Saturday, September 09, 2006

The So-Called Isaakaba Boys

Everyone is talking about the so-called “Isaakaba” phenomenon, and although we generally try to keep Liberia looking as rosy as possible here at the Ledger, I can’t help but report on it.

Gangs of unemployed ex-combatant youths have been terrorizing various neighborhoods in Monrovia ever since the war ended, but apparently things are getting worse in recent weeks.

The response has been miserable across the board:

The media have been referring to the perpetrators as if they were some monolithic “notorious gang” instead of a generalized crime wave. One effect has got to be that disaffected ex-combatant youths will be attracted to the idea of being associated with the name, “Issakaba Boys”, and the problem will multiply.

The Justice Ministry has called on citizens to form neighborhood watches and “vigilante groups” (their words). Consequently, there have been at least two spontaneous public stonings for alleged petty crimes in the last few days, and dozens of mob justice episodes. This, at a time when the government and iNGOs had been working to foster respect for rule of law. And what will happen a couple of years from now, when these unaccountable, untrained neighborhood watch groups have morphed into miniature organized crime units themselves? I know it ain’t easy when your police force is unarmed, underpaid, unskilled, and unhappy, AND you’ve got 85% unemployment in your country, but asking the people to take the law into their own hands!?!? Could you think of no other policy options?

The UN mission is not perceived as doing anything about the crime wave. Ask anyone, and I mean anyone, what they think of UNMIL right now, and they will spit, curse, and flail their arms in disgust, wondering why they don’t send some of their 15,000 peacekeepers out to police the streets. UNMIL’s excuse is that they don’t have an Executive Mandate allowing them to do so. Is the Ellen government asking for one, and does the international community have any interest in that option?


Blogger josh said...

I heard one politician on the radio yesterday calling for the Justice Minister's resignation for telling the public to form vigilante groups. But he was not so much concerned about the negative effects of having people take the law into their own hands as he was about the idea that the Justice Minster is in effect admitting that she cannot keep law and order.

11:50 AM  
Blogger josh said...

UNMIL has condemed the call for vigilantism.

11:54 AM  

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