Yesterday’s Protest Action In Congo Town: Where Is The Rule Of Law

By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)

Yesterday I was among three panelists invited by LBS’s super morning Show to discuss the “media component” of the oration delivered by the Chairman of the Unity Party (UP) Cllr. Varney Sherman at the 166th Independence Day celebration held in Tubmanburg, Bomi County on July 26. The other two panelists were Sylvester Varney Paasewe of the Ministry of Information and Ambrose Nmah, the Director General of the Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS).  On the portion in his oration, Cllr. Sherman recounted the achievements and accomplishments of the government, but pointed out that not much was disseminated on these successes and therefore called for the revamping of the information structure.

In voicing out his disappointment on this he said, “I am however concerned that enough information about these achievements and accomplishments have not flowed to the Liberian public at large and too many people, even within Monrovia and its immediate environs don’t know enough about these achievements and accomplishments. The absence of information to the Liberian people about these achievements and accomplishments is a serious deficiency that must be remedied immediately.  It should be acknowledged that these accomplishments and achievements contribute to peace and reconciliation in our country. I therefore recommend very strongly that the information dissemination structure and process of this Government be revamped and adequately supported to provide all information about the accomplishments and achievements of this Government; a dissemination of information in a way that it permeates every sector of our country.”

Shortly after exhaustively discussing the issue on the program, while en route to                                                               Monrovia, we saw a group of residents in the Congo Town area, around the area in which the demolition exercise took place recently with road blocks set up. Some of us attempted to use the side to avoid the road blocks, but as we made the attempts, they expanded the road blocks to even the sides of the road, thus preventing vehicles from plying the area. Those who gathered, including women, some of them with their children, carried placards.

As the residents were gathering, a group of police officers arrived on the scene. The police were seen discussing with the protesting residents, some of whom were very aggressive. Later, the police advised those in vehicles to use the “back road” of Congo Town to avoid any problem. With that, we adhered to the advice of the police officers   and left the scene.

Our reporters who went on the scene later were told by the protesting residents that they decided on this course of action to claim government’s attention to address their plights. They said since the demolition exercise that affected them, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and the District Representative have ignored their plights as they and their children continue to sleep in the dew  and on the street.

According to the victims, they will remain on the street and will continue with the blockading as long as the government continues to ignore their situation. Some of them carried placards with inscriptions: “NOCAL is forcing us out of our land, we will resist; No NOCAL, this is our legitimate property and will not move from here; Our rights have been violated, we will fight for our rights,” among others. The affected residents said they have exerted every effort to settle the problem with the government but their efforts proved futile as no one cares about what is ongoing while their children are being affected due to the unsafe environment where they are sleeping since their buildings were demolished by Madam Grace Manor and NOCAL.

Frankly, while I do not want to dwell into the actual case, I wish to deal with the action of the residents. As one of the placards said that they are the “legitimate” owners of the property, it means that the best they can do is to challenge this demolition exercise in court to get their properties back. But to create road blocks, thus affecting the flow of traffic in the area is not called for. As these residents have said that their “rights have been violated,” by those who are claiming too to be the legitimate owners of the land, the best option is to resort to the rule of law and not road blocks, as was done yesterday.

We have always said, “This is a country of laws and not men, therefore, all those who feel offended one way or the other, should always use the law for redress. To do this, is to apply the rule of laws which is principally “the rule followed by a court that determines the substantive position of the parties.”

Additionally, according to the Black’s Law dictionary is “the doctrine that every person is subject to the ordinary law within the jurisdiction.” In other words, this means that all should be treated equally before the law, and as such, if anyone feels offended, the law should be the guide of that person. This means that to do anything other than the law is not right, as it is repeatedly said that “what is not done legally is not done at all.”

Henceforth, in this matter at bar, these residents should not use street protest as the panacea for their plights. Since they are sure of being the legitimate owners of the land and that it was wrongfully taken from them, I advise that they go to court and end such a protest, as it is not the best remedy. Can you imagine what will be the consequence or result should anyone who feels offended resort to arbitrary action? Certainly, there will be this culture of lawlessness, thereby bringing about a chaotic society.

Let the residents resort to the laws, as laws are made to protect all of us. I rest my case.