The gradual deterioration of law and order and open challenge
to the Liberian Government's authority by the criminal
enterprise known as the Isakaba Boys in Monrovia and surroounding
area defy logic as to why the hesitancy of the law enforcement
and security apparatuses to arrest this downward spiral
of the rule of law.
The media is replete with daily reports of the naked violence
visited upon local residents, and in some instances, foreign
nationals at the hands of this group of thugs who have
no respect for human life and property or common decency.
Latest headline reported in the Spetember 4, 2006 edition
of the local Inquirer Newspaper is entitled,' Issakaba
Boys' Gash NGO Boss"
One can only venture to understand why the resurgence
of this group of criminals - after nearly fifteen years
of civil instability and a country over-run by illegal
weapons and drugs, the breakdown of family structure,
abject poverty, hoplessness and desperate economic climate.
Admittedly, The Justice Ministry is on record as saying,
"... these acts of banditry and total lawlessness
include hi-jacking, killing, maiming and armed robbery,
just to name a few....”
What is glaringly unacceptable, is the recent pronouncement
by the Justice Ministry that various communities organize
a community watch and form vigilante groups to protect
themselves from these predators known as the Isakaba Boys.
The Justice Ministry, however, cautioned that this move was not a "license" by local communities " to take the law into their own hands."
This is quite a laughable and shameful proposition by
the Justice Ministry for the lack of an aggressive law
enforcement regime in this matter. The perception then
is that the Liberian government and its chief law enforcement
functionaries have failed dismally, are inept, negligent
or just don't care. There is no leadership or decisiveness
about cleaning up this threat to life and property.
This position adopted by the Justice Ministry borders
on criminal negligence and those in authority must be
held to account and explain their poor handling of this
Vigilantism can be defined and viewed in two ways: domestic
terrorism - which seeks to harm the social order; and
popular vigilantism -- which seeks to help the social
order. Philospher Brown holds the view that the rise of
vigilantism is the direct result of the usurpation of
moral behavior to rectify a "structural flaw"
in society for which the law has been lacking or ineffective
or not enforced.
Another political scientist Zimring (2004) says that the
vigilante mindset is the opposite of the due process mindset.
Obviously, the Justice Ministry is supportive of the populace
undertaking self defense in the face of this reign of
terror at the risk of abandoning the rule of law. Even
if we were to offer the benefit of the doubt, there is
no evidence that the Justice Minsitry has conducted training
of community leaders to undertake this effort, provided
equipment for reporting suspicious activity nor is there
an emergency hotline available to the helpless.
According to the Liberian Constitution, under Chapter
III, Fundamental Rights, "...
b.All persons, irrespective of ethnic background, race,
sex, creed, place of origin or political opinion, are
entitled to the fundamental rights and freedoms of the
individual, subject to such qualifications as provided
for in this Constitution.
c.All persons are equal before the law and are therefore
entitled to the equal protection of the law..."
While we applaud government's war on corruption, we
also call for a comprehensive and intergrated approach
to dealing with the rising crime pandemic which has
the potential to significantly undo any gains made.
Liberia remains rife with some who may also exploit
the call by the Justice Ministry to vigilantism and
begin a their own reign of targeted harrassment, killing
maiming and intimdation of others - which may become
The Justice Ministry's call and support of the formation
of vigilante groups as a means of self defense in the
face of this reign of terror can be seen as Government'
abdicating its responsibility.
International Human Rights groups have frowned on the
use of vigilante groups as a vehicle to correcting ineffective
law enforcement policies because of the tendencies of
these groups to be abusive and to be taken over by zealots.
The Justice Ministry has an opportunity to show leadership
and must do so.
About the author: Emmanuel Abalo, is an exiled Liberian journalist , media and human rights activist. He is the former Acting President of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL). Mr. Abalo presently resides in Pennsylvania, USA
2006 by The Perspective
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