In Enforcing New Measures To Contain Ebola: Monrovia Paralyzed…Businesses Closed; Several Injured In Stone Throwing -Shooting Incident

By Morrison O.G. Sayon & Timothy T. Seaklon

Active commercial activities and the mobility of residents of Monrovia were yesterday impeded when news broke out that the densely populated slum community of West Point has been quarantined by Government. West Point is the home of over 20,000 of Liberia’s population.

Liberian soldiers used live bullets and tear gas to disburse angry crowd who were protesting the evacuation of the Township Commissioner and her family from the quarantined community. The crowd threw stones at security forces as a means of protesting the evacuation of the Commissioner. They complained that it was wrong to evacuate the Township Commissioner and her family when thousands of residents were being quarantined.

But state security succeeded in taking away the Commissioner and her family amidst heavy tension. In the process according to our reporter, a twelve-year old boy sustained serious injury. Residents said the injury was a bullet wound but the AFL dismissed the information saying that the little boy was hooked by a barb wire while running. The actual cause of the boy’s injury is yet to be established.

The situation led to serious tension between state securities and residents of the quarantined township of West Point as police fired tear gear at protesters vehemently protesting the quarantining of their community without prior notice.

Soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia and police early Tuesday morning were deployed at strategic points leading to West Point. Mechlin Street, Randall Street, Coleman Hill, Water Street, the newly constructed Zulu Domah Bridge in Vai Town were all blocked by security forces to prevent the movement of vehicles and pedestrians from entering West Point.

As a result, the densely populated city of Monrovia remained tensed on Wednesday as stores and business houses could not open their doors for normal business transactions. State security deployed in West Point stopped residents of the community from moving about within the township. Earlier, residents threatened to burst into stores and other business entities to get food.

The threat by the angry residents resulted to the heavy deployment of security including AFL soldiers and police at all entry points to West Point while the entire Waterside General Market has also been quarantined thus, preventing normal business activities in that part of the city.

Following several hours of closure, Police Deputy Director for Operations, Abraham Kromah, got on the street to encourage businesses to reopen their doors to the public. He told the public that there was nothing to fear as the situation has been put under control.

President Sirleaf Tuesday evening announced the quarantining of the communities of West Point in Monrovia and Dolo’s Town in Margibi County respectively. The Liberian leader in making the pronouncement said that the two communities will be quarantined effective Wednesday (yesterday) beginning at 6:00 p.m. She warned that there will be absolutely no movement in and out of West Point and Dolo’s Town.

The quarantining of the congested community of West Point created serious pandemonium in and around the city of Monrovia as soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia and officers of the Liberia National Police moved in the area to effect government’s mandate that no resident or visitor leaves the community.

Residents of the community threatened late Tuesday evening when President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf announced the imposition of the closure of all video centers by 6:00 p.m. daily, as well as the closure of all entertainment centers.

According to an Executive Mansion release, the Liberian leader announced these measures in a nationwide address late Tuesday evening, stressing that the additional measures are intended to contain the spread of the Ebola virus disease and particularly in those areas of intensity.

“Fellow citizens, these measures are meant to save lives and make the Government’s efforts to combat this disease made more effective and timely,” she pointed out, adding, “If we can all do our part, we can defeat this disease.”

She noted that Government, supported by citizens’ groups and partners, continue to work assiduously to combat the Ebola virus disease, emphasizing that there has been some success including several persons who have been cured from the disease. She named structures and systems that have been put in place, the human and financial resources that have been mobilized and stabilization in a few of the response communities.

However, President Sirleaf, also chair of the National Task Force on Ebola, admitted that they have been unable to control the spread due to continued denials, cultural burying practices, disregard for the advice of health workers and disrespect for the warnings by Government.

In a related development, at a briefing yesterday held at the Ministry of Information, Deputy Information Minister, Isaac Jackson said the Government of Liberia is appealing to the people of West Point to be calm.

Minister Jackson said the government is mobilizing resources to help the people of West Point with the necessary food items in the not too distance future.

Minister Jackson also used the occasion to clarify that the curfew that was imposed yesterday by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf does not apply to Monrovia alone but the entire country.

He stated further that the government imposed the curfew because some individuals are hiding the sick and the dead as a result of the deadly Ebola virus only to use the cover of darkness to bury their dead relatives.

He noted that the curfew is intended to stop this practice as it has the propensity to further spread the Ebola virus to those who are not infected.

Meanwhile, following serious pandemonium in the Township of West Point and other part of Monrovia yesterday, calm has finally returned to the area with the intervention of state security.

A team of journalists who visited the township late yesterday evening observed that security forces deployed in the area including soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia, the Liberia National Police and others have succeeded in restoring calm in the densely populated community.

During the journalists’ visit, it was observed that state securities are engaging residents of the quarantined community to return to their various houses as government was doing everything possible to provide food, medication and other basic necessities for those in the community.

It was also observed that nothing was seriously damaged in the community and news that the AFL soldiers killed and wounded several persons in West Point had no iota of truth. The commotion was a result of an attempt by police to evacuate the Township Commissioner from West Point.

As a result the city of Monrovia became paralyzed when confusion broke out between residents of West Point and security forces deployed in the quarantined community. Meanwhile, our reporter also observed trucks loaded with rice and other assorted items moving into the community.