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GeneralLiberia news

Report cleared Boakai’s police nominee

By Ethel A. Tweh

A special investigation into the 2011 election violence did clear President Joseph Nyumah Boakai’s top police nominee Atty. J. Nelson Freeman of committing a crime in discharging his weapon.

The former ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) is opposed to Atty. Freeman’s nomination by President Boakai as Deputy Police Inspector General for Operations.

Following Freeman’s nomination, Mr. Moses Acarus Gray who recently lost his district seat in Montserrado alleged that President Boakai deliberately appointed Freeman who allegedly shot and killed CDC members at their party headquarters. 

“President Boakai intentionally appointed a death squad killer of CDCians. November 7, 2011, Nelson Freeman shot and killed three CDCians and wounded several. This appointment is a repeat of November 7, 2011, when Boakai was Vice President,” Gray posted to Facebook.

Contrary to Gray’s assertion, an independent review panel into the 2011 election violence stopped short of labeling Freeman’s actions as criminal.

The panel concluded that Freeman’s discharge of his firearm constituted a violation of the Liberia National Police (LNP) Firearm Policy. 

However, the panel emphasized that Freeman’s weapon was not aimed at civilians or UN peacekeeping personnel. It stated that it was directed toward the ground, and no injuries were reported because of the gunshot.

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The investigative report showed that Freeman did not shoot to kill anyone during that riot, contrary to reports that he was responsible for the killing that took place.

The review of the Special Independent Commission of Inquiry Reports by the independent review panel comprised Messrs Victor E. Helb, Chairman; Atty. Edwin Barquoi, CFE, member; and Cecil B. Griffiths, member.

The report found that Freeman, a Deputy Commissioner of Police at the time, entered the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) compound amidst rioting and became involved in an altercation with United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) officers, who attempted to disarm him. 

In response, the report said Freeman discharged his service weapon, purportedly in a bid to resist disarmament. 

When questioned about his actions, Freeman cited fear for his safety, stating that he believed his disarmament would have exposed him to greater danger within the CDC headquarters compound.

 After a thorough examination of the circumstances surrounding the incident and all available evidence and testimonies, the panel concluded that Freeman’s weapon was not aimed at civilians or UNMIL personnel. 

It noted that it was directed towards the ground, and no injuries were reported as a result.

It can be recalled that on 7 November 2011, a large gathering of supporters of the Congress for Democratic Change convened at various spots in and around Monrovia, including their main headquarters, in response to a call from the party leadership. 

They were rallying in solidarity with a planned boycott of the 8 November 2011 presidential run-off between the Unity Party and the Congress for Democratic Change.

The CDC supporters occupied sections of Tubman Boulevard, erecting roadblocks to impede traffic flow, particularly towards the Catholic Hospital Junction. 

Negotiations to persuade the demonstrators to disperse failed, leading to clashes with the Police Support Unit which then resorted to tear gas when some protesters attempted to breach the barricades.

The situation turned into violence as protesters threw projectiles at the police, resulting in damage to government vehicles, UNMIL assets, private property, and injuries to several individuals, including police officers and protesters. 

To restore order, the Police Emergency Response Unit was deployed, and live ammunition was fired by the Liberia National Police. Tragically, one person was killed, and many others were wounded, with numerous arrests made.

In response, then President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf established a Special Independent Commission of Inquiry to investigate the events of 7 November 2011 and the underlying causes of the violence. 

Two reports were subsequently issued by the Commission, the first on 25 November 2011, and a supplementary report on 8 March 2012.

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