From Grand Gedeh To Monrovia With Mixed Feelings: The issue Of The Rebel-Looking Security Checkpoints
By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)
One of the advantages of travelling from one place to another is that it affords one the opportunity to see things that may help one to get an understanding of a particular place and also to see some of the difficulties being faced by people in a particular region. This is why I still believe in a Kru parable that says , “One who travels sees lots of things than one who sits in one place.”
Truly to this, during my recent trip to Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County to attend the First Assembly of the Liberian National Bar Association (LNBA) of which I am a new member, I saw the ongoing road development projects from Margibi to Bong and Nimbi Counties. The trip afforded me the opportunity to see the road being built between Bong and Nimba Counties, something I saw for the first time, as I am aware of the ongoing development or pavement of the road from Redlight to Gbarnga.
It is a known fact that my trip to Zwedru was principally to attend and participate in the LNBA Assembly, but as someone with journalistic background, I always see it as my obligation to share some of my experiences whenever I travel, whether locally or internationally. Indeed I am impressed with the ongoing works of road construction from Redlight to Nimba County. But the only shameful things I saw from Nimba to Grand Gedeh Counties were the makeshift security checkpoints being manned by uniformed Immigration and police officers.
As I stated earlier, while I appreciate the roads’ construction which I know are useful for development, especially being fully aware that roads are the first step to development, I felt embarrassed and disappointed as a Liberian for the kinds of checkpoints I saw in those areas. I am concerned about the appearance of the checkpoints because they do not represent those of a civilized or a democratic government, which should be concerned about national security. Besides, they remind some of our citizens of the ugly past during the time of the civil conflict, when they became instruments for harassment, intimidation and death.
Someone may disagree with me to say that those makeshift checkpoints were in existence prior to the civil conflict. While this is true, during the time of the conflict, the way and manner in which those checkpoints were used, always brings to mind bad feelings and reflection, as they go through those kind of ‘Rebel-like’ checkpoints, one of which was known as, “God Bless You Checkpoint,” which simply meant at the time of the conflict if one went through those checkpoints without being killed, raped, harassed or intimidated, then, it was the “blessing of God”.
But let me say that I am impressed with the checkpoints in Salala, Bong County; it is quite different from those one on the way from Gbarnga itself to Grand Gedeh. As we travelled from Gbarnga to Zwedru, I saw government checkpoints like those of former rebels, as officers there are using ropes with torn cloths dangling on them. More disappointing is the fact that those Immigration and police officers at these checkpoints are not uniformed, something that reminds one of the days of rebels, which we later agreed, because of the sake of peace, to be referred to as “combatants.”
Understandably, the issue of using Chinese light because of the lack of electricity in those areas can be accepted. But there can be no reason for the appearance of the checkpoints and the issue of uniforms for those who man these checkpoints. If these checkpoints have not been developed because of the lack of funds, then, this government that enjoys the goodwill of the international community should make an appeal to these partners to erect better checkpoints.
Howbeit, I believe that if this government launches a program on this matter, I am of the conviction that this will produce positive result, but, in all sincerity, the kinds of checkpoints we have are complete disgrace and embarrassment to this country.
Today, I am making reference to these three counties, but I believe that this is just a tip of the iceberg. Again, I say emphatically that to have a civilized and democratic government, with ‘rebel-looking’ or ‘rebel-like’ checkpoints, is my concern.
Also, I am concerned about the security implications. Let me not be misconstrued as being against checkpoints. No, this is not the case. I am aware of the functions of checkpoints. But what I had seen and continue to see other parts of the country does not represent this country. Hence, something must be done to improve the situation. I REST MY CASE.