MONROVIA – With the deadly Coronavirus already taking a biting toll on impoverished Liberians struggling to make ends meet under stringent restrictions of the State of Emergency, the arrest yesterday of an Executive Committee Member of the opposition Liberty Party, Mr. Menipakei Dumoe, seems to have heightened public anxiety over concerns for government to provide the stimulus package recently approved by the national legislature. As The Analyst has gathered, many believe government’s reaction to Dumoe’s Facebook rant, however justified, might be construed as heavy-handed and could undermine the fight against COVID-19.
It all started from a social media post issued during the week by Menipakei Dumoe. “We don’t need free bags of rice. I say we the poor in Monrovia need AK47s so our leaders can take us seriously,” stated Dumoe, in apparent reaction to government’s delayed distribution of food items to the citizenry.
Following a backlash from the public regarding his controversial social media post, Dumoe later rationalized that his post should not be taken literally.
“A number of people have called me about a post I made last night regarding our people needing “AK47s”. Of course, this was a metaphor; AK47 is a globally known symbol of resistance. Several national flags carry the AK47 symbol as a statement of resistance against oppression. My call on our people to not just accept free bags of rice without questioning the system that has them living in desperate poverty should not be misunderstood as a call to violence. I am a none violent political activist and will never call for the use of actual guns. Civil resistance is my M.O.,” Mr. Dumoe, who is also Deputy Chairman for Administration of the Council of Patriot (COP), stated.
Much would not have been made public about the heavy-handiness that the state security applied during Mr. Dumoe’s arrest had it not been for the release of a very disturbing video from Frontpage Africa’s Lennart Dodoo, who also narrated his personal ordeal during the episode.
“Seven armed men in this picture, there were many others on post around Menipakei Dumoe residence. I displayed my press ID and passed among them. I got at his room entrance, there were another five armed men, again, I displayed my Press ID and passed. There, a CID and an NSA Agent along with the Court Sheriff and Dumoe in the room when the search began. I immediately started the live broadcast. The live went on for nearly 45 mins with about 1.4k active viewers.
Surprisingly, all the police officers, NSA Agents said they were unaware that there was a journalist in their midst. A big shame. They seized my phones, asked me to delete the view video from the page which i refused to do. They told me they had received orders from above to seize my phones. They didn’t say where the order came from. Before returning my phones hours after, they asked me to open my phone. They searched the galleries of both phones. Whatever they were looking for, they didn’t find it. They then handed me my phones,” lamented Dodoo.
During the search and seizure exercise carried out by state security within Mr. Dumoe’s premises, Menipakei remained handcuffed from his back, answering questions from court officers and security personnel.
The Analyst has further gathered that Mr. Dumoe is presently in the custody of the Liberia National Police. Although police spokesperson Moses Carter and Deputy Information Minister Eugene Fahngon admitted that no weapons were found within the premises of Mr. Dumoe, they however said government has in its possession other incriminating materials.
Searing Public Reaction
The whole episode seems to have left a sour taste in the mouths of many observers, majority of whom feel that government is giving undue publicity to Mr. Dumoe, when it should be concentrating on how to champion the fight against the deadly COVID-19.
Mr. Jacob Smith, Secretary General of the opposition Liberty Party in his social media post yesterday said thus:
“Menipakie Dumoe, an Executive Committee Member of Liberty Party and a strong critic of the Weah Administration, was today arrested by the state on account of a Facebook post in which he asserts that what the people need is not free bags of rice but AK47 in order to trigger the attention of their leaders.
“In response to the different shades of interpretations that attended his post from apologists of the regime and other independent thinkers, Mr. Dumoe has since followed up to provide a contextual meaning which negates the use of firearm in dealing with the unresponsiveness of the regime to the degrading plight of the people, even before the state took cognizance of the matter.
“Indeed, it would be less than honorable, and certainly uncharacteristic of our standing in this political community, were we to lend approbation to any utterance which reminds us of the very irresponsible postering indulged in, in yesteryears, by reckless adherents of the present regime.
“In this case, however, we are persuaded by our conscience to draw a line of dichotomy, however thin it may be, between Mr. Dumoe’s facebook post and the very abrasive and indecorous ourbursts of key individuals associated with this regime which in our recent past, terrified the nation but went unchecked.
“Mr. Dumoe’s prompt interpretation of his facebook comments and his history of being a visible critic of the Weah Administration, leave less to be desired of his democratic credential and patriotic spirit, that he would now opt for arm struggle as a pathway to altering a less responsive governing enclave. Indeed, the ballot box is the premier option for building a strong democracy. Dumoe projects this in all his public engagements.
“Considering, however, that out of understandable curiosity the state proceeded with a search of Dumoe’s residence, and found no arms, what was the compelling need for his incarceration, more so when his lawyer had requested that he be released to his custody?
“On this count, I am not unmindful of the situational ethic argument that others may want to ascribe to me in an attempt to defeat my point. Yes, you may want to argue that when others made similar statement in the past they were incarcerated. But that is not the point here.
“The point is, we must strive to build our democracy and the rule of law incrementally. The fact that regime A acted in a certain undesirable way should not be reasonable ground for B to follow suit.
“Upholding freedom of expression is one of the fundamental planks to achieving a progressive democratic culture. And, I am not of the conviction that it was within the contemplation of the framers of the Constitution that a veneer interpretation would be assigned to HOLDING INDIVIDUALS AND INSTITUTIONS ACCOUNTABLE FOR THE ABUSE OF FREEDOM.
