The Threat of Isakaba Boys' Thuggery and The Justice Ministry's Solution: Vigilante Groups


By Emmanuel Abalo 

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
September 5, 2006


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 matter.

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 unintended consequences.

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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