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Ganta at a standstill

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Ganta Violence NDGanta city in Nimba County is at a standstill as dusk-to-dawn (6 pm to 6 am) curfew remain imposed. The curfew was imposed on Wednesday, September 30, by the Government in response to a bloody violence in the heavily populated commercial city.

The NewDawn correspondent in Nimba said schools, shops, stores and other business centers remained closed Thursday in the provincial town, which is situated near the border with neighboring Guinea following bloody unrest Wednesday by angry residents, predominantly commercial motorcyclists in what is clearly a revenge attack for the death of a colleague that left at least one person dead and properties set ablaze, including a police station, among others.

The streets of Ganta have largely been described as a ghost town with heavy police presence. A total of 55 arrests have been made following the riot. Three of those arrested are being held in connection with the death of the late motorcyclist Melton Wehgbay, whose corpse was found near a United Methodist Church compound.

The Liberian government dispatched a high-level team of officials Thursday to Nimba, including the Ministers of Justice, Internal Affairs and Information, to assess situation on the ground. Meanwhile, women of Nimba have presented a petition to the government, citing the lack of justice, while the Christian community there is calling for fast and prayers to stamp violence out of the county, whose youths are predominantly ex-fighters.

At the same time, police in the commercial city have confirmed the arrest of 55 suspects in connection with Wednesday’s violent. Police authorities are announcing more arrests after deploying riot officers of the Emergency Response Unit or ERU from Monrovia and Police Support Unit or PSU from the Gbarnga Regional Hub to Ganta in response to the Wednesday’s chaos.

Motorcyclists, together with some market women and residents of Ganta, staged the riot, but Deputy Police Spokesman Lewis Norman told reporters Thursday that most of the citizens backed-off when it reached the point of violence.

The rioters reportedly set 22 detainees free from police cells and then set the police station ablaze; but Mr. Norman stressed that the attention of the police was on the rioters, adding that those arrested are expected to face investigation.

The violence began when a dead body, believed to be that of a motorcyclist, was discovered around the United Methodist Compound in Ganta, with parts allegedly extracted. There were road blocks set in Ganta as rioters burnt down the police station and vandalized other public and private places, including the Drugs Enforcement Agency Office, a local hotel and the residence of Mr. Prince Howard, who the rioters tried to link to the death.

According to Mr. Norman, the curfew imposed on Wednesday will last for three days from 6pm to 6am. In a related development, members of the Nimba Legislative Caucus are calling for calm in the county following the violent demonstrations.

In a press release issued here, the caucus condemns the acts of gruesome murder of some of its citizens and the wanton destruction of properties by some unscrupulous individuals, which it described as barbaric, unlawful and uncivilized.

The caucus calls on the citizenry of Nimba to remain calm as it is making every necessary effort through the requisite authorities to find a harmonious resolution to the crisis. Lastly, the caucus says it is dispatching a two-man delegation to ascertain from the county administration what actually led to the incident on Wednesday, 30 September, in Ganta, Nimba County.

By Frankly Doloquee & Winston W. Parley -Edited by Jonathan Browne

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