Ritualistic murders and alleged ritual killings are not only a violation of the law. They scare people. In many sub-Saharan African countries people fear what might never happen, but their fear is real. Too often they hear of children and adults who disappeared only to be found back ‘with several parts missing’. Reporting on alleged or real ritual murders is erratic. Not all cases are reported and very often we don’t hear what happened to the victims and their families – and the perpetrators. Even when caught and arrested, its is relatively rare to read reports about their trial, and subsequent sentencing when found guilty.
In Port Harcourt. Rivers State, Nigeria, a group of women took to the streets and demanded more protection of women and urged the police to take more measures to stop the recent wave of alleged ritualistic murders by one or more serial killers. (webmaster FVDK)
Published: September 14, 2019 By: The Sun (Nigeria)
Irked by the ugly pattern of supposed ritual killings of women in hotels in Port Harcourt, a body known as Rivers Female Youths yesterday, on a protest, took their grievance to the state police command, demanding stronger measures to protect women. The youths, who displayed placards with different inscriptions, decried what they see as the deliberate targeting of women by suspected serial killers operating in the state. Some of the placards read: “Hotel owners must be accountable and be responsible for their guests”, “She could be your sister, daughter, wife or friend” and “There is no life without women.”
Convener of the protest, Soibi Ibibo Jack, said that the female youths were at the state police command to demand stronger measures by the police to apprehend the killers. She said once apprehended, the killer must be made to face the full weight of the law, irrespective of his/her political or social status.
“There is a serial killer on the loose in Rivers State,” she insists. “We want to go out and return home without fear. We acknowledge the police for what they are doing, but we urge them to do more so that the killer is arrested, tried and made to face the full weight of the law.”
In her remarks, a protester, Cecilia Dikibo, urged the police to deploy more resources to ensure the safety of women in Port Harcourt. Also speaking, Peace Pepple from Opobo-Nkoro added that as the police works to secure women, there is the need for everyone to be careful. Bidemi Edward-Odoi suggested that the arrest and strict interrogation of affected hotel managers would help to compel others to take the security of their hotels seriously.
Published: September 15, 2019 By: The New Telegraph (Nigeria)
A suspected ritual killer, Tunde Tayo of Ungwan Roka, Maitumbi, Minna in Bosso Local Government Area of Niger State has been arrested by the Police after burying a headless body in his uncompleted building. Tayo was caught after cutting off the head and removing the heart and intestines of the Okada at the Crystal FM area in Maitunbi. The victim, 25-year-old Abdullahi Salle, our Correspondent learnt, was a bikeman popularly known as Okada.
The 30-year-old Tayo was reportedly apprehended by police operatives attached to the Maitumbi Division for killing his victim of Ungwan Rama for ritual purposes. Upon interrogation, the suspect claimed to be clearing grasses grown in the building before he was apprehended. Further investigation revealed that Salle’s body was buried by the suspect in a shallow grave near his house. In an interview with our Correspondent on Saturday, the suspect said he lured his victim to his uncompleted building in Ungwan Roka, where he carried out the crime.
According to him:“I beheaded and removed Salle’s intestines and heart for ritual purposes. I even buried him in a shallow grave in my uncompleted house. “It was when I tried to cover his body and the grave with grass that people around found out and noticed what I did. They held me, raised alarm and that was how I found myself in police net.” According to Tayo, a father of five children and a welder in Sabon-Gari area of Minna,
“I never knew that police can get at me, it was frustrations and inconsistence in life that made me to commit the crime. I am ruined.”
When asked whether his wife knew about his escapades, he said: “Nobody knows I am into ritual business, my wife does not know anything concerning the ritual business, she only knows me as a welder.” Confirming the incident, the Command’s Public Relations Officer, Muhammad Abubakar, said the suspect had confessed to the crime. Accordingly, Abubakar said: “Upon exhumation of the victim’s body it was discovered that the head and other internal parts had been removed.” Furthermore, he said the suspect would be charged to court after the conclusion of investigations.
Related article: Police nab suspect for allegedly beheading commercial cyclist in Niger
Published: September 13, 2019 By: The New Telegraph (Nigeria)
The Police Command in Niger has arrested one Tunde Taiyo, 30, of Maitumbi, Bosso Local Government Area of the State, for allegedly beheading a 24-year-old commercial motorcyclist, Abdullahi Sale, at Maitumbi area.
