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Army Chief defends police’s action

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By Lincoln G. Peters (Contributors)

Liberia’s Army Chief of Staff Major General Prince Charles Johnson, III, has defended police’s response to recent violent protests here, saying the action of the Liberia National Police (LNP) to use non-lethal weapons to disperse protesters in recent days was in conformity with the rules of engagement.

Giving his perspectives on police’s response to recent violent protests inclusive of the campus-based Student Unification Party (SUP) protest, Gen. Johnson said “Whenever a protected area is used as an advantage point or base for an opposing force, that place is no longer protected under the humanitarian law.” 

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In an exclusive interview with this paper Wednesday, 4 August 2021, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) said the rules of engagement or the Geneva Convention calls for lethal or non-lethal weapons to be used, depending on the opposing force that is occupying the area [used as an advantage point by an opposing force].

A day after students at the University of Liberia (UL) protested to compel the administration to cancel its e-Learning or online learning program at the institution, another group of protesters besieged the Temple of Justice and the entrance of the LNP headquarters to demand speedy justice over the death of their kinsman Alieu Sheriff. 

The two separate protests between Monday and Tuesday this week ended in violence, and police tear-gassed partakers.

However, Gen. Johnson noted that within the rules of engagement, once the security apparatus on the ground cannot handle the situation, it’s their right to call for more force to quiet down the situation or use lethal weapons.

Gen. Johnson stressed the need to be very careful when analyzing issues, saying condemnation against the police over their response is not good because the critics don’t have any knowledge about the rules of engagement or the use of lethal weapons. 

“Their action was intended to disperse the protesters instead of causing harm as being insinuated in the public,” Maj. Gen. Johnson argued.

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However, he called on Liberians to be peaceful and seek sufficient knowledge before speaking against issues in the country, adding that the misguided information released in the public is very dangerous.

“When the students of the University of Liberia were protesting, they were guided by the Liberia National Police without force. However, when they turned violent and began to engage [in] stone-throwing, the police [had] no other option under the rules of engagement but to use lethal weapons because they too can’t throw stones like ordinary citizens,” Gen. Johnson noted.

He said even though it’s their right to protest, the protesters were also in violation of others’ rights because they obstructed the free movement of others who were about their normal business.

Major Johnson explained that when the protesters were protesting, they set up roadblocks and stopped the flow of traffic in Central Monrovia, something he added, infringed on the rights of other peaceful citizens.https://thenewdawnliberia.com/liberia-police-launch-teargas-at-angry-protesters/ Editing by Winston W. Parley

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