By Morrison O.G. Sayon
It is no doubt that the most memorable events of 2014 are the outbreak of the deadly Ebola epidemic that claimed the lives of over three thousands of our fellow compatriots, the quarantining of the densely populated slum community of West Point which resulted to the death of little Shaki Kamara and the conduct of the Special Senatorial Election amidst the Ebola menace. In the month of March 2014, authorities at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare reported the first case of the Ebola disease in Lofa County in northern Liberia. The disease later began to spread to other parts of the country amidst initial public denial. As Monrovia and its surroundings became preys to the disease, President Sirleaf declared the disease a National Emergency in June 2014. That was followed by the establishment of the National Task Force on Ebola, chaired by the President.
As the prevalence of the infection of the disease intensified, several lives were lost, including those of many health workers. That resulted to the closure of key health facilities in several parts of the country including the John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital, ELWA Hospital and the St. Joseph’s Catholic Hospital.
Consequently, the President on August 6, 2014, declared a State of Emergency, equating the epidemic to an unrest affecting the existence, security and well-being of the Republic amounting to a clear and present danger. In the same vein, the President alluded to the possible institution by Government of extraordinary measures, including, if need be, the suspensions of certain rights and privileges.
Despite the aforesaid measures and attempts to deploy more health workers and to open new Ebola Treatment Centers with the help of the international community, the disease continues its spread to all political sub-divisions of the country.
Reuters quoted WHO on October 22 as saying as of October 19, 2014, Liberia has been worst hit, with 4,665 recorded cases and 2,705 deaths, followed by Sierra Leone 3,706 cases and 1,259 deaths. Guinea where the outbreak originated has had 1,540 cases and 904 deaths.
The West Point Incident
On August 20, 2014, residents of West Point woke up with the news that their community has been quarantined by the Government of Liberia. Prior to the quarantining of the Township, some residents went on the rampage by vandalizing the holding center that was built by government without the consent of community dwellers. The residents said their action was based on the fact that they were not informed about the building of a Holding Center in their community.
But few days following the action of the West Pointers, Government deployed security personnel at every entry point of the township on the morning of August 20, 2014 and announced that the township along with Dolo Town in Margibi County have been quarantined.
However, residents of West Point vehemently protested the action by government especially when security forces attempted evacuating the Mayor of the city, Madam Miatta Flowers who was already in the township when the community was being quarantined.
The situation resulted to serious commotion between residents of the township and state security including armed officers of the Liberia National Police and soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL).
As the situation unfolded, the police and soldiers began shooting live bullets among the crowd thus resulting to the shooting of little Shaki Kamara in the legs and another boy identified as Titus in the stomach.
Few hours later, Kamara was pronounced dead at the Redemption Hospital after he was refused by authorities of the JFK Hospital. Little Kamara reportedly bled profusely prior to his death. Immediately following the shooting incident, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf set up a ten-man committee to probe the situation that led to the shooting but the committee’s report was never made available to the public.
Later, President Sirleaf took the matter to the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR) to investigate the situation, but Liberians were disappointed when the Commission could not identify the shooters or the killer(s) of little Shaki Kamara.
The Special Senatorial Election
Following the second outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease with its fear and panic, coupled with restrictions imposed by government to fight the virus, the National Elections Commission informed relevant state authorities that the conduct of the Special Senatorial Election under those conditions on October 14, 2014, the date set by law (Articles 46 and 83 and the new Elections Lawof 1986) for such election, would not be prudent.
The Commission therefore recommended to Government to revoke the necessary legal provisions that would allow for the suspension of the conduct of the Special Senatorial Election on October 14, 2014. In response, President Sirleaf on October 4, 2014, issued a proclamation suspending the conduct of the Special Senatorial Election originally scheduled for October 14, 2014. Subsequently, the National Legislature, on October 10, 2014, adopted Joint Resolution #002/20 14 endorsing the Presidential proclamation of October 4, 2014. The Joint Resolution which was approved by the President of Liberia, among other things, mandated the NEC to conduct the Special Senatorial Election no later than December 20, 2014. The Joint Resolution further authorized the Commission to consult with relevant stakeholders in the electoral process to select a new date for the conduct of the election subject to the approval by the Legislature.
During the consultative process with stakeholders, the majority recommended, and the Commission concurred, that the Special Senatorial Election be conducted on December 16, 2014 in order to conform to the time frame prescribed by the Joint Resolution.
While the NEC was in the process of conducting the Senatorial Election, some prominent citizens filed a writ of injunction to the Supreme Court of Liberia requesting for a stay order since according to them NEC did not publish the list of registered voters and other alleged irregularities. Later, the high court ruled that the election should be held and therefore, the Commission proceeded with the electoral process and conducted the Special Senatorial Election on December 20, 2014.
The election ended with ten of the incumbent including Senate Pro-tempore, Gbehnzongar Findley losing their respective seats to new Senators.