Opposition Leader’s Killers still on the run

Investigation into opposition politician murder is going cold

Commentary by Kai Toteh | January 15, 2014

Radio stations and daily newspapers in Monrovia on Friday, December 6, 2013 reported the murder of Fayiah Gbollie, political leader of the Free Democratic Party of Liberia (FDPL). On December 12, 2013, I wrote my opinion piece, titled, “The murder of a politician is strange in post war Liberia.”

In that piece, I wrote to defend the thesis in the following words: “This is a strange development, because we have not heard of a murder of a politician in this post war era.” In that same piece, I commended the police through their spokesman, Mr. Sam Collins for assuring the public that, “Police are doing everything to bring the perpetrators to justice.”

It is more than a month since the murder and police assurance to conduct a speedy investigation has yet to produce any results. Up to this date we have not heard a word from the investigators. To be frank, the people of Liberia and the family of late Fayiah Gbollie have the right to be updated on the investigation.

This is not to suggest that this article is intended to push investigators to do their work. Preferably, it is intended to remind police authorities and investigators that we, as Liberians have a sensitive issue on our hands; the murder of an opposition leader is not a joking matter.

During the course of the incident, an opposition leader, Simeon Freeman, told journalists hours following the report of Mr. Gbollie’s murder and was quoted by INSIGHT as saying, “What is scaring about his death is that an opposition politician was slaughtered. He was one of the few advocates calling for President Sirleaf to step down and the man was very loud on many radio stations every morning, when he spoke actively and participated actively. Therefore, to find him slaughtered early morning alone in his house is very scarring; it could be anyone of us.”

To prop Mr. Freeman’s statements, I wrote: “Although this article is neither intended to take side nor to influence public opinion against or for either party, the murder of an outspoken opposition politician, especially a few weeks following his participation in the “Ellen Must Resign Campaign” is disquieting. This is why opposition Freeman and all opposition leaders, members, supporters and sympathizers as well as the general public should treat this event with caution and prudence to avoid a dead end and unsolved murder.

If we are not mindful and if we allow our emotion to becloud our judgment, the whole thing could go out of hand. Nevertheless, the political leader of the Movement for Progressive Change, Simeon Freeman’s call for a quick trial must be buttressed by all peace loving Liberians regardless of political affiliation and differences. Mr. Freeman’s call is a moderate and genuine one, intended to clear the air and kill any suspicion and speculation.

The need for a speedy investigation cannot be overemphasized, and it is necessary to keep the public and the victim’s family updated, because in the absence of information on latest development into the investigation, speculation becomes the only source of information, which is not a good thing for our criminal justice system.

This was why I warned in my first article, in the following words:  “After the news broke out, speculations as a tradition filled the air as Liberians began to form their own opinions as usual about the motive of the murder. There were mixed reactions. The reason is the victim was an opposition politician, and those who experienced past regimes saw a lot of such events happened.”

I continued with my warning in my first piece following the incident in the following words: “We all should acknowledge that this case is yet another test for Liberia’s criminal justice system. Many times Liberia’s criminal justice system comes under attack by the United Nations, because government fails to put its justice system in order; it must begin to do so now if it wants to enjoy the confidence and respect of the people.

The Liberian people also must as of now, begin to serve as citizen police to help the government by reporting criminal activities of any nature starting from this case. The government should reciprocate by launching a witness protection program and protecting the identities of whistle blowers and put out a reward for the person who reports the culprit(s) of Gborllie’s murder. This is what makes the justice system works along with the necessary technologies associated with crimes investigation.”

Finally, most of this article is a repeat, because everything I said in the first piece is almost coming to a reality. Mr. Simeon Freeman’s assertion could be right. But it is not late to do the right thing to protect Liberia’s image and the image of our police and investigators.

Let’s not allow the investigation to go cold. This case is not an ordinary one. Government should invest heavily in this case to have it solved. If the murder suspect is not found, then we have a problem on our hands, because we already have the reputation of poor justice system.  And lastly, let’s dismiss the fear of opposition politicians that their lives are not safe.

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