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AFL soldiers shouldn’t return to the past

It is highly regrettable that soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia would mobilize from barracks and move into a town to brutalize unarmed villagers, including pregnant women and children in apparent retribution, leaving at least 15 citizens wounded.

That’s exactly what transpired on Friday, 19 May in Wainsue, Jorquelleh District, Bong County in central Liberia when troops of the 23rd Infantry Brigade of the Armed Forces of Liberia from the Camp Tubman Military Barracks in Gbarnga ,drove in the town and flogged anyone who came their way in reprisal for a colleague soldier, who had have dispute with a resident of the area.

Reports gathered by our correspondent and corroborated by multiple sources, including Bong Representative George Mulbah, who also heads the Defense Committee of the lower House, County Superintendent Salena Poison Mappy, and others narrate that it all began when a feud developed between a female soldier and a male resident of Wainsue.

We did not immediately establish what led to the dispute, but the female soldier in question reportedly alerted four of her colleagues from the barracks to come in her defense. Eyewitnesses say one of the soldiers, dressed in plain clothes, allegedly slapped a civilian, but was counter-attacked. The soldiers then returned to barracks for reinforcement and mobilized a pick-up load of troops, who descended on the town, kicking and flogging anyone they encountered, inflicting serious bodily harm on the residents, including pregnant women and children. The wounded were admitted both at the C.B. Dunbar and Phebe Hospitals in the county with four of the victims reportedly on critical list.

Although the merit and demerit of the fracas are being investigated by authorities of the Camp Tubman Barracks along with officials of Bong, but the ugly situation reminds us of the dark days of brutal leadership and gross banditry when thugs under the guise of soldiers, indiscriminately violated the rights of innocent citizens.
We believe under no circumstances should a dispute between a soldier and a civilian warrant the marching of troops against an entire village, town or population. Thank God that there was no report of gunfire or use of live weapons, as this would have resulted to loss of lives.
The new AFL has been labeled as “Soldiers for good.” It should therefore exemplify this labeling in deeds and actions, particularly with the civilian population that it took oath to defend, including the Motherland.

When a soldier has misunderstanding with a civilian, specifically outside of barracks, the professional action to take is to report the issue to the civilian authority for prompt redress rather than moving troops against an entire community as was the case in Wainsue.

We do not want a replay of those days when soldiers grossly abused civilians and went with impunity. The new AFL must in all sincerity, demonstrate a departure from the past to continuously maintain the confidence of the citizenry. Overzealous individual soldiers who think the uniform and gun are a license to commit abuses should be told in no uncertain terms that such acts of sheer banditry have not place in a professionally discipline army that all Liberians envisage.

Consequently, we call for prompt investigation of the 19 May violence in Wainsue, Bong County against unarmed civilians, including pregnant woman and children by soldiers from the Camp Tubman Military Barracks so that the perpetrators may be brought to book to avoid a reoccurrence.

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