By: James Kokulo Fasuekoi, Liberian Journalist in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA |
In April 1996, an attempt by two former warlords to arrest and prosecute another, Gen. Roosevelt Johnson of ULIMO-J, under phony criminal charges sparked a full scale war in the capital for over a month. Eventually, Gen. Johnson was able to escape via the U.S. Embassy which airlifted him to Freetown. But before that, at least more than 1,000 people had perished among them, foreign nationals and expatriates, leaving the city obliterated, and millions of dollars’ worth of properties looted or destroyed. What’s noteworthy is the series of events that triggered that streets fight which bear striking similarity to those unfolding in Rep. Yekeh Yarkpawolo Kolubah’s present case as we shall find out in this article.
A recent cordoned and search exercise conducted by the Liberia National Police Force at the home of Montserrado County’s District #10 Rep. Yekeh Yarkpawolo Kolubah on order of the Monrovia City Court (MCC) backed by the current government is yet another indication that the regime isn’t ready to close its chapter on the parliamentarian anytime soon. A confirmation to this came last week in the form of an “indictment” followed by a “Writ” to arrest Hon. Kolubah for what the police alleged was an “assault and attempted murder” of one Emmanuel Freeman.
Ever since before recent events the police has been in haste to attack, capture or arrest Rep. Kolubah largely view by Liberians across the country and those living abroad as an icon and celebrated for his uncompromising stance against widespread corruption, outright injustices being dished out to the weak, and the gross abuse of power by a clique within the ruling CDC party. In the present “assault and attempted murder” case brought against Mr. Kolubah, Police PR man Carter and his bosses have sounded vague when asked as to whether the police actually has proof if Kolubah ordered attack on Freeman or was even present at the scene.
This issue is raised because it has been rumored that Hon. Kolubah, unlike the incident with Rep. Acarous Moses Gray and Joseph Cooper, wasn’t anywhere near the scene when the alleged “beating” took place and neither gave order for the flogging of Freeman. It is further alleged that victim Freeman is known for petty crimes in that community and he was reportedly attacked and “beating” because of such activities. And it is alleged that following the so-called “distressed” call, riot police who arrive to the scene coerced him into linking Kolubah to the incident. Of course, the story sounds fishy and doesn’t seem to hold water. In addition, there appears not to be many trained investigative reporters left in Liberia unfortunately, leaving many to often turn to speculation.
For how in the first could a group of Kolubah’s “bodyguards” jumped on a man going peacefully about his own personal business in the community and beat him mercilessly almost to the point of passing out only because he refused to “accept protest” flyers and T-Shirt and other goodies designed for the recent June 7 mass protest? It just doesn’t add up in the opinion of many and some are convinced this whole incident could be a set up and part of President George Weah’s “witch-hunt” design to bring the outspoken representative down or silent him at least for now.
This wrangling between Pres. Weah and Hon. Kolubah has been lingering for a long while and even a hastily arranged meeting between both men few months ago failed to bring peace among them. However, no one guessed it would all end this way where the regime would arm its controlled police to go after the lawmaker, a strong critic of the government. And how the police and the MCC (expected to play neutral role), got caught up in this mess is another matter that requires investigation by independent journalists and writers now or in the future so as to avert similar embarrassment that could taint the already compromised integrity of our police and judiciary.
But it is not only Rep. Kolubah that faces indictment and arrest in the alleged “beating” of Freeman. His bodyguards, at least five or six of them have been similarly charged, arrested and placed in police custody awaiting trial. Kolubah happens to rank highest among all the accused and because he Kolubah remains the regime’s main target, the focus will be on him and there’s no doubt the government will recruit more witnesses who will join his bodyguards to testify against him and much of this, under the regime’s influence, may come on like incrimination and “confessions” by the “witnesses” in order to find Kolubah guilty which is what the government wants at all cost.
The constitution of the Republic of Liberia (in section Chapter V), under Legislature: Article 42, representatives and senators are to enjoy enormous rights and privileges per their status and in most cases they are immune to arrest, detention, and prosecution, or trial in the course of their official duties and the only exception maybe in cases related to “treason, felony, or breach of the peace.” Hence, the challenge before the Weah backed police and Monrovia City Court will be to establish “guilt” of the alleged “perpetrators” beyond all reasonable doubts in what practically remains the Republic of Liberia vs. Rep. Yekeh Kolubah and not Emmanuel Freeman vs. Rep. Yekeh Kolubah el.
