ONE OF LIBERIA’S POSTWAR tragedies occurred last week claiming, in one strike, 29 precious lives, amongst them children and women. Scores of others were left injured and are under treatment.
IT IS EVERY UNFORTUNATE that a Christian revival organized by a renowned charismatic national cleric in the Borough of New Kru Town turned bloody and deadly when a stampede broke out and the victims marched to the ground. This is a complete massacre outside conflict scenario. INDEED, WE AT THE ANALYST are saddened by this unfortunate incident. Our hearts and minds go to the bereaved families who lost loved ones in such a sudden and horrible way.
WHILE APPORTIONING BLAMES here and there can neither acquit for the colossal loss of lives nor provide solace for the injured and bereaved, it is time the nation started a serious conversation on public gatherings to ward off the repeat of similar catastrophe. Certainly, some human rights and civil liberty activists and groups will jump at the throat of those calling for stringent restrictions on public assemblies, whether religious, political or otherwise, on account that such restrictions are counterproductive to the nascent liberal democracy evolving in the country. But it is sane that everyone knows that the reckless exercise of liberties and freedoms anywhere is a threat to peace and to the very lives of the people.
THE SIMPLE LOGIC is that the New Kru Town mass death incident could have been avoided if laws and ordinances on public gathering were made known sufficiently, and enforced. All that was needed to avert the tragedy is adequate presence of security within and without the perimeters of the D. Twe High School Football Field where the crusade was being held. And before that, all that was required was for the organizers to obtain authorization and security and police support to the assembly.
MORE OFTEN THAN not, it is the acquisition of, or application for, security authorization from the requisite authority of state in order to assemble that is understood, or misunderstood, as crackdown on freedom and right to assemble. Too many Liberians, very ignorantly, consider obtaining a security permit to assemble a nauseating and undemocratic. Consequently, people freely and loosely gather, whether it is religious, social or political assembly without regard to security considerations.
IF WHAT HAPPENED in New Kru Town, with the death of nearly 30 citizens and the injury of dozens of others, does not constitute an urgent wake-up call to all and sundry on the need for doing what is required to prevent recurrence, including enforcing rules and laws on public gathering, then we are doom as a nation.
IN OUR POLITICAL zest or inclination for liberal democracy, we need not forget that the country, like all other counties, is witnessing spikes in criminal activities. Terrorisms is spreading as there is growth in social miscreants who attack to rob and even kill. And usually, public assembly, inadvertently present themselves as ideal locales for the dispensation of those uncouth acts.
THIS IS WHY, as we mourn 29 of our compatriots, Government must seize the moment to up its hold and control on public assemblies irrespective of their natures and intents. All laws on the books regarding public gathering must be enforced and organizers must be held for breach thereof. If laws and ordinances on the books are outdated and insufficient, then there is need to think about contemporizing our public assembly laws to prevent disorderliness, violence and even death as we saw in New Kru Town last week.
THE PUBLIC, TOO, mainly political activists, need to understand and accept the compelling reasons for control on public gatherings. Taking control is only to ensure orderliness that ensure security and safety of lives of gatherers. It does not amount to a clampdown or draconian acts.
ONCE AGAIN, OUR sympathies to people of New Kru Town and other communities where victims and injured persons came from. May God provide solace and comfort to you during these difficult times of yours.