The Commissioner of Police in the State, Alhaji Adamu Usman, disclosed this in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Minna on Friday.
Usman said that the deceased motorcyclist hailed from Bosso Local Government Area of the state.
“Immediately the command got the report of the incident, we swung into action which led to the arrest of Tunde Taiyo at his uncompleted building,” he said.
He said residents of Maitumbi informed the police that they noticed blood around an uncompleted building.
“Police discovered a headless body buried in a shallow grave inside the uncompleted building belonging to the suspect .
“The body of the commercial motorcyclist was buried without head in a shallow grave at the suspect’s uncompleted building,” he said.
The commissioner said the suspect, who is married with one wife and four children, was arrested by the police at the uncompleted building, while clearing grass.
He said Taiyo would be charged to court after investigations were completed.
My September 12, 2019 posting – the day before yesterday – was about an old case of ritualistic murder in Ghana (then still called Gold Coast colony), ‘A chieftaincy dispute and ritual murder in Elmina, Ghana, 1945-6’. I have been following ritualistic murders and related incidents in Ghana for well over ten years now and reported on these crimes on a special page of my website Liberia’s Past and Present, called ‘ritual murders, not only in Liberia‘. The oldest case reported on the relevant Ghana page of the website dates from March 9, 2009 and although the main theme of the article concerned is quite different – it deals with the question who is to be credited for the foundation of ‘Ghana’ and the naming of the new republic which succeeded to the English colony of Gold Cost – my attention was drawn to a paragraph dealing with an old ritualistic murder case.
It reads as follows:
“Among the five causes of the deterioration in public confidence identified by the Colonial Office, was what they described as “the bitterness of the group of politicians, led by Dr. J.B. Danquah, over the hanging of the Kibi murderers”. According to a Colonial Office report on the disturbances in the Gold Coast, “[t]he Kibi affair changed the pattern of Gold Coast politics. A number of Kibi people were tried for the ritual murder at the time of the funeral, in 1944, of Nana Sir Ofori Atta, Omanhene of Akyem Abuakwa. They were defended in a notoriously long trial by many lawyers led by Dr. J.B. Danquah and employed by their relatives. The bitterness of this family over the trial and the conviction of some among their relatives as murderers resulted in their instituting an uncompromising political campaign against the Governor and the Government. This group subsequently formed the hard core of the extreme nationalists who in August 1947 founded the United Gold Coast Convention”.
The original article is presented below.
One reason why I post it here is to demonstrate that ritualistic killings are no new phenomenon in Ghana. Another reason is to show that the colonial authorities acted against these inhuman crimes. The third and last reason is to draw attention to the fact that ritualistic killings have never been eradicated in Ghana. The main question which immediately arises is : Why?
This will be the subject of another posting. (webmaster FVDK)
Published: March 9, 2009 By: Ekow Nelson – GhanaWeb
President Evans Atta Mills’ proposal to honour our first president Dr. Kwame Nkrumah has generated a lot of debate on both sides of Ghana’s historical political divide. Apart from a minority who are opposed to another public holiday, the divisions are over whether the proposed Founder’s Day should be bestowed only on Nkrumah or be made Founders’ Day, extended to include the so-called ‘Big Six’ who were arrested after the 1948 riots and disturbances following the shooting and killing of three ex-servicemen.
The argument in favour of extending the President’s proposed honour is predicated on the belief that the arrests of the then leaders of the U.G.C.C. and the establishment of the Commission of Enquiry into the 1948 riots under the chairmanship of Aiken Watson Q.C., was a watershed moment in our country’s history and marked the beginning of the final journey toward independence. But is this credible?
From the end of World War II until the appointment of the Watson Commission, there was a gradual but palpable deterioration in public confidence in the Government of the Gold Coast, among other things, because of soaring inflation and growing shortages of consumer goods. Farmers were dissatisfied with the policy of cutting-out cocoa trees ravaged by the swollen-shoot disease with no compensation. Ex-servicemen who had fought in World War II for ‘King and country’ had only been awarded meagre gratuity and were experiencing similar hardships to the general populace. Neither the chiefs in the Joint Provincial Council, nor the elite political class, championed the cause of the growing mass of disaffected people and it fell upon Nii Kwabena Bonnne II, Osu Alata Mantse, to lead the agitation against increasing economic hardship and in particular, inexorable rises in the prices of consumer goods.
Just over a month after Nkrumah’s arrival in the Gold Coast in 1947, this growing discontent found expression in the boycott of mostly foreign-owned trading firms organized by Nii Kwabena Bonnne on 26th January 1948. The boycott continued for a month while its leaders negotiated price reductions with the government and the trading firms – the Association of West African Merchants (AWAM). However, on 28th February 1948 when the boycott was due to be called off, ex-servicemen set-off on a march to the Castle to present a petition to the Governor. In the ensuing kerfuffle, the British officer in charge of Castle security Superintendent Colin Imray gave orders to open fire, killing three ex-servicemen – Sgt. Adjetey, Private Odartey Lamptey and Corporal Attipoe – and injuring many others in the process.
News of the shooting sparked days of rioting in Accra by alr eady angry crowds incensed by the high price of food, which they blamed on the greed of foreign merchants. Shops and offices owned by foreigners were attacked, looted and the violence soon spread to other towns. Faced with widespread disorder, Governor Sir Gerald Creasy declared a state of emergency. Troops were called out while police arrested the ‘trouble makers’. Leaders of the U.G.C.C. – the so-called Big Six: J. B. Danquah, Ofori Atta, Akufo Addo, Ako Adjei, Obetsebi Lamptey and Kwame Nkrumah – were arrested and flown to the Northern Territories where they were detained for six weeks.
While it is true that both Kwame Nkrumah and Dr. Joseph Boakye Danquah addressed the ex-servicemen at a rally in Accra on 20th February 1948 where their petition to the Governor was drawn up, it is clear that the leaders of U.G.C.C. did not anticipate or plan the 1948 riots which was triggered by a combination of public disaffection over rising prices and shortages and the shooting of innocent ex-servicemen whose only crime appears to have been to petition the Governor.
After interrogating the accused the Watson commissioners concluded that Nkrumah was mainly to blame for the disorders. Curiously, the other leaders of the U.G.C.C also blamed Nkrumah for the riots and some, including Obestebi Lamptey and William Ofori-Atta, ransacked his house looking for evidence that he was a communist.
So, isn’t it rather breathtakingly hypocritical that while the U.G.C.C. leadership washed its hands of the 1948 riots and blamed Nkrumah for the disturbances that led to their arrests and earned them the sobriquet of the ‘Big Six’, 52 years on, their supporters wish to claim credit for triggering the process that led to the establishment of the Watson Commission and in consequence, the Coussey Constitutional Commission (from which Nkrumah and the Trades Unions were excluded) and the march toward independence? Without the 1948 riots it is unlikely the constitutional process that paved the way for our independence may have been initiated and the so-called ‘Big Six’ had no role in those events.
The other argument put forward by opponents of President Mills’s proposal is that prior to Nkrumah’s arrival, the U.G.C.C. leadership had started the agitation for self-rule. It is worth, however, examining the motivations behind the establishment of the U.G.C.C. to test this claim.
Among the five causes of the deterioration in public confidence identified by the Colonial Office, was what they described as “the bitterness of the group of politicians, led by Dr. J.B. Danquah, over the hanging of the Kibi murderers”. According to a Colonial Office report on the disturbances in the Gold Coast, “[t]he Kibi affair changed the pattern of Gold Coast politics. A number of Kibi people were tried for the ritual murder at the time of the funeral, in 1944, of Nana Sir Ofori Atta, Omanhene of Akyem Abuakwa. They were defended in a notoriously long trial by many lawyers led by Dr. J.B. Danquah and employed by their relatives. The bitterness of this family over the trial and the conviction of some among their relatives as murderers resulted in their instituting an uncompromising political campaign against the Governor and the Government. This group subsequently formed the hard core of the extreme nationalists who in August 1947 founded the United Gold Coast Convention”.
It is also far from clear that the immediate aim of the movement was to seek independence. In a letter to the Secretary of State for the Colonies Mr Creech Jones in December 1947, Sir Kenneth Bradley, officer administering the Gold Coast, argued that the motivations for the establishment of the U.G.C.C. had much to do with the personal ambitions of its leadership to supplant the Chiefs on the Joint Provincial Council in the power-sharing arrangement with the colonial government.
