Monrovians Rejoice As GOL Lifts 8-Month-Old State of Emergency

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

September 16, 2002

Parents and children of able-bodied young men residing in Monrovia had every reason to rejoice at news of the announcement Saturday by the Government of Liberia (GOL) that the 8-month-old state of emergency imposed last February has been lifted. Able-bodied young men caught under a curfew imposed by the Government during the state of emergency were forcibly recruited and sent to the frontlines to prop-up government forces fighting the dissident Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD).

Monrovia, the Liberian national capital and seat of government, is grossly overpopulated with internally displaced Liberians living in makeshift dwellings, abandoned school and public buildings and other dilapidated buildings as a direct end result of the country’s seven-year civil war between 1989 and 1997. But Monrovians in general have reasons to rejoice at the lifting of the state of emergency as basic civil liberties and freedom of movements were severely curtailed during the state of emergency first imposed last February.

Even Liberian cabinet ministers felt greatly relieved by the lifting of the state of emergency and joined fellow Monrovians in the jubilation as reports say the ministers applauded heavily as President Charles Taylor announced the lifting of the state of emergency in a nationwide address from the Executive Mansion in Monrovia Sunday.

Taylor said he decided to lift the state of emergency because of "reduced danger from rebels" Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) - which the government claimed were dislodged Friday from their stronghold of Bopolu in northern Liberia, though LURD has denied the claims. Taylor also lifted the government's ban on "all public gatherings and political rallies" which were imposed in addition to the state of emergency for what the government termed as "necessary security measures against the rebels."

'"In view of the positive development...we hereby lift the state of emergency with immediate effect. We also with immediate effect lift the ban on mass political party rallies," Taylor said in his nationwide national address, adding '"We remain confident these actions will contribute immensely in the search for lasting peace and serve as a catalyst or dialogue leading to national peace and reconciliation and preparing the way for general elections next year.'"

Since its imposition last February, the State of Emergency has been a public relations nightmare for the Liberian Government of President Charles Taylor as key Liberian politicians and civil society leaders continuously accused the government of using the state of emergency as a pretext to clampdown on civil liberties and silent public dissent about the war with LURD, as well as views critical of the government's policies.

These fears were soon confirmed by the government's ban on public gatherings and political rallies, and its subsequent arrest and torture of Human Rights Lawyer Tiawon Gongloe, the illegal search of the home of opposition politician Togba Nah Tipoteh, the illegal physical search and brief imprisonment in the same cell with male prisoners of former Liberian Chief Justice Frances Johnson-Morris, and the ongoing case of Hassan Bility, the Analyst Newspaper Editor whose whereabouts is still unknown after the government arrested him along with two fellow Mandingo tribesmen as alleged LURD supporters about four months ago.

The lingering state of emergency and curtailment of the basic civic liberties, such as free movement of persons, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, public gatherings and political rallies were reasons given by exiled Liberian opposition politicians for not attending the ongoing government -sponsored peace and reconciliation conference in Monrovia. It is not clear if the reconciliation conference had anything to do with the lifting of the state of emergency and the ban on political rallies and public gatherings,

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