By Atty Philip N.Wesseh (PNW)
Last week as I said in commemoration of this year’s Independence Day celebration of the United States of America, I was writing an article to look at the issue of benefits of this traditional friendship between the United States and Liberia in certain areas. But as I said last week, just as I was about to go into the article, I received information about the arrest of journalist Octavin Williams by the police for allegedly driving a vehicle with foreign plate. And so I changed gear and dealt with that issue, terming such an arrest as a mistake by the police.
Interestingly, just as we were about to go to bed, information began to filter in about violent acts by some residents of Zolowee community in Yekepa, Nimba County. The residents were protesting for the alleged failure of company to meet certain conditions are demands. The protest action reportedly turned violent as some properties were destroyed and several police officers injured. They even attempted to burn a bridge thatconnects Sanniquellie to that of the company.
According to their complaint submitted, the residents said their protest action was owing to the failure of Arcelor Mittal to address the impact of mining operation on the local communities, and some compliance issues they resolved to peacefully express their grievances through a march. They said their action was the failure of both the Government of Liberia and ArcelorMittal to address their concerns after several appeals made by them.
The residents who raised several issues against the company, pointed out in a resolution that cognizant of the environmental and social impacts of mining activities experienced between 1973 and early 1990s, LAMCO and LIMINCO operations in the area, which is now been taken over by ArcelorMittal. They said this operation also poses threats and environmental destination, deforestation, dissolution, displacement, pollution, contamination of the soil, water, increased pollution, destroy and disturb the ecosystems and habitats, and realize that if these concernscannot be brought to the attention of Arcelor Mittal Management and the Government of Liberia for peaceful resolution, according to the citizens, it would further deteriorate.
Unsurprisingly, since the incident last week, there has been plethora of reactions from many including the Government of Liberia, the Press Union of Liberia(PUL), and the Legislative Caucus of the county. As expected, there have been calls for the prosecution of those who have been arrested in connection with this latest violent action against the company. Many believe that if nothing is done about this, this would be a signal of lawlessness, something that has the propensity to discourage would-be investors in this country that needs huge investment to also tackle the issue of unemployment.
I heard about the issue of prosecution of those who have been arrested in connection with this latest act I see this as another joke because many times whenever people are arrested about this, the nation only hears about arrest and nothing is heard about prosecution. As a result, people go on committing these lawless acts, knowing fully that nothing would come out of their actions.
It is common sense that laws are made to guide the conduct and behavior of people. This is why these laws go with certain punishments for those who violate them. These punishments are intended to serve for the purposes for deterrence and rehabilitation, just to name a few. But in Liberia, it seems that this is the opposite as people who violet some of the laws go Scott free. In other words, this country has institutionalized impunity because many times, people who are involved in violent acts against the laws go free without being prosecuted.
Whenever these incidents happened, there would always be report of arrest anddetention. From there, nothing else is heard about those who it was reported had been arrested in connection with certain violent acts. It is an open secret that many times people even set police station ablaze and nothing is heard about those arrested. Because of the failure on the part of the constituted authorities to make use of the due process or the rule of law, violence is now like a culture in our society.
My main reasons for trying to writhe article in commemoration of America’s Independence Day last week on that country and Liberia’s traditional friendship was basically on the issue of the enforcement of the laws. Like any other society, there are also people in the United States that violate the laws of that country. But one thing that is clear is that those people are prosecuted. Even if it means it would take time to apprehend them to be followed by prosecution, such persons would be pursued by that country’s government to have those involved face the full weight of the law for their alleged acts.
Conversely in the Liberian society, it is business as usual. Whenever people are accused of committing crime and are arrested, that is the end of the ball game. And so impunity is the order of the day. Today, we are vociferously condemning the violence in Nimba and calling for the alleged perpetrators to be brought to justice, but I tell you, nothing will come out of this. This issue of prosecution is just another big joke; take it or leave it.
Again, if we are traditional friends of the United States, then, we must follow those good things like law enforcement, the rule of law and the due process of law. This, I believe, would serve as deterrence to others who would want to circumvent the law.I should not be misconstrued as suggesting that prosecution means a crime-free society. No, this is not the argument. The point is that it sends a signal that a particular society believes in the rule of law and the due process of law. There would always be deviants or miscreants, but it is only the laws that serve as a guider or checkpoint.
Until we as a people and nation realize that lawlessness can only be curtailed by prosecuting those accused of violating the laws of the land, as this would also discourage impunity in the society, as it is done with our traditional friends, the United States of America, IREST MY CASE.