After less than 21 days of establishing a holding center in the township of West Point, recently quarantined by the Government of Liberia, I visited the center on Monday, September 1, 2014 on a fact finding mission to assess condition of inmates there.
I had earlier visited West Point Township during the quarantine period, and what I observed was very unbearable! I saw men, women and children behind a rope barricade erected by state security officers on duty, preventing entry into or exit from the township. Family members, who had gone to visit relatives, friends and loved ones, were constrained to throw food at them on the other side of the rope, having been prevented from entering the community.
Upon my arrive at the densely populated township, I also heard residents chanting anti-government songs, banging on old buckets and anything they could lay their hands on to provide melody as they paraded the main street of West Point.
I spotted another group in discussion, which attracted my attention and drew near to listen to the conversation. Some guys were discussing how the Government of Liberia apologized to the residents for quarantining them in a community that had been isolated.
Korto Jallah, a female in the group, told me that life in the isolated center is like being in the South Beach prison. “My brother, the innocent children in South Beach re really suffering ooh; see what happened to us here for the past week; we’re just sitting one place”, Korto lamented.
She said the government owes the West Pointer’s serous apology for confining them in their own community in violation of their right. Korto may have forgotten that the authorities imposed a state of emergency in the wake of the Ebola outbreak, which means certain rights will be restrained or denied.
I continued my journey down the main street of the township where I spoke with the youth chairman of the West Point Youth Organization, who narrated tales from the holding center.
“We was sitting on a Sunday when it was announced that our community was to be quarantined by the government, and before we make-up our mind, we saw group of military personnel with guns entering West Point and instructing us to get in our various houses not in a peaceful manner, but they started beating people with rope and other military materials”, the youth chair explained.
He said the next day, which was on a Monday, another team of security forces entered the community and blocked all entries leading to the township. “That’s how our life became very unbearable us; brother, we were treated like prisoners. People that came here to their families were stopped from getting out of West Point.”
“But thank God you are here because we have won the battle against the government, so we are saying to this government that our rights were tempered with and we the youths of West Point demand an apology”, he concluded.