at this time demand answers from the President for exhibiting such (contra-Liberian interest) behavior.

Also, President Johnson-Sirleaf travels the world frequently to pick up awards that do not benefit the suffering Liberian population. Travelling to next door opposition camp in her own country in order to solve problems affecting her own people seems just very impossible for the Liberian President.  She would rather travel to the United States multiple times for no reason other than to protect her legacy. President Johnson-Sirleaf must understand that it is the primary responsibility of her government to protect its citizens in times of crises. Opposition camp members are not aliens; they are Liberians as such, must be protected and not killed by the very government they turn to for protection. We seriously question the President’s judgment.

The fact that force was used on peaceful Liberians resulting in the deaths of four is troubling. To see Liberians brutalized and killed under the very nose of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf while the rest of the world remains silent in response is unhealthy for Liberia.

We are aware that protection of human rights is also a matter of international concern among all countries, including Liberia. Therefore, we insist that the United States, United Nations, and ECOWAS confront the government of Liberia on the matter of protecting its own citizens and not buttress what took place resulting into the deaths of innocent people, as well as the closure of opposition radio and television stations.
While President Sirleaf may only have interest in the well-being of her winning the elections runoff, we believe such interest, however, should by no means translate against the rights of her people. Also, while it is true that the President has  a constitutional responsibility to restore law and order across Liberia, this does not in any way imply a right under international law to use excessive force on armless civilians.

If President Sirleaf is unable or unwilling to protect her own people from police or military harassment, then the protection of human life and dignity becomes the responsibility of, ECOWAS, the International Community or the people themselves.

We therefore call upon ECOWAS, and the international community to consider their responsibilities to protect all Liberians in order to prevent human suffering and protect the Liberian population against the use of force by government police. We believe such intervention is necessary and legitimate at this time because the existence of evidence of crimes committed against civilian on Monday is undisputable. Live gun shots were fired and four citizens of Liberia were killed from gun wounds.

It is also our understanding that many Liberians have fled the capital Monrovia and are now hiding in nearby villages and other places. Delaying an adequate response to the situation in Liberia may result into more deaths and starvation of citizens mostly women and children. We call upon the United Nations to provide humanitarian assistance to those hiding in villages around the city.

We again condemn the Liberian police action on its own citizens because such action does not only violate international norms and principles, but also demonstrates how and to what extent the notion of “excising the law to protect” can be abused. It shows clearly that the misapplication of any law can result in a punitive, rather than a peaceful intervention, and that the disproportionate use of force by forces loyal to a sitting president pursuing its own questionable objectives can lead to human suffering.

We demand that the current violation of citizens integrity and rights in Liberia cease at once!
Thank you.
Bernard Gbayee Goah
President, Operation We Care for Liberia
(503) 333 6246

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