Thursday, September 3, 2009

President’s Apology Receives Mixed Reactions

… Imam Wants Broh Apologize But Mayor Assures More Cooperation

The apology by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to Islamic leaders and Muslims of Liberia on Tuesday has controversially been greeted by members of the public.

A radio talkshow on the SKY 107 FM in Monrovia Wednesday showed that members of the public are divided on the President’s stance taken in the wake of the Mary Broh-led Presidential Taskforce’s clearing of some Muslims from the sidewalks around the Benson Street Central Mosque during a Ramadan worship service in Monrovia. The Special Presidential Taskforce was set up to give Monrovia a facelift.

Most of the callers on the phone-in talkshow said the President’s dissolution of the Mary Broh-led Special Taskforce and the apology on Tuesday by Madam Sirleaf when she visited Ramadan Fast worshipers at the Mosque was bias on ground that the Presidential taskforce was performing the function for which it was established and did not enter the Mosque to disorganize or disturb the Muslims.

“If Madam Sirleaf should apologize to Muslim worshipers, why didn’t she also apologized to the churches affected first by Madam Broh’s cleaning up exercises or the Seven Day Adventist Church whose Saturday worship services were disturbed by the cleaning and clearing campaign of the Presidential taskforce?” a caller asked.

The caller told the presenter of the show that Madam Broh’s Special Taskforce had acted against Adventist worshipers and broke down some Christian structures without any apology to the Seven Day Adventist or the Churches all in the name of cleaning the city, saying that apologizing to Muslims who sat on sidewalks to create filths and were cleared by the Taskforce is an indication of a bias.

Other callers on the show who share the same views said the Broh Presidential Taskforce should not have been dissolved; instead it was Madam Broh who should have been dismissed for overacting on presidential mandate.

Some others, however, noted that the President did well to dissolve the Broh-led Presidential. The callers said the Broh-led Taskforce was not necessary and constitute a waste of public resources, considering the constitution of the complete structure of the Monrovia City Corporation of which Madam Broh is acting Mayor.

“The Monrovia City Corporation is responsible for enforcement of city ordinances; what is the need then for a Presidential taskforce?” the caller wondered.

However, callers apparently of Muslim background differ, saying that it was necessary that the President apologize. Those who held that view state that the presidential gesture was reuniting and reconciliatory, and noted that Madam Broh did not do well to disturb the Ramadan session of the Muslims at the Benson Street Central Mosque.

The 50-50 talk show featured callers with the divided opinions on the dissolution of the Broh-led Presidential Taskforce and the subsequent apology by President Sirleaf.

The Executive Mansion in a release on September 1, 2009 however said President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has paid a visit to the Benson street mosque in Monrovia, the scene of a standoff Saturday between residents of the area including Muslim worshippers and a Special Presidential Task Force set up to help clean the city. Several residents and worshippers are reported to have suffered inconveniences during the Saturday clean up exercise.

The President, accompanied by the Acting Mayor of Monrovia, Madam Mary Broh, again expressed regrets for the inconveniences worshippers may have experienced during the clean up exercise by the Force. An Executive Manson release says the President reminded the Muslim community that Liberia belongs to everyone. “There is no one person, group, religion or party that is better than the other,” She assured Liberian Muslims.

The President observed that there may be incidence sometimes, that may be unfortunate and lead to tension, “but as leaders, we must find a way to subdue it and go beyond the event in the interest of unity and peace in Liberia.”

President Johnson Sirleaf said her visit to the Mosque was intended to reinforce the message and reconfirm her Government’s commitment to the promotion of peace and unity in the country.

Monrovia Acting Mayor, Mary Broh, assured the Muslim leaders of more consultation between her office and heads of various groups before enforcing city ordinance in any community.

Sheik Kafumba Konneh, in response, welcomed the visit by the President, describing it as a true manifestation of a true leader. The visit, Sheik Konneh said, is a testimony of the Liberian leader’s commitment to the promotion of peace, security, happiness and unity among Liberians.

