National Security Advisor Dr. H. Bioma Fahnbulleh put it squarely Friday when he debunked those critics in the cabinet who say the national security apparatus was being too lenient in handling protesting students, particularly at the University of Liberia.
“We know – we do not train shot shooters to shoot at babies. We’re saying here that those who have the experiences, they know what students do; sometimes they are irritant, but engage them. Some cabinet ministers say yes, these people are too lenient- we understand some of these cabinet ministers, these heroes who beat their chests and talk loud when the bullets are not flying,” Dr. Fahnbulleh retorted Friday at the graduation of 50 Agents of the elite presidential force, Executive Protective Service or EPS. The graduates had returned to the country from the Federal Republic of Nigeria where they completed training in Counter Terrorism.
Speaking further, Fahnbulleh noted, “And this is what democracy does. It allows the fool to utter his foolishness with reckless abandon; but it also allows the wise man to keep silent in his abundant wisdom.” We believe the National Security Advisor could not have said it any better because there are those who speak or act before they think. And in the same vein, we are calling on those cabinet ministers, who think the national security forces must shoot at protesting students or shoot on sight, to rethink their strategy of restoring calm to a nation consolidating a fragile peace.
Without any stupor, we can boldly say those propounding such an ideal are enemies of the state in disguise. Their sole intent is to revert the wheels of ten years of relative peace and progress in the name of so-called security. As Dr. Fahnbulleh noted, in their desperation to solicit attention from the president, some officials portray themselves as heroes when the bullets are not flying. But when live weapons are fired and dead bodies begin to litter everywhere, we wonder what advice they would give.
Lest we should be misconstrued here; this paper in no way subscribes to students staging violent protests as a means to seeking redress from administration. We believe grievances of any sorts should be channeled through representative leaderships on school or university campuses to get amicable resolutions instead of breaking down infrastructure and throwing stones.
However, we strongly believe restraint and persuasions should be the first options by state apparatus in responding to riots on school campuses or in the streets instead of live weapons. Such approaches by our national security apparatus would demonstrate a high level of professionalism and maturity.
We don’t want a return to the days of the 80s and 90s when overzealous gun toting thugs, in the name of national security, shot at armless civilians exercising their democratic franchise. Students, like children in homes, can become irritating sometimes, but wisdom demands that we don’t respond to their actions with overwhelming force, which could become inadvertently disastrous like some of our cabinet ministers want the government to tread.