Monday, April 17, 2006


Traders say they have no other way to earn their living. Liberia's police have set fire to stalls in order to enforce a new ban on street trading, market traders say. The traders said they saw police officers burn their stalls in the early hours of the morning in the eastern Paynesville district of the capital. The fire came shortly after new police chief Beatrice Munnah Sieh toured the area as the ban came into effect. The ban is supposed to ease congestion in Monrovia, where thousands of people fled during 14 years of civil war. There are no reports of any injuries in the fires, as the fires were started during the night.

The BBC's Jonathan Paye-Layleh in Monrovia says traders are angry at the new ban but there have been no reports of resistance to it. The campaign aims to end traffic chaos in especially the busy Paynesville district, where traders come from other parts of Liberia to do business with those in the capital. There, every day is market day, our correspondent says. The taking over of streets by peddlers and vendors has made driving difficult and denied motorists access to many commercial districts in post-war Monrovia. After blocking access routes to the city's largest waterside market, street sellers have lately advanced to the city centre, in a desperate attempt to take control of a key avenue on which leading banks are located.

Ms Sieh, Liberia's first female police chief, says it is time to put things right. After touring marketplaces on Sunday, she told the BBC her force was making the street-clearing exercise a matter of priority because "every human being in this country should have their rights; those who are walking on the sidewalks - poor people who do not have cars - have their rights; those who own cars, too, are supposed to ride the cars, it is their right." Before Monday's fire, Paynesville market's superintendent Roland Tuazama said he backed the police intervention. "Most of the people on the streets are people who participated in the war, they are ex-combatants; it is hard to talk to them," Mr Tuazama said. The authorities have urged the vendors to move to enclosed market buildings, which have empty space.

However, the traders fear this would hit their sales because their wares would no longer be on display to passers-by. Those traders who do not have fixed stalls, such as the cassette retailers who transport their goods around town in wheelbarrows, will not be affected by the crack-down.



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