According Bradley, “one of the [U.G.C.C.’s] immediate aims is to wrest power from the chiefs. Those leading chiefs of the Colony with whom I have discussed the Convention agree that this is the main immediate aim of promoters of the party; and they are somewhat disturbed by the party’s activities. This assessment of the Convention’s present objective is borne out also by the reports of the meetings so far held. None of the leading chiefs of the Colony have been invited to take any part in the framing of the Constitution, nor has any approach been made to the Joint Provincial Council or the Ashanti Confederacy Council.”
While it was clearly a nationalist movement, the U.G.C.C. was not national in its reach, at least until Nkrumah’s arrival four months after its inauguration in Saltpond. As Bradley pointed out, its supporters were mainly in the large coastal towns of Accra, Saltpond, Cape Coast, Sekondi and Kibi the home of Dr Danquah, which was also the mainspring of the movement. The Watson Commission too observed that the “U.G.C.C. did not really get down to business until the arrival of Mr Nkrumah on 16 December 1947” who was singularly responsible for broadening the appeal of the movement across the country.
The role and contribution of U.G.C.C. in the struggle for independence is not in doubt but to hoist it, almost exclusively, as the harbinger organisation for Ghana’s independence is to overstate its case. It was neither the first nationalist movement in neither the Gold Coast nor the last; indeed it supplanted the Aborigines’ Rights Protection Society which until then championed the interests of natives of the colony. Like the Aborigines’ Rights Protection Society, it too, was supplanted – by the Nkrumah’s Convention People’s Party – when it [the U.G.C.C.] became a “spent political force” (as the some founding members of the U.G.C.C. said of the Society in 1947). Ghana’s struggle for independence began long before the U.G.C.C. and the Big Six and there is a case for honouring all of those like Joseph Casley-Hayford, John Mensah Sarbah Nii Kwabena Bonnne II and William Essuman Gwira (Kobina) Sekyi, who have contributed immensely to our nationhood. But are we to believe that the likes of Obetsebi Lamptey, Ako Adjei, Edward Akuffo-Addo and William Ofori-Atta, their contributions notwithstanding, are more deserving than these stalwarts of 19th and 20th century Gold Coast only because they were part of the ‘Big Six’ arrested after the 1948 riots? No!
The final leg of the argument against declaring 21st September Founder’s Day is that Nkrumah was not the founder of Ghana. If anything, in addition to his other immense intellectual and political achievements, Dr. J.B. Danquah was founder by virtue of proposing we adopt the name Ghana, his supporters argue. It is true that Dr. J.B. Danquah demonstrated in his paper “The Ghana Hypothesis” that the inhabitants of the then the Gold Coast were descended from the first of the three major empires of Western Sudan. In a Colonial Office despatch in 1949, the officer administering the government then observed that “Nkrumah’s axial fantasy – Ghanaland – [had] been cribbed from Dr. Danquah. With some malversation of history and considerable recourse to mystical interpretation, Dr. Danquah demonstrated some time ago that the Gold Coast is the ancient state of Ghana. The romantic notion was enthusiastically received and much elaborated by local bards but it was Mr. Nkrumah who transformed it into a political conception”. In other words, Nkrumah could have chosen not to take inspiration from Dr. Danquah’s hypothesis but he complimented him by making what was a vague and ropey conception the reality that became the motion of independence tabled on August 3rd 1956. However, when the time came for Dr. Danquah and Nkrumah’s opponents to make the former’s hypothesis a reality, they spurned the opportunity. In a memorandum on 29th August 1956 to the United Kingdom cabinet, the then Secretary of State for Colonies described the events leading up to the motion: “The new Legislative Assembly was opened on 31st July, and on 3rd August the Government introduced its expected motion calling for independence within the Commonwealth. All the Opposition members boycotted the debate …and the motion was passed nem con. If there had been a vote, the Opposition could not have mustered more than 32 votes against the Governments 72. I must regard the motion therefore as having been passed by a “reasonable majority.” . The full text of the motion reads as follows: “that this Assembly do authorise the Government of the Gold Coast to request Her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom, as soon as practicable this year, to procure the enactment by the United Kingdom Parliament of an Act to provide for independence of the Gold Coast as a sovereign and independent State within the Commonwealth under the name of Ghana.|”” That motion was not drafted by Dr. Danquah; indeed as noted Dr. Danquah’s party boycotted the debate to request independence and to change our name from the Gold Coast to Ghana. He may have borrowed the idea from Dr. Danquah but it was Nkrumah who ‘christened’ the Gold Coast, Ghana.”
The arguments against President Mills’ proposition from the UP/NPP side is not credible, especially when one comes to think of the fact that they presided over the golden jubilee celebrations and had eight years in which they could have honoured the ‘Big Six’ beyond having their portraits put in the new currency notes. Now they are attempting opportunistically to gate-crash President Mills’s bash for Nkrumah with rather weak and hollow arguments.
The current geographic borders of Ghana which integrates parts of what was Trans-Volta Togoland for example was negotiated by Nkrumah. It was Nkrumah who stopped separatists for dismembering and balkanizing the country as we know it. If the so-called Big Six had their way in 1956 Ghana would not look anything like what we know today. In its administrative structure, organisation and physical boundaries, the idea of Ghana as we know it today is by and large Nkrumah’s ‘creation’.
The Journal of African History (Volume 41, Issue 2, July 2000, pp. 197-219) contains a very interesting article on a chieftaincy dispute and ritual murder in the British colony of Gold Coast, 1945. I do not present the entire article here for copyright reasons. However, I found it relevant enough to include the abstract of the article here, also as a kind of appetizer. Interested readers are referred to the source.
Also see my September 14, 2019 posting (webmaster FVDK).
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 01 July 2000, pp. 197-219
Print publication: July 2000
Between 6.30 and 7.00 a.m. on Monday morning, 19 March 1945 the body of a young girl of ten was found on the beach a short distance from the town of Elmina at a popular bathing spot known as Akotobinsin. According to the coroner, she had been dead for between 24 and 48 hours. There was no water in her lungs or stomach which indicated that she had not died by drowning. Instead, her upper and lower lips, both cheeks, both eyes, her private parts and anus, and several elliptical pieces of skin from different parts of her body had been removed. Many of these wounds exposed large blood vessels and the coroner concluded that ‘death was due to shock and hemorrhage’.
She was identified as Ama Krakraba who had been missing since the evening of Saturday, 17 March. Her frantic mother had immediately suspected foul play and had confronted Kweku Ewusie, the Regent of the Edina State, who was later accused of having ‘enticed’ the young girl to the third floor of Bridge House, where he lived, ‘by the ruse of sending her out on an errand to buy tobacco’. There she had been murdered so that her body parts could be used to make ‘medicine’ to help the Regent’s faction win a court case that was critical for their political standing in Elmina.
On the 24 March, after a preliminary investigation, the colony’s attorney-general brought charges of murder against Kweku Ewusie and four others from Elmina: Joe Smith, Herbert Krakue, Nana Appram Esson, alias Joseph Bracton Johnson, and Akodei Mensah. They were tried at the Accra Criminal Assizes from 16 May to 2 June, found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to be hanged.
The West African Court of Appeal turned down their appeal on 28 June 1945 as did the Privy Council on 14 January 1946. On 1 February 1946, Kweku Ewusie, Joe Smith and Herbert Krakue were hanged at James Fort in Accra, and on 2 February, J. B. Johnson and Akodei Mensah met the same fate.
A refreshing sound. An honest voice. Though Dr Mbaimbai Hlathi was speaking on the theme of the day, which was ‘Traditional Medicine is the Answer’, his speech was more than a plea for traditional medicine. It also was a speech against age-old practices such as human sacrifices and muti killings – muti murders!
There is no place in a modern society for muti murders. Using traditional medicine means killing two birds with one stone: ending cruel practices such as muti murders which constitute serious human rights violations and preserving indigenous plants at the same time (webmaster FVDK).
Published: September 9, 2019 By: Elmon Tshikhudo – ZoutNet
A well-known traditional healer and president of the SADC Unified Ancestors Practitioners Associations, Dr Mbaimbai Hlathi, has called on traditional healers “not to tarnish their God-given skills of healing people with the use of herbs by using human body parts”.
Hlathi, who made a name for himself by helping many barren people have children, was speaking during a function to celebrate traditional medicine. The event took place on Saturday at the Giyani Stadium and was attended by many traditional healers from around the country, officials from the Kruger National Park, government officials and many community members.
The theme of the day was Traditional Medicine is the Answer.
