EDITORIAL : The Kinjor Melee Was Unnecessary and Shameful

IT IS A complete shame for both citizens and law enforcement officers of this country that they are not learning from history—how violent protests or the failure by aggrieved citizens to exhaustively seek peaceful settlement of burning issues on the one hand and the disproportionate force by ruthless political administrations on the other have underpinned the misery and backwardness we face. As if the 1979 “rice and rights riot” did not teach the lesson of brutal overthrow of both a standing government and lasting peace, violent agitations and crushing bully of dissent permeated the national psyche in the 1980s until it culminated into the most brutal war the country has ever faced.

WHEN THE REGIME of the Coalition for Democratic Change at some point adopted the tendency of supplying protesters water and at time food items, people familiar with Liberia’s protesting history might have thought the specter of violent demonstrations spurring national instability was on its expiration path. But it seems those who might have bided goodbye to the protest-violence-death era might be having a rude awakening by tears and blood resulting from reported torching of public facilities and gunning down of civilians in Western Liberia.

CLOUDS OF DOOM, nervousness, bewilderment hover over Kinjor and nearby villages right now. Citizens and residents are nursing physical and emotional bruises, along with nearly a dozen police officers, who faced up in a struggle they have no common prior disagreements. The disagreement had actually been between the citizens and a foreign concessionaire which is ripping off the God-given resources of the land with what the citizens consider little or incommensurate returns to them and their communities. Apparently, anger consumed the patience and sobriety of the citizens who thereby reportedly went awry to decent and lawful approach to access redress. There and then, trigger happy police officers proxied for the concessionaire in unleashing venom expressed in live bullets and batons. When the dust settled, three precious lives evaporated, seas of blood including those of the officers flowed on the land of Cape Mount.

IT SEEMS THE orgy of ‘protestmania’ and its accessory of violent crackdowns is not getting away from our country. When will citizens keep their fiery temper in check when seeking solution for their felt needs? When will they use nonviolent, peaceful tactics to engage their “oppressors”?

How long will the Government of Liberia play to the gallery, and make itself subservient to, foreign capitalists at the costly disadvantage of their people? When will our law enforcement people graduate from their brutal attacks on their own citizens to please foreigners? How long will prudence and patriotism be put under the rug?

FOR US, WE strongly condemn the Kinjor violence. We condemn the unleashing of live bullets by the police on peaceful citizens. The force used is far above collateral. It was cruel and inhumane that Liberian law enforcement officers will continue to bullet down their compatriots in cold blood, many times with utter impunity.

THE VIOLENCE COULD have been avoided. The people of Kinjor have groaned under the weight of reckless neglect by both BEA Mountain Mining Corporation and the Government of Liberia on their grievances bordering floating of the Social Contract and Memorandum of Understanding between them and the Company. For too long, time without number, the people complained to their lawmakers, to central government and to the international community that the company was not living up to its promises to improving the lot of the people and their communities. Meanwhile, millions of offshore monies are raked from the land daily, taking to Turkey, one of the world’s raciest countries, yet the commitments agreed upon to be delivered by the company, let alone its corporate social responsibility, are not coming forth. The government has been taciturn and passive.

WHILE THE RESORT to violence by the citizens is condemned to the core, it is shameful what that the company and its protector, the Government of Liberia, has turned their backs on legitimate concerns for so long. While violent protest was not the best way, it is true also, and should be understood that, as indicated by a renowned writer, “Too long denial of a guaranteed right is sure to lead to a revolution—blooded revolution in which the guilty as well as the innocent suffers.” While protest must be condemned, it is also true that “man’s heart is not a table upon which to dine” as the Liberia maxim goes.

THUS, WHILE CITIZENS must be warned and advised against violence, including attacking law enforcement officers and public properties, the Liberia government–politicians, local and national leaders, as well as the Liberian law enforcement system–must be responsible enough to be sensitive or hypersensitive to signs of conflict and violence. Most violent incidents in this country, particularly those occurring at concessions areas, have flashed early warming signs but leaders are so reckless and irresponsible to detect and prevent them.

ONE REASON THAT explains this that, for some elements within the leadership ecosystem, protests and violence has been an industry for personal benefit. Violent incidents often provide opportunities to attend to operations that have pecuniary benefits for them. They will choose to ignore even the clearest of warning signs. And in the end, they benefit from the blood and tears of people, even including their own officers.

THIS IS SHAMEFUL, and we must graduate from it.

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