Update on the Situation in Liberia as of August 21, 2014
By: Francis Egu and Mitchell Sommers, Accountability Lab Residents in Liberia and Washington DC respectively.
The spread of Ebola continues to undermine stability in Liberia as it faces the most devastating onset of the virus in history. Recently the community of West Point, a neighborhood with which the Lab has worked closely, has become a global flashpoint for the tensions and fear caused by the disease.
Early on Wednesday, August 20th, the Government of Liberia announced a complete quarantine of West Point, the most populated low-income community (50,000+ residents) in Monrovia, in an effort to contain the spread of the Ebola virus. This announcement came four days after locals stormed a recently-established Ebola isolation center over claims that the deaths reported by the center were not West Point residents and were thus tarnishing the community’s reputation. Liberian officials have reportedly blocked the roadways and waterways surrounding the neighborhood.
West Pointers rely heavily on foot traffic between the different neighborhoods in Monrovia and the quarantine has created outrage among local residents who cannot get out to buy food and other supplies. Clashes between protesters and the police have resulted in violence, including an alleged (non-fatal) shooting of a 14-year old boy by security forces (see photos on NPR here). Early this morning, residents refused a shipment of water from the government, demonstrating the high degree of anger that exists with the public authorities in West Point.
*Correction (August 23rd): We’ve since learned that residents have accepted subsequent shipments of food and water from the government without refusal.
The crisis has exacerbated existing anger and mistrust between Liberians and the government, which reflects a lack of accountability between citizens and power holders. People in West Point have been telling us that they want to know why the government delayed four days in setting up the quarantine in West Point as well as who is responsible for the violence in the community.
The current situation has led to increased disputes between citizens. Our local Community Justice Teams (CJTs), who have already resolved more than 82 local disputes and are trusted by the community, are best placed to preserve peace in West Point during these trying times. These teams, who are working with Liberia’s Ministry of the Interior, are struggling to address the rising number of cases caused by the recent quarantine.
If you would like to support the teams by giving them the resources they need to preserve peace and build trust in West Point please visit our tinyGive campaign page here. Even a small amount goes a long way towards their efforts to resolve disputes and fight the consequences of Ebola now and in the future. You can also cast your vote towards them here.
For more information contact the Lab: email@example.com or +231-88-833-0901