In an interview, Hlathi said that celebrating and preserving traditional medicine as it had been used by communities for decades as an effective treatment was important. He further indicated that traditional healers should stick to their traditions and desist from killing people for ritual purposes.
“Our gods gave us a whole land for herbs that are used to cure the different diseases. Why should we go out and kill others for their body parts? We are saying it here that those who use body parts are not part of us. They are fake healers who are tarnishing our noble profession of healing people.”
He described them as “fly-by-nights” and said that they should be exposed and punished by the law. “Ours is the task to heal people and not to kill others in order to heal,” he said.
Hlathi urged traditional practitioners to take an effective part in preserving indigenous plants. He called on traditional practitioners to help save the rhino by not working with criminals, giving criminals muti to go and kill rhinos and committing any other crimes in communities.
Published: September 6, 2019 By: Ghana JoyNews Volta Region, regional correspondent Ivy Setordjie
A man in his late 30s has been arrested at Adaklu in the Volta region for the alleged murder of an 8-year-old girl, Shine Agyima in the Ho Central Municipality of the Volta region.
According to the residents in Nyive where the girl was murdered, the suspect confessed to the killing.
He reportedly did this for ritual purposes. The JoyNews reporter explained, the suspect said he was instructed by a fetish priest to drink the blood of a girl in a ritual meant to bring him money.
The Mankrando of Nyive Togbe Apasu strongly believes the state of the victim’s body points to ritual murder.
The suspect, according to the residents, stays not too far from family of the victim in Nyive. The family and residents of Nyive said they are living in fear as a result of the incident. They fear there are others in the community who may be targetting children for ritual murder.
The mother of the girl Serwa Abalu said she is traumatized by the loss of her innocent daughter.
“I am a poor woman with no husband to help me and now they have killed my only daughter “ Serwa Abalu lamented.
The Togbe has pleaded with the police to make ensure that all persons connected to the crime are arrested and put before court.
The Volta Regional Police PRO, Prince Dogbatseyi in an interview with JoyNews stated the investigation is ongoing to make sure that justice is given to the girl.
If one had hoped that the trial of the seven accused in the Sinoe murder case (the ‘Johnny Town Murder Case’ – see my previous postings on this subject) would have acted as a deterrent, unfortunately, reality is different. On September 5, another case has been revealed, this time in Maryland County, in the eastern part of the country, near Ivory Coast. One the one hand, the Liberian police is to be commended for its swift action and upholding the law; on the other hand, one wonders if and when mob justice, trail by ordeal (sassy wood trials) and the belief in witchcraft wil ever end in Liberia.
Warning: the article below contains some graphic details (webmaster FVDK).
HARPER, Maryland – Police in Harper, Maryland are currently investigating eight persons in Rock Town, Barrobo District for allegedly killing three people.
According to the commander of the Maryland Police Detachment, Jacob Comehn, 14 persons were accused of murdering Town Chief Isaac Weah Sadyee, Isaac Gortoe, and an 18-year-old identified as David Nugbo.
Comehn told journalists that he had received a call the morning of Monday, September 2 from Rock Town Community about the murders. The following day, he said his officers went to the location and arrested 8 of the 14 suspects. Six persons are still on the run.
Those arrested were John Tewah, Moses Chea, Sam Gbaquee, Chea Karmune, Deagba Toe, David Weah, Solomon Weah, and Cyrus Doe. All were males and ranged in ages from 33 to 50.
Comehn said the three persons murdered had been accused of witchcraft. He said the accused had been brought in the middle of town for questioning, where they reportedly confessed openly that they had planned to kill some Rock Town residents through witchcraft.
The police commander did not say whether the men were tortured before their confession, but he noted that they were murdered with cutlasses and other sharp objects.
Comehn described the deceased bodies as bearing signs of having undergone excruciating pain. Saydee’s two hands were cut and his two eyes were plucked, while Gortoe was chopped with cutlasses on his neck and the 18-year-old Nugbo had cutlass marks on his forehead and chest.
Prior to the killing, Comehn said the 14 suspects had asked women of the town to go indoors for the “country devil” to be released.
The case is eerily reminiscent of an ongoing trial in Buchanan, where seven men are being tried for gang-raping three women and murdering one of them after they were accused of being witches.
In that case, a defendant testified that the three women were turned over to the traditional society because they had been accused of witchcraft. A “country devil” had also been called to come take the women away and the town crier had asked all those around to go indoors. The defendant then explained that the body parts were extracted from the murder victim. The seven defendants were found guilty and are awaiting sentencing once they exhaust the appeal process.
Meanwhile, the Maryland police commander is calling on the public to assist in locating the remaining suspects. They are Toeson Hinneh, Jacob Doe, Varsco Weah, Prince Doe, Dargba Toe, and Amos Bahway.
“We in this part of the country remain committed to saving lives and properties as part of our duties in helping the government of Liberia in dealing with crimes,” Comehn said.
The eight suspects are in police custody and undergoing thorough investigation in Harper, Maryland. After police investigation, Comehn said the eight suspects will be charged and sent to court.
The three victims were buried on Wednesday by family members.
Earlier than expected, Judge Joe Barkon of the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court in Grand Bassa County has handed down his final ruling in the Sinoe murder case. Justice is done! But will this landmark case act as a deterrent?
For the answer, see tomorrow’s posting (September 9, 2019) (webmaster FVDK).
Published: September 6, 2019 By: Sampson David – The Bush Chicken
BUCHANAN, Grand Bassa – The Second Judicial Circuit Court has handed down its final ruling in the Sinoe gang rape and murder case, sentencing the seven defendants to 25 years in prison.
The ruling confirmed the guilty verdict rendered by the jury on August 30th against Moses Solo, Alex Karpeh, Sylvester Charty, Teah Gmanwle, Victor Solo, Tweh Kelgbeh, and Dennis Pyne Nimely.
The case stems from a December 12, 2018 incident where three women were stripped naked, paraded, and gang-raped in Johnny Town, Nomorpoe District, Sinoe. They were accused of witchcraft and one of the women, Willette Nyewallah, was murdered and buried secretly in a swamp in Johnny Town.
The defendants were charged with murder, gang rape, aggravated assault, criminal facilitation, and criminal conspiracy, and the case was transferred to the Second Judicial Circuit Court to avoid interference from powerful members of the traditional society.
The case began on August 13, with the defendants represented by a team of public defenders led by Grand Bassa’s public defender, Paul Jarvan.
Ten of the twelve jurors voted for a guilty verdict, while two abstained.
The head of the defense counsel, Jarvan, took exception to the jurors’ verdict, adding that he expected five of the seven persons who are not members of the traditional society to have been set free.
“The indictment said traditional people [were responsible for the murder], and the father of the deceased came and said only two persons up there [were members of the traditional society] – Alex Carpeh and Moses Solo,” he told journalists on Friday, August 30 at the court.
He filed a motion for retrial on September 2 and the argument took place on September 5, but Judge Joe Barkon denied the motion on grounds that the guilty verdict rendered by the jury against the seven defendants supports the weight of the evidence presented in court by the prosecution.
Barkon said a motion for a new trial may only be granted if the verdict is contrary to the weight of the evidence. He added that the jury did not only consider the statements of co-defendants Moses Solo and Alex Karpeh when making its decision.
The defense had also countered that the prosecution failed to produce a medical report confirming that the victims had been raped, but Judge Barkon said the testimonies provided by the two victims and corroborated by other testimonies point to the victims being raped.
“Wherefore and in view of the foregoing facts and circumstances and the laws applicable herein, it is the ruling of this court that the motion for new trial is hereby denied and the resistance thereof sustained,” Barkon said.
“This act of the defendants is wicked, grossly inhumane and dehumanizing, indifferent to human value, [cruel], uncivilized, barbaric.”
Barkon directed the court’s clerk to notify the superintendent of the Buchanan Central Prison of the court’s final judgment. However, the defense counsel decided to appeal to the Supreme Court, which will review the case in March 2020.
Meanwhile, prosecution lawyers took exception to the sentencing, noting that the period of 25 years was the bare minimum required by law.
After the sentencing, three of the defendants – Dennis Pyne Nimely, Victor Solo and Sylvester Charty – maintained their claims of innocence. They added that they are hopeful of being freed when the case appears at the Supreme Court.
Nimely said he is the only breadwinner for his family and his incarceration for 25 years for crimes that he did not commit would be a setback to his family.
