Declaration Of State Of Emergency: Is There Really A “Threat” Or “Outbreak Of War?”

Liberia effective as of August 6, 2014 for a period of 90 days. Under this State of Emergency, the Government will institute extraordinary measures, including, if need be, the suspensions of certain rights and privileges.

Earlier, in making reference to the outbreak, the Liberian leader pointed out, “our nation is currently affected by the deadly Ebola virus and the disease has now spread to eight counties. Liberia is among three countries experiencing an unprecedented outbreak of the virus, the larger ever since this virus was first discovered. It now poses serious risks to the health, safety, security and welfare of our nation. And beyond the public health risk, the disease is now undermining the economic stability of our country to the tone of millions of dollars in lost revenue, productivity and economic activity.

She said although the government has taken measures through her by instructing that all non-essential government staff to stay home for 30 days, ordered the closure of schools, and authorized the fumigation of all public buildings and the shutting down of markets in affected areas and have restricted movements in other areas while the threat continues to grow. Ignorance, poverty, as well as entrenched religious and cultural practices continue to exacerbate the spread of the disease especially in the counties.

It is apparently based on this, the President and her government decided to declare this State of Emergency, to constitutionally empower the government take certain actions, to avoid any constitutional and legal crisis. Chapter IX, under the caption: “Emergency Powers, which is being cited by the President states in Article86 (a(b): (a)The President may, in consultation with the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro-tempore of the Senate, proclaim and declare the existence of a State of Emergency in the Republic or any part thereof. Acting pursuant thereto, the President may suspend or affect certain rights, freedoms and guarantee contained in this Constitution and exercise such other emergency powers as may be necessary and appropriate to take care of the emergency, subject, however, to the limitations contained in this chapter. (b) A State of Emergency may be declared only where there is a threat or outbreak of war or where there is civil unrest affecting the existence, security or wellbeing of the Republic amounting to a clear and present danger.

Unsurprisingly, since the declaration by the President on this matter; there have been mixed reactions in some quarters. Some said the decision was not necessary at this time for economic reasons, while others said the provision of the constitutionality on such matter relating to “war” does not exist, as there is no threat, as would be in the case of insurrection or invasion, as experienced in the past. Others are looking at it from its economic implications at this time of hardship.

Just Friday a group termed the decision as “poor political judgment.” In a statement published by the DAILY OBSERVER, the group-The Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD) termed as a “misstep and poor political judgment “government’s declaration of a national state of emergency. President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf on Wednesday declared a “State of Emergency “and called for the legislative support in accordance with the 1986 Constitution.

Addressing a news conference last Thursday in Monrovia ,IREDD Senior Policy Director, Dan T. Saryee, noted that the declaration neither offered any result oriented solution to the economic reasons cited nor did it provide any direct solution to the eradication of Ebola from ”poverty stricken Liberians.”The international research group pointed out that the government’s decision will only exacerbate hardship, escalate vulnerability of the people to hunger and death by curable diseases- (Malaria, typhoid, diarrhea, etc.)and further deny the country of much needed revenues.

threatens one’s freedom to information. Today, people are being prosecuted for this kind of war against others.

Now on the issue at bar as to whether or not the outbreak of this disease can be likened to a “threat” or “outbreak of war” against the nation, I will unequivocally say a BIG YES; the disease which has now claimed more than 200 lives is a threat or war against this nation. Therefore, action should be taken as would have been with armed conflict, to protect the lives of the citizenry. It is common sense that one of the functions of any government is that which relates to the welfare and wellbeing of its people.

In recent time, this government has come under attacks for not acting properly during the outbreak of the disease in the initial stage. The government is blamed for not being proactive something many believe could have averted this second outbreak, which is claiming more lives.

In view of this constitutional provision, the President acted properly by declaring this because this is as threat to the nation. The provision clearly and succinctly states, (b) A state of emergency may be declared only where there is a threat or outbreak of war or where there is civil unrest affecting the existence, security or wellbeing of the Republic amounting to a clear and present.”

A threat is defined as “an indication of imminent danger, harm or evil; to threaten.” From the legal perspective, the Black’s Law Dictionary refers to threat as, “an approaching menace;” or“a person of thing that might well cause harm.” Indisputably, unlike in the initial outbreak, it is now accepted indisputably; it is now accepted that Ebola is here and that there is no cure for it.

To make long matter short, Ebola is a threat to this country, as such; the ongoing war against its spread must be intensified. Again, the President acted properly in keeping with that constitutional provision to deal with this threat. However, our concerns should now be to ensure that the government does not abuse this declaration by unnecessarily restricting certain things, like freedom of the press and freedom of speech and that it would focus on what is needed such as the provision of the logistics, protective materials for health doctors, re-opening of major hospitals in this fight, as not all presently sick persons are affected by the disease.

At the same time, the government, henceforth, should be mindful and careful of its communication strategies because this is necessary against the spread of this disease. There should be as “CLEARING HOUSE,” on all matters relating to the campaign before being sent for public consumption. We must realize that this is a “threat” and or an “outbreak of war” against the people of this country. The declaration of the State of Emergency is one thing, and doing those things necessary by the government in this fight is another thing.

Let me conclude by reiterating that the President acted properly in line with the Constitution, as this disease is a threat and war against the people of this country, but we must beware that saying something and doing otherwise is another thing. This requires us to act in a civilized and respectful manner, to keep the government’s feet to the fire. The fight against Ebola must not be business as usual, and at the same time we should ensure that donations being made to curtail the spread of this pestilence, are used for the intended purpose. I REST MY CASE.

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