For the first time Tuesday (June 24, 2019), Hon. Kolubah voluntarily walked to court with his legal representatives, ready for the case without being forced to do so by the police or the court. He has said in the past that he remains law abiding and one of his main contentions throughout has been the wrong manner in which the regime’s controlled police and court system tried to get at him and other perceived government’s critics. He maintained he would go to trial for any alleged “wrongdoing” providing those with a case against him will follow the country’s laws as laid out in the constitution. His decision to appear to court yesterday serves as a proof. The only question now is whether this most anticipated trial would be fair and monitored by foreign observers.
Indictment not Surprise
People who have followed political development lately in Liberia never ruled out a possible court indictment or a warrant for Rep. Kolubah’s possible arrest and prosecution by the government due to his strong stance against the very vices that brought war on the country. The only thing no one could tell is when and how it would happen. And obviously, no one was surprised either about the roles both the Monrovia City Court and Police played in the entire affair. What may have had people shocked though is the flagrant dishonesty that characterized the whole process, starting with the illegal cordoned and search operation carried out by the government-controlled police on the lawmaker’s premises without a warning or proper legal protocol especially one that concerns a representative.
Queried by Liberians as to what prompted such unlawful action the police authorities without shame maintained they had gone in to “invite” Hon. Kolubah to their headquarters for questioning. That’s after police officers clad in U.S. Marshall/ICE style SWAT team uniforms heavily armed to the teeth and with weapons drawn, had surrounded Kolubah’s Family home in Old Road Sinkor, ready for a showdown. It was a citizens’ vigilante group, mostly the representative’s neighbors that thwarted the operation and save the day.
But how can a heavily armed group, largely consisted of former rebel fighters from the civil war era sneak into someone’s compound at dawn with their weapons drawn, besieged the compound and the police come up later to say they had gone there on a friendly note? How ridiculous does that sound and what else can be more deceiving and comical than the reason given for invading Rep. Kolubah’s privacy and instilling unnecessary fear in members of his family especially kids too young to understand politics? Was this really necessary in a “civilized” and Christian Nation?
During the drama Rep. Kolubah was whisked away to the police station reportedly by an ECOWAS diplomat assisted by a fellow representative said to be the eye of ECOWAS in Liberia. Perhaps, per the two men’s insistence, the lawmaker turned himself in to the GOL-controlled-police; the same group that had clandestinely sought to arrest the lawmaker, with little concern Kolubah’s own life could be compromised. The intent among others was to disgrace him. He was subjected to humiliation and his rights to free movement and other privileges were seized. He was freed after a large group of Kolubah supporters showed up and demand police to release him.
No matter how things will play out in court during the anticipated trial, scores of Liberians and foreign friends think the “charges” brought against the lawmaker are nothing but a hoax designed by the regime to silence Kolubah due to his uncompromising stance on the regime’s poor governance and corrupt practices and its reckless abuse of power coupled with the high display of “lawlessness” as perpetrated by some officials. But it remains to be seen whether this endeavor will keep Rep. Kolubah out of the limelight.
Again, there may have been more to the police cravings to do a search of Kolubah’s house. The search seems to hold a covert motive. It would allow the Weah-led police force to carefully examine “inside” the home thereby enabling it to better map out the entire facility security and military wise in case they have to return soon. This is to make sure that any future invasion of the home by police shouldn’t turn lethal aware that Kolubah himself is well trained in guerrilla warfare and was once a fighter for Taylor’s dreaded rebel army and later RRU, acronym for Rapid Response Unit.
Reasons for Kolubah’s intransigence
By all counts, Rep. Kolubah seems a law abiding citizen. The only reason for which he has decided to push the Weah led government against the wall is because the regime leaders, Pres. Weah, has miserably failed in every capacity to take action against repugnant behaviors by his own officials in the country. Though he Weah too isn’t excluded from such practices, the truth is either he endorses such wicked acts by some within his inner circle or that he’s just another weak leader. This is dangerous for a country emerging out of the ashes of a brutal war.
What even makes situation more dangerous is when certain individuals placed in high positions of public trust go on and squander billions of taxpayers’ hard earned monies and the only thing Weah does is, set up questionable auditing commissions repeatedly, to investigate even when everyone can tell who’s done the stealing. And when the findings are finally submitted, he takes no concrete action against those found to be at fault. The reported missing 16bn LD and USD 25 million are just two examples. Yet, he Weah goes on threatening to “deal” with anyone who “insults” him. Many wonder what type of president is he in the first place.
Perhaps, what continues to cause Rep. Kolubah whom many Liberians at home and abroad now view as an icon and celebrate for his relentless fight against the regime’s malpractices amid skyrocketed inflation could be simply because he himself has repeatedly been victimized like many others and with nowhere to turn to for redress. Kolubah knows what injustice or “selective” justice means. And he knows well what it means when one’s right to freedom of speech and free movement are seized. And the public can attest how prior to Rep. Lawrence’s death both Kolubah and Lawrence had been deliberately denied certain rights during several sections by House Speaker Bhofal Chambers and nothing was done about it.
Also on January 20, for instance, “thugs” believed to be diehard Weah supporters broke up a children’s party Rep. Kolubah had personally organized to fete disadvantaged kids in his neighborhood. This fine gesture by the lawmaker is something those known to be stealing public funds never thought about doing at Christmas for kids of poor families-and only care for theirs. But the melee left many kids hurt and a PSU police officer who intervened also got wounded in the face due to stone-throwing by those who instigated the chaos from Weah’s ruling CDC party, although they were never invited to the event. Unsatisfied, the same group of thugs ran toward Kolubah’s house nearby and fired gunshots into the home. Luckily, no one got hurt.
Now, rather than fetch the criminals and prosecute them in court for staging such reckless acts, the police again is said to have arrested and detained one of Kolubah’s bodyguards who tried to protect vulnerable kids during the melee. These frightening but separate incidents prompted strong reaction from Rep. Kolubah and he vowed to begin attending legislative sections wearing military uniforms and regalia to prove his toughness and to expose Pres. Weah as “a dictator and a looter” who he said doesn’t deserve to serve the nation as president.
Still, the Daily Observer in its April 30, 2019, editorial recorded yet another macabre incident that involved a public official and it reads: “It can also be recalled that shots were reportedly fired when CDC supporters led by Monrovia City Mayor Jefferson Koijee violently attacked a political rally being held in New Georgia by Cornelia Krua Togba in last November.” Sen. Nyonblee Lawrence, a clear targeted also for that attack was quickly whisked off via alleyways by good men of the township. But like most other similar cases, the regime didn’t question the city mayor.
However, to the annoyance of everyone, it was Mayor Koijee, clearly a human rights abuser who threatened Sen. Lawrence with litigation claiming the senator bore false witness against him and his hooligans he led to the opposition rally site which of course is a long way off from Sinkor where his office is located. What a mockery of justice. Nevertheless, Koijee, like Tweah and others who are close to the president, knows with the level of influence he holds in government, a “criminal libel” case such as the one he was about to initiate can be ruled in his favor before he could even step to court for heads of certain bunches of government including the judiciary and police serve at their pleasure.
In spite that, Mr. Koijee comfortably sat among civilized people from the United States and other countries at this year’s Annual Global Development Forum held last April in Washington D.C. and didn’t appear troubled by his own past ruthless behaviors which terrified traumatized war victims and nearly resulted to loss of lives. Fortunately for him, Liberian immigrant activist groups didn’t take note of his visit early and that shielded him from embarrassment and exposure for his misdeeds. Otherwise, he may have faced the wrath of many for his reckless disregard for law and order in Liberia.
And what even angers Rep. Kolubah more and Liberians in general is the parallel scenario as in “Joseph Cooper vs. Acarous Moses Gray” the police try to set up as blindfold to shield Rep. Gray while using same as justification to arrest their main target, Hon. Kolubah. In the police’s opinion such trick may defuse any tension in Kolubah’s own camp as well as those of other opposition parties. It’s a dangerous undertaking and it remains to be seen how well it will work.
No one can fool anyone in Liberia anymore, not after those brutal wars. From age ten-years up now understands what constitutes national politics and conflicts. And because of the level of influence Mr. Gray holds in the CDC party, the government, with respect to his personal relations with mean actors in this drama such as Pres. Weah, the police chief and the City Court authorities, almost everybody knew from the start what the outcome of the Gray-Cooper case would entail. Some had prophesized that accused Gray would be acquitted before the real probe would begin; that he may never report to the police station unlike Kolubah and all that turned out to be true.
In order words, the entire episode was a smokescreen set up to create an impression by police that it is indeed ready to enforce the law and was going after every culprit which isn’t the case here.
Mind you, what this has done is, it has exposed the Monrovia City Court and the police to unnecessary public ridicules thereby diminishing whatever integrity that was left of the two entities and further shows that certain individuals in our society including Rep. Moses Gray maybe “above” the law and remain “untouchable.” Indeed, needless one mention such glaring injustices plus outright corruption were some very vices that brought Liberia down and could provoke another crisis of greater proportion in the future if not now.
To Be Continued: