OP-ED: Police Partly Responsible for Mob Violence in Liberia

The Liberian government needs to stop pretending that the ubiquitous occurrences of mob violence are anything unusual. They are not.

Just this year, there have been several incidents of mob violence. The most recent one took place in Ganta after what was described as a ritualistic killing. The mob violence resulted in the destruction of property and the death of one person. Another incident took place in Paynesville after motorcyclists believed that their comrade was killed by a police officer. In March, police reinforcement had to be called from Voinjama to calm tensions in Zorzor after rioting began following the death of a woman.

Every time this happens, we see either the Minister of Justice, Minister of Internal Affairs or another government official make a statement about convening a committee to investigate the issue. They tell the public they will present the findings of the investigation which never seem to be released to the public. Or at least if the findings are released, they are done as secretly as possible.

The charred remains of Alvino Hotel, owned by Prince Howard. Photo: Arrington Ballah

The charred remains of Alvino Hotel, owned by Prince Howard, the result of mob violence in Ganta. Photo: Arrington Ballah

Even if the results of the investigations are not disclosed to the public, there is still a need to hold someone accountable. In such cases, authorities tend to focus exclusively on the parties directly involved, as if each instance is isolated. In the Ganta case, the motorcyclists were prohibited from operating while a witch hunt was allegedly being conducted to determine the individuals who were involved. In the Paynesville case, motorcyclists were banned from certain parts of the city.

State actors almost are never to blame. We never see any admission of culpability for the police not investigating previous cases promptly. It is usually the public’s frustration of the inability or rather unwillingness of the government to dispense justice that drives them to take the law into their hands.

The police also never issue public apologies for not employing the right tactics to de-escalate situations or for not putting in place a proper system to allow them to be more responsive to these incidents.

The Bush Chicken red light flames

Paynesville’s Red Light Junction in flames as a result of mob action. Photo: Sheik Jalloh.


In Liberia, one cannot rely on dialing an emergency number like 911. The number never works when called. In places like Ganta, residents often call radio stations first, which then alerts the police. However, there have been a couple of cases in Ganta over the past months where journalists have arrived at the scene of a crime an hour before any police official does. Why is it that government organizations like the police who are better equipped and better funded than community radio stations consistently demonstrate that they are less capable of detecting and responding to security issues?

In Kenya, when security forces consistently failed to repel attacks by the terrorist group Al-Shabab, the defense minister was fired, and the police chief resigned. When will we see such actions in Liberia?

Instead, we pretend as if these violent acts are so out of the ordinary that they require special committees to investigate them. It’s time that our police evolve to routinely and swiftly investigate criminal cases without being prompted by mob violence.

Featured photo by Together Liberia

Jefferson is a co-owner of The Bush Chicken. He has a Masters in Transportation Infrastructure and Systems Engineering.

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