News / Africa

    Vigilante Groups in Liberia Serve as Shadow Police Force

    A youth is beaten with sticks after being accused of attempted theft in Monrovia, February 2007.
    A youth is beaten with sticks after being accused of attempted theft in Monrovia, February 2007.
    After 10 years of peace, the police force in the West African nation of Liberia still lacks the ability to protect most neighborhoods, and it maintains a reputation for corruption. As a result, residents of crime-prone areas in the capital, Monrovia, rely on vigilante groups to provide security.
     
    On a recent weeknight, leaders of a vigilante group on Monrovia’s Bushrod Island go around knocking on doors to wake up their members before the evening patrol. Armed with cutlasses and sticks, the group of about 12 young men walk around the neighborhood all night, keeping an eye out for men they describe as “rogues.”
     
    The group covers a small area of about 100 homes in a community called Logan Town. It collects 150 Liberian dollars, or about $2, from each home every two weeks.
     
    The appeal of vigilante groups appears to stem from a lack of confidence in the police, according to international group Human Rights Watch [HRW]. This is despite 10 years of U.N. assistance in trying to rebuild the police after 14 years of civil conflict ending in 2003.

    Expensive police work

    HRW Researcher Valerie Brender said that because Liberian police officers demand money before performing basic job functions, it is not possible for ordinary Liberians to turn to them.
     
    “What we found is that the police routinely compromise access to justice by making people pay at every stage of an investigation. So for many Liberians, justice has simply become too expensive. So what that means is Liberians who feel like they can’t get justice from the law will often take justice into their own hands,” she said.
     
    The groups are technically illegal. Citizens are not allowed to police communities, though the police force does collaborate with Community Watch Forums, which are unarmed and simply report crimes to police officers.

    One big concern about vigilante groups is that they deny due process rights to criminals, potentially subjecting them to physical violence instead.
     
    Danicious Kallon, one of the founders of the group in Logan Town, denied beating suspects, saying his group handed suspects over to the police and tried to protect them from angry mobs. He said the group was only violent with suspects who resisted arrest.

    Opposing views

    Some residents of Logan Town, such as 35-year-old Musu Taye, said they were happy with the vigilantes’ work.
     
    “The vigilante is helping us. At least now we can sleep at night without any embarrassment. At first it was not easy. The criminal was giving us a hard time. The armed robbers were on our back. But with the help of the vigilantes, things are calm and we can now sleep in peace,” Taye.
     
    Others, like 41-year-old Jerry Sumo, said only the police should be responsible for law enforcement, and that they did not trust the vigilantes.
     
    “The vigilantes are also involved in crime. They also steal some of our community things. They kill our chickens at night, kill the dogs at night, and steal our car tires. So they are of no help. There’s no difference between them and the criminals. I don’t support the idea of vigilantes. I think police need to redouble their efforts and take control of security," he said.
     
    But even if the police were corruption-free, Liberia does not have enough of them. As of February, there were slightly more than 4,000 for a country of about 4 million.  

    The U.N. mission in Liberia, which provides more than 1,400 officers, has vowed to draw down its forces. But the mission has estimated that it will take about 8,000 Liberian police officers - or double the current number - to adequately serve the population once the U.N. leaves.

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Bendu Washington from: California
    September 12, 2013 3:41 PM
    Maybe if the government paid the police a compatible salary, they would be more inclined to police. The government officials are paid astronomical salaries while the police receives minimal salaries. Is it any wonder there is corruption running rampant? I visited Liberia 2005 and 2006 and at every stop possible, the party I traveled with was fleeced by officers for money. A shame that a country that needs the police force refuses to train them and then compensate them accordingly.

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora