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Liberian Police Burn Market Stalls


Market traders in the Liberian capital Monrovia say police have set fire to their stalls. This is part of an attempt to enforce a new ban on street vending.

Street vendors say police started demolishing their stalls in the busy Paynesville district on Sunday evening. The crackdown continued at daybreak on Monday, with police setting some stalls on fire. Nobody was reported to be injured.

The police confirm the demolitions, but say they are not unjustified.

The government wants the hawkers to go into designated indoor areas and issued a three-month ultimatum to pack up and leave the roadside. It says the traders are adding to congestion in bustling Monrovia. It says pedestrians are left with no room to walk. Those with mobile wares, such as those selling their goods from wheelbarrows are not affected by the ban.

The police say those traders who have not conformed to the ban are being evicted lawfully.

Most of the street traders in Monrovia are ex-combatants or refugees from Liberia's 14 years of civil war. They are unemployed and see selling as their only source of income.

They say they do not want to move inside market halls, because their products will be less visible to potential customers and their revenue will drop.

By late morning on Monday the market traders had taken to the streets and marched to government buildings to deliver a statement protesting against the crackdown. They want the government to reverse its decision to remove them from the roadsides.

The police dispersed the demonstrators. It was reported that some protesters sustained minor injuries during resulting stampedes. Reports also say that the Vendors Association President Gibson Tommy was arrested for allegedly inciting the vendors against the security of the state.

The police say they will hold a press conference to review events later on.