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When rebels turn state actors

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A group of former rebels under the banner ‘ex-generals’ took the entire nation spellbound, especially residents of Monrovia and its environs when they hosted a news conference here last Tuesday, issuing 72 hours ultimatum to Montserrado County District#10 Representative Yekeh Kolubah to report to their command or face forceful arrest.

True to their threat, they moved to the Old Road residence of Rep. Kolubah the following day to effect the forceful arrest, but met stiff resistance from human shield, predominantly supporters of the lawmaker, who had barricaded the entire premises, waiting for an apparent showdown.

What kept the entire nation dumfounded in the scenario is that the legitimate government with all national security apparatuses kept mute and watched, as the showdown was imminent.

It took the authorities three long days before coming out with a rebuke, inviting the ex-generals thru the Ministry of Justice for clarification on their threat to forcibly arrest a sitting lawmaker for his public utterances.

Many ordinary Liberians suspect that the conspicuous silence of the government during this period indicates an official sanction for the non-state actors to have even mobilized and addressed a news conference, issuing threats that sent panic in the public.

Whether active or demobilized, rebel activities are never within confines of laws and statutes. As their name depicts, they are rebellious of state parastatals, and are anti-establishment.

Where they drew courage and authority from to wanting to effect an arrest by force is the question everyone is asking. What has happened to the police and our court system that former rebels now want to act on behalf of the state? We wonder whether the government realizes what message it sent out there to our partners by its inaction or late response to a situation that could have turned very messy for the entire country and disturbed the current peace.

Montserrado County Attorney Edward Kla Martin, acting on behalf of the Ministry of Justice last Friday, 19 April claimed to have invited the ex-rebel generals to provide clarity on the 72-hour ultimatum they issued for Representative Kolubah to report to their command or they would have forcibly apprehended him. He provided the explanation after closed door meeting with the ex-generals in his office at the Temple of Justice.

But where was the County Attorney or the Minister of Justice when the ex-rebels addressed the press last Tuesday and issued the threat which they attempted to enforce the following day?

If the Weah administration or any office of the government believes they can form alliances with rebels and non-state actors to execute what they ought to do under the Constitution, they are making a sad and dangerous mistake, and need to think again. The Weah government could seriously undermine itself if it went this route.

Rebels, whether former or active, do not operate within the law or Constitution. Their activities are extrajudicial. Rather, they subscribe to the rule of terror and the jungle. In their world, might makes right and no one dares challenge them even if they are wrong. A legitimately elected government and a rebel group are mutually exclusive. They can’t coexist or operate side by side under a democratic governance process.

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