He accepted the President’s apology on behalf of the Muslim Community, promising that the Community and Muslim leaders will cooperate with authorities of the Monrovia City Corporation to ensure that the city remains cleaned.

The visit by the President to the Mosque followed a meeting Sunday between the leadership of the Muslim Community and the Liberian leader, following concerns over the reported stand-off Saturday between residents of the Benson Street community and the Special President Task Force during a routine clean up exercise.

The Force has since been dissolved by the President, on grounds that it is no longer necessary, now that the City Corporation has put in place a structure to carry out the functions for which the Task Force was set up.

Meanwhile, an online Liberian media outlet, the FrontPageAfrica reported that despite the President's apology, Muslims at the Mosque where the weekend incident occurred are demanding that Broh herself apologize for the incident which took place during the observance of the Holy Month of Ramadan.

“She ordered her men to step the whole food. Just as the first person’s food was placed in his palm, her guards began stepping the food,” Imam Mohammed Sheriff, the head of the mosque said.

Iman Mohammed Sheriff, representing the chief iman and residing for the five-daily prayer described the Acting City Major’s action as an ‘attack on Islam’. He quoted Broh as saying, “These people are dirty. Your take down the whole shit down” as food donated by President Ellen Johson-Sirleaf to the Muslim community that same day was being distributed.

The Imam continued: “She ordered her men to step the whole food. Just as the first person’s food was placed in his palm, her guards began stepping the food”, the head of the mosque said which, according to him, led to hundreds of Muslims being unable to end their fasts that Saturday.

Iman Sheriff said the incident took place on Saturday, August 29 at exactly 6:30PM as muslims gathered to break their daily fast during this period of Ramadan.

He said Broh ignored a stockpile of dirt that gathered directly across from the mosque but rather chose to abuse them at their worship place which was very clean as food was being served.

Meanwhile, Iman Sheriff confirmed that the Liberian leader apologized on behalf of Broh to the entire Muslim community during their Sunday’s meeting with her. However, the Imam said, they told the President to make the apology an open one to the entire public on radio stations,” according to the FrontPageAfrica online magazine.

The “President’s apology” is not enough for the Muslim community which is demanding that the controversial Acting Major makes an open apology. The imam insisted, saying, “Let Madame Broh herself apologize to us for her personal grudge against us, Muslims. We are expecting her to come here either today or tomorrow to do that according to information we received.”

The iman revealed that the Acting Major’s attack is an anticipated and planned one as she had earlier promised to ‘rage clean-up’ against the Benson and Newport Streets mosques. According to him, she made the threatening remarks when she and her team had earlier visited two nearby meat shops owned by Malians on August 24th (Flag Day).

Haja Aisha who was brutalized during Saturday's melee says she was refused treatment at a local clinic Malag Clinic on Mechlin Street. But she was instead referred to the John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Sinkor by the clinic’s medical staffs.

Haja Aisha, after three days of being “brutalized” during the incident, still appeared very critical and was refused treatment at a local clinic Malag Clinic on Mechlin Street. She was rather referred to the John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Sinkor by the clinic’s medical staffs.

Addressing his weekly news briefing Monday, Presidential Press Secretary Cyrus Wleh Badio said the incident overshadowed the good intentions of the President who has been identifying with Muslims during the Holy Month of Ramadan. “The incident, it is our understanding, affected some members of the Muslim community who were preparing to break their fast.”

In the aftermath of Saturday’s incident, Muslims reportedly went on the rampage and physically assaulted Broh, recently appointed as Acting Mayor of Monrovia. Eyewitnesses said police sealed off the sections of Benson and Mechlin Streets and Benson/Randall Streets to bring the situation under control.

The President, has meanwhile, dissolved the Special Presidential Task Force with immediate effect. The Force, the President says is no longer necessary, now that the Structure of the Monrovia city Corporation is in place.