Kevin in Liberia

Its Purpose: to raise awareness of current social, political, ethical, and spiritual issues within a relief and development context in Liberia. Its effectiveness is simple: It relies on me, the author, to provide insightful, and often debate-sparking material that will encourage you, the reader to get engaged through comment contributions, emails, and promoting others to read, re-think, and respond to the important issues discussed.

I know not which is most profitable to me, health or sickness, wealth or poverty, nor anything else in the world. That discernment is beyond the power of men or angels, and is hidden among the secrets of your Providence, which I adore, but do not seek to fathom. ~ a prayer by Blaise Pascal

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Rule of Law and the Liberian National Police

In any country you live, work, or travel in there is always an element of adventure. Some countries you have to create adventure, where as others adventure is created for you. Take for example a 'simple' trip into downtown Monrovia, a trip that was supposed to be as simple as riding into town snapping a few pictures to share with you all.

What started out as 'simple' has left me pondering the simpleties of a developing nation and idiosyncrasies that hinder national and international respectability. Power is something that I view as necessary in society. Without the notion of power, anarchy is soon to rear its ugly head. With an abuse of power, the same is often the outcome.

Let me introduce to you the Liberian National Police, otherwise known as the LNP. This is a group of individuals just as desperate as the majority of Liberians, speaking of financial and social stability, and often taken advantage of by the ruling governments of the past. Presently, this problem has receded marginally. According to the Manager of Police Statistics, a member of the LNP himself, and a man I spoke to for twenty odd minutes in Robertsport over the New Years, Liberian National Police Officers earn $90USD/month legitimately. Those who chose to 'earn' extra income through using their position of power illegitimately, earn a fair bit more than that.

If you have lived or worked in Liberia, especially Monrovia, anytime in the last three years, for at least six months, chances are that you've encountered the LNP in some way, shape, or form. This post will outline my recent encounter with the LNP and how it has left me questioning the precedents that the LNP are setting by their actions.

It was a Saturday afternoon and I had just left the Liberian National Museum where I talked to the Curator about tours and various artefacts that the museum has to offer. I headed down Broad Street, leading out of the city, and it wasn't two blocks before I stopped at an intersection while I waited for the traffic police officer to wave me on. He took one look at me and walked towards me. "You na wearin' da helme'! Das a violation a da law."

I do realize that riding motorcycle in Monrovia is a dangerous thing there is no doubt about it. Riding without a helmet can be potentially fatal, just ask my friend Marcel. I decided to not wear a helmet that day due to the fact that I didn't want to deal with taking my lid off and on after shooting pictures. You be the judge how smart that was. I have no comment. I was not aware that it is illegal to not wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle. There are many states in the USA in which it is perfectly legal to wear a helmet. In its history, Liberia has tried to duplicate a number of American ideas and laws so whether it is legal or illegal to wear a motorcycle helmet is up for debate. If one is to assume that the mass majority of a society actually follows the laws of their country, a quick glance at the Liberian population would lead an outsider to assume that indeed it is legal to ride a motorcycle without wearing a helmet. Back to the encounter…

Instead of starting a 'palava/palaver', or heated debate, because that never works with a Liberian, I decided to question the officer on these rules, partly to find out what exactly the rules are, and partly to see if he knew what he was talking about. After talking to him I have come to the conclusion that he could very well be making up a lot of what he was passing on to me. Take for example the question, "Officer, does both the driver and the rider have to wear helmets or is it only mandatory for the driver to wear a helmet?" He was adamant that it was only the driver of the motorcycle that was required to wear a helmet. His rationale was that it was my duty as driver of the motorcycle to protect my rider in the event of an accident. That line or reasoning still has me scratching my head. So when I am flying head over heels through the air when I ‘T-bone’ a car that has just inadvertently pulled out into the middle of the road, the first thing I should try to do is play Superman and rescue my rider? Hmm…

What I did find out is that there is an actual book that I can get to learn the rules of the road. I am very curious to get this book and find out how many drivers actually maintain the rules of the road. I’m positive that the bus full of LNP officers driving over the double yellow lines into the oncoming lane in order to pass morning rush hour traffic and then trying to cut back into traffic when they’re about the get into a head-on collision aren’t those actually following the rules. What is it in a person that makes them act so irrationally? Power perhaps?

I tried to convince the LNP officer that I quite frequently see LNP officers riding motorcycles without helmets (see picture at left). If individuals are to look up to the LNP as an example of law-abiding citizens, one would think that they would want to do the best possible job of standing above the average citizen as far as ensuring that laws are being followed. After all, these officers are here to “Serve and Protect”. I would assume they are protecting others from those who harm people by breaking the law.

Society looks to leaders. Whether they be social, academic, spiritual, or political, leaders provide individuals with a focal point in which to aim towards. What will it take for the LNP to become respectable among not only expatriates but Liberians alike. A recently returned Liberian refugee colleague of mine explained to me that before the civil war the Liberian National Police were individuals that the public respected, individuals not looking to squeeze a buck out of an unsuspecting victim, individuals that waited their time in traffic just like the majority of society, and individuals that people were drawn to for help, not driven away from fear of being extorted. After returning to Liberia after 15 years of refugee status in countries such as Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire, and Nigeria, he was blown away at the current state of affairs within the world of law enforcement in Liberia. I thought maybe it was just me.

On my ride home from work today another sight caught my eye that really got me thinking and drove me to share it with the world - another LNP Officer riding a motorcycle with a helmet - another LNP Officer breaking the laws that are in place for them to patrol. This time I have it on film.

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5 Comments:

  • At 6:15 PM, Anonymous chris said…

    Nice read!
    So - were you able to escape from the officer or did you have to strengthen your argument by slipping him some money?

    And what is the law concerning helmets?

     
  • At 9:56 PM, Blogger Kevin Aja Fryatt said…

    The score is currently Liberia 52, Kevin 1. Amazingly, I didn't pay any of them anything. I found out, at least this time, that playing the 'I'm your friend' card worked! I think I talked their ear off so much that they momentarily forgot why they had pulled me over.

    I believe the law states that you need to wear a helmet while wearing a motorcycle, although I haven't had the chance to get down to the Central Police Station to pick up the 'booklet' that they talked about. If it indeed is the law, nobody is following it...especially not the LNP.

     
  • At 7:09 AM, Blogger eThib said…

    Fryatt's Back!!!
    That's what I get for checking into the blog regularly.

    See you in a weeks time, friend!

     
  • At 10:22 PM, Blogger Kevin Aja Fryatt said…

    Dude,

    Its going to be awesome to have you guys back here again. Its great to be back. I went up to the Dukor and saw your school the other day...some changes taking place..you'll have to go check it out.

    K.

     
  • At 4:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    kevin, sounds like you love the LNP. Haha.

     

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