The new administration in Liberia has been criticized for its latest mis-step- “an authorization to the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) to shoot at sight, anyone who attempts to steal any of the navigation equipment, within the aerodome or on the airside of the Roberts International Aiport(RIA).”
Under the signature of the Liberia Airport Authority (LAA), the agency of the Liberian Government which is responsible for the supervision and management of all airports and their facilities except Air Traffic Control, Fire and Rescue, Security and Meterology, a public notice issued Tuesday said the agency, in collaboration with the country’s military, was adopting additional security measures to secure the premises of the country’s international airport from unlawful interferences.
The surprising and draconian decision by the Liberian government agency, considered as extra-judicial and having the propensity to draw the military into the potential killing of citizens for alleged theft said that there would be, “stringent patrols by armed men of the AFL at every entry point of the aerodome or airside of the RIA.”
Apparently, there is ongoing theft of airport navigational equipment by unknown individuals.
Security forces in Liberia in the past have been accused of gross human rights abuse and killing of citizens. A new professional national army was trained and stood up with assistance from international partners including the United States and the United Nations, following back to back wars in the 90s in the West African country.
Liberian activists and ordinary citizens took to social media and local call in talk shows to heavily criticize the decision of the country’s airport authority to issue an order to “shoot on sight” would be thieves who would unlawfully enter the premises of the international airport.. Some social media posters described the order as a repeat of past ses and called for it to be rescinded immediately.
The Liberian Defense Ministry quickly issued a statement distancing itself from the statement of the LAA, saying, ” …The AFL only take marching order from the AFL Command.”
In less than a day, the LAA clarified its earlier pronouncement saying, “the new security measures at the Roberts International Airport is actually not intended to harm or kill anyone as it has been misconstrued.”
In its attempt to clarify its position, the LAA Management , in a press statement issued late on Wednesday, said, ” These new security meansures as contained in the Announcement are only intended to deter interferences with the aerodome which sometimes lead to thefts of valuable navigational equipment…”
The LAA said, ” Anyone found trespassing within the Security Restricted Areas of the Airport will be arrested and dealt with in keeping with the Laws of Liberia…” and apologized for any embarrassment caused.
Some Liberians are calling for the dismisal of the Management of the airport authority; calling the initial statement to “shoot and kill’ reckless.
There has been no reaction from the Executive Mansion on the firestorm of the latest mis-step.
By Emmanuel Abalo
West African Journal Magazine