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The Terror of Armed Robbery

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There are constant reports and real evidence indicating that armed robbers continue to attack, injure, and rob residents in various communities and neighborhoods, at varying times and seasons, both in and around Monrovia, a situation that has created unending panic for many people, a people already traumatized and afflicted by war.

What Is the Government Doing about It?

Some believe that the government has lost the war against armed robbery, while others say the police are trying, but they lack the resources to curb the act. Defenseless citizens, therefore, are left at the mercy of the armed robbers roaming various parts of the country, especially Monrovia.

Nonetheless, there is the temptation for some to contend that there’s nothing like an armed-robbery problem in Monrovia or its environs, that the cases reported are isolated ones. One could be tempted to say this if his area has never been attacked, or has not been attacked in a long time.

Also, those who are well-protected, protected either because they are top government officials, because they are well-connected, or because they have the means to be so protected may not feel the pinch of the problem and, therefore, they may not recognize the urgency with which the Sirleaf-led government must tackle the problem.

But the reality is that armed robbers continue to attack and inflict pain on families and communities. For instance, the FOCUS newspaper reported on Monday that armed robbers attacked a 59-year-old woman around 6:am in Central Monrovia and took away LD17,000.00, a mobile phone, and some jewelry from her just last Friday. Two police officers came two hours after the crime. The Inquirer newspaper also reported on Monday that on the same Friday, armed robbers attacked at least two communities in Paynesville, injuring residents and taking away several valuable items. Several other newspapers have reported the same – that armed robbers are unleashing terror on the people. It is a weekly, if not a daily, nightmare for some people, and it has been on for a very long time.

For instance, a few months ago, a group of armed robbers attacked a house on the Duport Road, taking away at least three mobile phones, a laptop computer, a pen drive, US$100, LD2,000, a video desk, clothes, among other items. According to reports, there were about six armed robbers – could be more – with cutlasses and other weapons. The owner of the house is one Miatta Rogers, who lives in the house with her little child, as well as her brothers and sisters.

The same night, the armed robbers entered another house about 200 yards away from Miatta’s house and beat the owner – a man – with their cutlass.

Sometime ago, according to some residents in Paynesville, a group of armed robbers stormed a house and began asking the inhabitants to show all the money they had there. After they – the criminals – had searched all around without finding any huge amounts, they put their victims on the floor and gave each person several lashes, using their cutlasses.

The point to remember is that armed robbers are still ragging hell on many people. Many families live in constant trepidation. “We just leave our own with God-o,” remarked another woman whose house was attacked in Paynesville.

Many people are asking about the causes of the wave of crimes, especially armed robbery, going on in the country, as well as what could be done to deal with the situation.

From all indications, the situation poses a serious problem for all, especially for Liberians, both  in and out of the country. For Liberians living in Liberia, it is a problem because, while they are trying to put their lives back together after years of war, armed robbers are determined to make their post-war life unbearable and unlivable. For Liberians living outside the country and wanting to return home, they may be unwilling to do so because of the situation.

Those Behind the Crime of Armed Robbery

Concerning those who might be responsible for the increase in armed robbery – or, at least its occurrence – we venture to mention the following:

To begin with, some of those involved in armed robbery could be the unemployed. They could be doing so because of the lack of job opportunities, coupled with the high cost of living in the face of the high unemployment rate in the country. Many young people, both males and females, who have no employment opportunities and who desire to survive in a society like ours, may choose criminal activities such as armed robbery as the way out for them.

Also, there might be others who are involved in armed robbery from a purely vindictive position – they want to settle scores. In other words, some use armed robbery to get at others or to teach them a lesson, to revenge.

Still, others might just be pathological criminals and armed robbery is one of their activities. They sit and strategize with other criminals how to continue what is their normal activity – using arms to rob others.

Besides, some of these criminals could be ex-fighters who were used to such criminal activities during the war period so much that they think it should be the way of life in post-war Liberia, especially for those ex-fighters who were not properly demobilized and integrated into society.

One German proverb says, “A great war leaves a country with three armies: an army of cripples, an army of mourners, and an army of thieves.” The army of thieves comprises the armed robbers and other criminals left behind by the Liberian Civil War, and it – the army of thieves – may be around for a very long time.

Let’s not forget, though, that some of these armed robbers could very well be criminally minded members of the very state security that is supposed to protect the people. Unscrupulous individuals are found in every aspect of society, including the security forces we have around here.

Some Suggested Solutions

Having mentioned some possible categories of individuals who might be behind the crime of armed robbery, it’s necessary to suggest some ways in which the situation could be dealt with. Hence, I venture to propose the following means:

1.  The government should provide more job opportunities for its people, or create the conditions that will ensure the availability of jobs. In a country where some estimate unemployment rate at 70%, coupled with the high cost of living, some people will definitely choose to commit crime to survive, unfortunately.

2.  Let the government and the citizens promote the establishment and sustenance of community watch teams, especially for communities regularly hit by armed robbers, just as it was done to curb other wave of crimes in the past. In some instances, the citizens can better protect themselves than state security would do. This must be done with caution and supervision, of course.

3.  Government and UNMIL must beef up security in the country, especially the most affected areas such as Monrovia. The exercise should include increment of the number of patrolmen, especially at night, provision of the necessary logistics and so forth.

4.   The government should allow the citizens to use registered guns. Since the number of security officers is limited and since, even if the number were large, it is impossible to recognize and be at every possible crime scene, one of the best solutions would be to allow the citizens to have registered guns in their homes for self-protection. There are families who are complaining that the police never patrol their areas. Others say that when they try hard to contact the police, they (the police) take ages to arrive, usually after the crime has already been committed. If these families had registered guns in their homes, they could do something to protect themselves from the criminals. Since the police are not in the position to provide full security and protection for the people, let the people be given the opportunity to protect themselves in some way – allowing them to have and use registered guns.

I am aware that this is a hard and controversial proposal, especially considering the kind of society Liberia is, and considering what guns have done to this country. I’ll proffer four reasons why I say this:

First, there could be guns all over the place without the government being able to control the situation properly. Second, some could abuse the right to have and use registered guns – they could use it for the wrong purpose. Third, the purchase and maintenance could be too expensive for the common people who are the most vulnerable, and who form a greater part of the unemployed. Finally, the guns could fall into the hands of the very criminals who are terrorizing the people, thereby, increasing their capacity to unleash more terror on the people.

That said, I think policy makers should study all the options and come up with solutions to the problem our people face. There is a need for the people to be protected – whether by the government, by themselves or co-jointly.

The Sirleaf Government Must Act

If the Amos Sawyer-led interim government could protect the citizens from armed robbery and the series of bomb blasts occurring in bars and other places in Monrovia and its environs, then the Sirleaf-led government must also protect its people. If the Charles Taylor-led government, which received no international assistance, could protect its citizens from armed robbery, then the Sirleaf-led government, which is receiving a lot of assistance and resources, must do everything to protect the people against armed robbery. It must!

Believe me, folks. We will never stop following the issues.

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Paul Yeenie Harry can be contacted at 0880619323 or pyharry@yahoo.com

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