Is Govt Recruiting Thugs? -Liberian Lawyer Complains to US Ambassador

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A fortnight ago, the Liberia National Police announced it was recruiting and training at least 150 “police aides” as a first step to a full enlistment into the manpower-starved force. The international stabilization force, the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and other major partners that had prime national security responsibility could not give the country the complete law enforcement force required to measure up to the task of policing in postwar Liberia. Today, many urban and rural communities are without the presence of police officers. It might have been because of the foregoing that the LNP has been endeavoring to fill the void, but the efforts are seemingly regarded in other quarters as an attempt by Government to embolden partisan law enforcement that could threaten security for the opposition and critical minds. One person that strongly share that opinion is a Liberian lawyer, Cllr. J. Aloysius Toe, who has taken the matter out of the national debate to Uncle Sam to take seize of it. The Analyst reports.

Alarms over the reported recruitment and training a batch of police aides has now reached the attention of Liberia’s biggest donor and former quasi-colonizer, the United States, as well as other foreign diplomats.

This is so because Cllr. Aloysius Toe, Executive Director of the Public Interest Law Advocacy Center (PILAC), has written the Ambassador of the United States of America, His Excellency Michael A. McCathy, and other diplomatic missions, informing them of his suspicions about the police recruitment exercise.

In a letter of November 12, 2020, Cllr Toe expressed “deep concern about ongoing training of unknown men at the Police training Academy.”

“We’ve been informed that the Inspector General (IG) of the Liberia National Police (LNP), Patrick Sudue, in cahoot with ruling party officials, clandestinely and unlawfully recruited 150 able-bodied men for enlistment in the LNP, in violation of the laws governing recruitment,” Cllr. Toe wrote. “We understand the action of the IG was unilateral, and did not involve the leadership of the LNP, nor approved by the Policy Management Board, as required by law.”

He also said he gathered that the recruited men and women were not vetted, screened for criminal records, and were not selected from an existing list of already-vetted 8,000 applicants currently in LNP’s database.

“Shockingly, it is our understanding that the 150 individuals comprise armed robbers, ex-combatants and violent militants from the ruling party,” Toe said without exhibiting an ounce of evidence. Yet he continued: “Our information is that they were recruited from three militia groups—‘’ Unit’, ‘Kuba Unit’, and ‘Moscow Empire’; groups noted for carrying out bloody attacks against opposition figures and innocent civilians to instill fear and cause death.Cllr Toe complained that among the recruits are Liberia’s most feared armed robbers including, “Shaka Vaye” from Paynesville, “Man Devil” from Fiamah Community, “Gabon” and “Effort” from old Road Community, and “Mustapha” from Central Monrovia.

According to him, “We have been informed that the IG have already placed these men on police payroll, paid each of them hundred and sixty United States Dollars (US$160) for the month of October, gave them police uniforms and handcuffs, assigned them regular police ID numbers reserved for enlisted police officers, and, on October 10, 2020 dispatched them to the Police Training Academy for training, to prepare them to become a brutal police unit  intended to be used against the opposition, peaceful protesters, and critics of government”.

The known civil society actor who is also Secretary-General of the opposition Alternative National Congress (ANC) further opined that he was concerned because, “the unilateral action of the IG, if not averted, has the propensity to institutionalize and legitimize terror and violence within law enforcement, weaken the rule of law, undermine our democracy, threaten the stability of Liberia, and lead to massive and widespread human rights abuses.”

He added: “It is unacceptable for the IG to place hardcore criminals, domestic terrorists and publicly known armed robbers in police uniforms for the sole purpose of targeting political dissent and free speech.”

According to him, the US Government, UNDP and other UN agencies, and European partners have invested enormous financial and technical resources to professionalize the LNP, and institutionalize a non-partisan police force.

He claimed that the purported unlawful action of the IG undermines that effort.

“PILAC therefore requests you to demand the Liberian Government to abort the training; and we further request the US Government to push the UN to commission a special investigation into the activities of the CDC-led government in organizing and financing domestic terrorist groups in Liberia, under the guise of “militant groups” loyal to the ruling party.”

Similar Letter to LNP Chief

Cllr Toe has raised similar issues with the head of the Liberian police force, Inspector General Patrick Sudue.

He told IG Sudue in a communication: “We also understand that you assigned them regular police ID numbers reserved for enlisted police officers, and, on October 10, 2020 dispatched them to the National Police Academy for training, to prepare them to become a brutal police unit that you intend to use against the opposition, peaceful protesters, and critics of government.

“May we remind you that your actions violate Sections 22.93 (b) i. 3 of the Liberian National Police Act of 2016, and further violate Sections 7.1, 7.2, 7.3, 7.4, 7.5, and 7.6 of the Liberia National Police Rights and Condition of Service Regulation of 2016, signed by the Minister Justice, Frank Musah Dean, on April 17, 2018, and Approved by President George on August 21, 2018. The legal provisions cited above forbid active partisans from joining the police; and further provide that notices of recruitment into the LNP shall be made adequately available to the public at all police depots; and that all applicants shall be background-checked, vetted, screened, tested and examined academically, physically and medically by the Division of Human Resources, and approved by the Policy Management Board, before being sent for training at the National Police Training Academy. In the current case, none of these steps was followed. Instead, diehard CDC party loyalists were recruited outside police structures and sent directly to the academy for police training.”

He told the Police Chief that his latest action to “politicize the police” clearly weakens the rule of law, threatens our democracy, and undermines and thwarts the enormous efforts of the United States Government & United Nations that have invested so much resources to professionalize the LNP, and institutionalize a non-partisan police force.

“PILAC strenuously objects to your secret and unilateral partisan recruitment, and demand that you immediately disband the recruits and refund the LNP’s US$160 you’ve illegitimately paid each of them,” Cllr Toe lamented. “We give notice that we will draw the attention of the International Community on your attempt to enlist members of domestic terrorist groups (recommended by ruling party chairman) into the LNP; and we will institute court proceeding against you, should you fail to heed to our demands.”

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