“In Dumoe’s case, where the exercise of his freedom was misconstrued and therefore assigned different interpretations, he has availed himself to provide the clarity. He took no action that bespeaks violence. He is in possession of no firearms.
“If the state would need further probe of his statement, an exercise which I believe would extract no self-incriminating comments other than the clarity he has provided, it is at Liberty to do so. I take a dim view, however, of the insistence to have him incarcerated, after his lawyer had requested to take custody of him. Do you not see your action as having a chilling effect on the protection of free speech?
“In the case of you who now find yourselves in leadership, when you threatened Ellen with bitter Liberia, you actually burnt tyres on the roads and carried caskets on your heads, depicting the corpse of a sitting leader. You must reflect as you proceed with national decisions. The unity and progress of the state, not your individual feelings, matter. To whom much is given, much is expected. This administration and its agents must learn to be tolerant and pilot our democracy in a progressive direction. Don’t make mountain of a mole hill in the Dumoe case.” LP Secretary General Smith said
For McCarthy Weh works with the Liberian Legislature, believes.
“Government of Liberia! Kindly let go of Menipakei Dumoe. Not sure he has AK-47 anywhere. Just like Chairman Mulbah K Morlu Jr. admitted to the leaked audio and said it was “liquor talk” (although there were some very concerning revelations) and was never questioned, just see Dumoe’s Facebook post as another one. Too much to do. Let’s endeavor to move this country ahead and refrain from glorifying distractions.”
Clarence Pearson, a US-based Liberian rights advocate and cleric strongly condemns the search of the home of COP executive on account of a Facebook post.
“This move is an overreaction as Dumoe does not have the capacity to carry out any armed subversion in the nation. Additionally, having Dumoe in handcuffs to conduct a search of his home is a complete overraction and abuse of his fundamental rights. Taking down the live coverage of FrontPage Africa broadcast on account of our attention being drawn to this misguided action on the part of government does not negate the fact that his rights are being abused,” Dr. Pearson maintained.
Mo Ali, a staunch member of the COP and a top opposition figure, had this to say:
“The Police went to search for gun because Menipakei Dumoe talked about AK-47 (albeit metaphorically) and they didn’t even find an empty shell of bird gun bullet. Then shamelessly both the Police Spokesman (Moses Carter) and Deputy Information Minister for Publicity (Eugene L. Fahngon) told the media that even though they didn’t find gun, but they found other materials that would interest the public. When pressed by the media to disclose what they found, they refused to state that. If they had the courage to disclose that they didn’t find gun, why can’t they tell us what they found that is of so much interest? Had the police found even an empty shell of a bullet, they would have been all over the place announcing it with jubilation like they have won the jackpot. They must tell us what they found or they should release Menipakei.”
As for Montserrado County Senator Abraham Darius Dillon, the arrest and search of the home of Menipakei Dumoe is an impulsive kneejerk action by the Weah-led regime. “Unacceptable!!!” Senator Dillon screamed.
“That is so embarrassing, to hear that police are going after Menipakei Domoe. When the chairman of the ruling establishment said people wanted to kill president George Weah, he was not invited by national police or NSA to make any clarity where he got his information from. Let the government stop this embarrassing and injustice,” says Patrick Thompson.
Despite the outpouring of grief against Dumoe’s arrest, others feel he deserves what he got.
John Kollie, a renowned Liberian journalist had this to say: “Well, no one, I have maintained, should be spewing profanity and gun rhetoric in the public space like the COP top leadership does in the first place. You can’t claim that the guys in power are uncivilized and corrupt and you verge on the same vices as change hunters. That is absurd and all of us should desist and engage the government in a sustained but civilized manner.”
Says Titus Saycoyah: “Why you all in the house rejected Zoe for? Mainly you brought out the statement posted by Zoe on Facebook. The house rejected him for similar statement, now this is on the other side round you are playing monkey jump. Statement of such deserved such action.”
Cutting a middle ground, a few Liberians attempted to bring sanity to the heated discourse.
Mr. Joe T. Kennedy, a former Elections Commission staffer now resident in the United States believes that while nothing justifies the statement from Mr. Dumoe, government does not gain anything by going after him.
“AK 47 is a weapon that was effectively used to kill, injure, rape, traumatize and wreak other forms of havoc on hundreds of thousands of Liberians during the civil war, the effect from which, we are still reeling today. Hence, a mere allusion to the weapon as a preference over RICE- the nation’s staple-whether used as a metaphor, simile or euphemism evokes a sad memory and stokes fear. Therefore, the argument that because Acarous Gray or Samuel Tweh made comments of similar scope in the past, so the Manipakeh Dumoe comment is justified, is remote and farfetched. Any statement against the peace and tranquility of our country should be condemned by us all no matter who makes it. However, I believe that by his declaration, Dumoe made a delusional error for which, the government need NOT go after him. Dumoe is as harmless as a dove,” said Kennedy.
Educationalist George Kronnisanyon Werner thinks likewise.
“I’m an ardent believer in free speech as a non-negotiable practice and a demanding value of any vibrant and credible democracy. As part of this longstanding conviction, I keep an open mind and prepare myself for the possibility that I might be wrong because of the interests of the common good as opposed to self-interest when expressing myself freely. Free speech has time, place and manner. This is useful when thinking about appropriate disagreements that cross the line and place others in harm’s way. In the end, however, I hope Menipakei Dumoe will be set free unharmed sooner than later,” says Werner.