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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

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.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs