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GeneralLiberia news

The real story about the Jacob Town riot

Rioters overwhelmed Police enforcing court eviction in Jacob Town Community.

By Emmanuel wise Jipoh 

Paynesville, Liberia, May 21, 2024 – Angry rioters overwhelmed officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP) in their attempt to prevent the Police from enforcing an eviction order issued by the court on Saturday, destroying several properties, including vehicles in Black Jinnah community, Jacob Town, Paynesville.

The riot was in response to a prolonged land dispute, which erupted normal activities and led to a standstill along the Japan Freeway Drive for several hours.

Resisting rioters beat the odds of teargas and pepper spray and chased away a team of armed police officers that had gone to enforce an eviction of the Africa Islamic Center School in the Jacob Town community that was operating on a property allegedly owned by Chief Imam Ishmael Sesay of the Black Jinnah Central Mosque.

The rampage erupted when law enforcement officers from the Zone 9 Base of the LNP forcibly entered the school premises and asked occupants out while allegedly looting the facility in the absence of Imam Sesay, something that led to resistance from students, guardians, and community dwellers.

The atmosphere became charged when students of the Africa Islamic Center School and residents, predominately Muslims, prevented the Police from acting further, which led officers to teargas the rioters that met counterattack with stone-throwing.

The Police were overwhelmed without the slightest thought that the eviction would have escalated to a violent riot, bringing the entire Jacob Town community to a standstill.

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At least two Police officers – a male and a female sustained injury, while journalists’ mobile phones and gadgets were smashed as the rioters quickly overran the police in a drama scene.

However, following several hours of rampage and threats to burn down the Police Zone 9 Base, interventions by a senior community resident, Mohammed Kamara, said to be a former Police officer and an unidentified soldier of the Armed Forces of Liberia  calmed the tension  before Police reinforcement led by Deputy Inspector General of Police (Unit 102) Nelson Freeman restored calm.

According to report, Mr. Kamara allegedly incited the protesters.

Built in 1999, the African Islamic Center School has been an epic center of controversy over a decade-long land dispute. The school, belonging to Imam Ishmeal Sesay, is situated on one lot of land that is allegedly owned by an American-based Liberian lady, Martha Gweh.

Madam Gweh has been requesting ownership of the land occupied by the African Islamic Center School, operated by Imam Ishmael Sesay.

Speaking to reporters, Jenneh Sesay, daughter of Imam Sesay and Principal of the African Islamic Center School, said the ensuing conflict had lasted over ten years between her father and Madam Gweh, who has ordered them to vacate her property.

She said the situation has led to a court process, and her father is claiming funds used to construct the school building be refunded. He (Imam Ishmael Sesay) purchased the land in a dispute over 20 years ago, and no one interfered until Madam Gweh came into the picture.

Madam Sesay continued that it was strange to note that while she was on her way out of town when she received a phone call that Police had started evicting people from the school building, though she noted the case was still at the Supreme Court of Liberia.

She confirmed that protesters who went in defense of the school were parents, students, and empathizers who were in solidarity with them when the Police had gone there unannounced to evict their property while allegedly looting facilities there.

“The people you saw in the protest are parents of students of this institution. They are in solidarity with the school; the school is a center and holds many children,” she explained.

Her father, Chief Imam and proprietor of the African Islamic Center School Ishmael Sesay, upon return from Sierra Leone on Sunday, May 19, 2024, urged the Government of Liberia to investigate who ordered the Police to attack his property in his absence while alleging that items were stolen from the school during the forceful eviction, including laptop, mobile phones, and an unspecified amount of money.

Imam Sesay said while he was in Sierra Leone, his daughter called and informed him that Police had evicted their property, allegedly putting the caretaker of the facility under gunpoint, acting on a court order.

He expressed shock about the Police action in his absence, disclosing that he had been informed that an investigative survey was planned to differentiate between land owned by Madam Gweh and his property, stretching from the main road to the African Islamic Center School. Editing by Jonathan Browne

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