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The TAMAYA 1 AFFAIR: The Need to Overcome the Loopholes in Liberia’s National Security Network

The inability of any institution to timely ensure the provision of public information to its subjects leads to speculations, hasty generalization, as well as uninformed conclusion, among others. That’s exactly the situation about the “mysterious vessel” which unceremoniously docked on the beach close to the provincial city of Robertsport in Grand Cape Mount County in Western Liberia.

Close to two weeks now, uncertainty seems to be characterizing the general status of the “mysterious vessel” – Tamaya -1, leaving the population with no alternative, but to speculate and hastily conclude on the general status of the ship in the absence of public information from the Government of Liberia before even the Ministry of National Defense could comment for the for the first time through a spokesman.

An Assistant Minister of Defence, last week, confirmed the identity of the vessel as a Panamanian Registered Nigerian Flagged Vessel named TAMAYA 1, which drifted on the shore of Robertsport on May 3, 2016, quoting the Liberian Coast Guard, and the Maritime Regional Monitoring Rescue Coordination (MRMRCC) as suggesting that some fishermen had informed them that the vessel – TAMAYA 1, was observed to be in distress within Sierra Leonean waters and drifted toward Liberia on 26 April 2016.

According to the Minister responsible for Public Affairs, the MRMRCC did not release this information to the Liberian Coast Guard. During a security search onboard under the auspices of the Liberian Coast Guard, the vessel was discovered to be an oil tanker, without any information as to the status of its crew members – except that it was gutted by fire, leaving the bridge upper and control center completely burnt with all documents, according to Mr. David Dahn – the Liberian Defence Ministry Officials during last Thursday’s MICAT Press briefing in Monrovia.

Additionally, the Coast Guard established that the vessel, which is listed on the starboard around, had its hatches opened and contained a mixture of oil and water, quoting the Coast Guard as saying that the vessel was known to be carrying two raft boats, but only one was observed during the search.

While the aforementioned position of the government, through the Defence Ministry, must be appreciated, it may just be too late and scanty, owing to the time interval. Since May 3, 2016 or April 26, 2016 when the ship drifted to Liberia’s shores or when it was even in “distress” as reported by the Coast Guard, why at this time now that information – though scanty, about this vessel is being release? Are Liberia’s Coast Guard and Maritime Authorities not capacitated to ensure the monitoring of the country’s territorial waters – where are the navigation equipment; where are the boats for the Coast Guard donated on this year’s Armed Forces Day by the American Government? These are, but few of the unanswered questions that may be creating the uncertainty, suspicions and perceptions.

Assuming the presence of the vessel (and boat – in Edina, Grand Bassa County) on the country’s shores had national security implications, especially in the wake of international terrorist activities, the nation would have been in serious danger.

The need for the government to be more detailed in its investigation cannot be over-emphasized. Moreover, the current situation must be sufficient for Liberia’s national security apparatus to overcome the loopholes in their operations – and the must be urged to rediscover themselves at all levels to avoid any future embarrassment and security threats to the nation and its people. 

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