“It is only by the grace of God they are currently surviving,” he said. “I don’t even know their situation now. They expected me to be free and go back home, but it is on the contrary.”
Last week, one of Liberia’s leading newspapers, the Daily Observer, published an enthusiastic article, lauding the judiciary system in Liberia, following the jury’s conclusion that 7 defendants in the Sinoe murder case (‘the Johnny Town Murder Trial’) were found guilty of murder, gang rape, aggravated assault, criminal conspiracy and criminal facilitation. The article focuses on harmful traditional practices in Liberia, such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), forcible initiation into secret societies, trial by ordeal (particularly the use of sassywood), accusations of witchcraft, and ritualistic killings. The authors conclude that the verdict rendered in the Johnny’s Town Case is a landmark example.
The article provides a useful summary of the case, its background and significance, and is therefore highly recommended. I fully agree with the main conclusion: “This landmark verdict has brought great relief to survivors and their families and set the right precedence that would possibly deter would-be perpetrators of harmful traditional practices in Liberia.” (webmaster FVDK).
Published: September 3, 2019 By: National Institute for Public Opinion (NIPO) and Foundation for Community Initiatives (FCI) – published by the Daily Observer
Late last year, three young Liberian women in Johnny Town, Kpayan District, Sinoe County, were accused by a group of community dwellers of kidnapping a three-month-old child for witchcraft rituals. Angeline Saydee, Florence Tarkleh and Willete Nyewallah were subjected to trial by ordeal and abused, tortured and gang raped. One of the women, Willete, was killed. Another was hospitalized and later discharged. Stories surrounding the third woman, who happens to be the mother of the missing child, are quite conflicting.
It is said that Willete, who was killed in this incident, was few months pregnant prior to her unfortunate death. All the accused women fervently denied involvement in witchcraft and in the disappearance of the child. These women experienced unimaginable abuse. They were stripped naked before public glare and paraded from one corner of the town to another; thereafter, they were taken into the bush and subjected to trial by ordeal and to other violent crimes. Before these young women were abducted, tortured and one killed, they were living peaceful lives with their families and loved ones.
The young men accused of these crimes allegedly committed these inhumane acts under the orders of some traditional leaders, including a female traditionalist who allegedly subjected the women to trial by ordeal.
Harmful Traditional Practices in Liberia
Trial by ordeal is a harmful traditional practice in which suspects are subjected to torture and other forms of inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment. The practice is usually done in extremely brutal manner and is intended to have suspects forcefully (and likely falsely) confessing guilt. The pain that comes with trial by ordeal is often raw and severe and can force people to confess guilt even if they were not the actual doers of the act for which ,they were accused. This practice has been outlawed by the Government of Liberia but it still persists.
An UNMIL and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights assessment of Harmful Traditional Practices in Liberia found that some traditional and cultural practices common to many Liberian ethnic communities have a significantly negative impact on the enjoyment of fundamental human rights. These include FGM, forcible initiation into secret societies, trial by ordeal (particularly the use of sassywood), accusations of witchcraft, and ritualistic killings. The assessment found that “these practices have particularly affected certain groups such as women, children, elderly persons, persons with disabilities, as well as the poorest Liberians” ( UNMIL and OHCHR 2015-An Assessment of Human Rights Issues Emanating from Traditional Practices in Liberia p.2).
This high prevalence is fundamentally why we believe that all must be done to step up the fight against harmful traditional practices. A critical starting point was ensuring the rule of law with particular focus on increasing access to justice for women and girls. We submit here that the verdict rendered in the Johnny’s Town Case is a landmark example!
Civil Society Supports the Survivors
Immediately after these vicious crimes committed against Angeline Saydee, Florence Tarkleh and Willete Nyewallah came to light, the National Institute for Public Opinion (NIPO) coordinated county-level advocacy actions with the active involvement of the Sinoe County Women Platform and the Foundation for Community Initiatives (FCI). Soon after, the case captured national and international attention. The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection got involved, as did some concerned Liberian women and women’s organizations.
At national level, advocacy actions were coordinated by the Women NGO Secretariat of Liberia (WONGOSOL) in close collaboration with NIPO and FCI. As part of these actions, the coalition presented its position statement to the National Legislature, calling on the Government of Liberia to provide reparation for survivors, relocate and resettle survivors and transfer the case to neutral location to avoid “local interference” or “manipulation”. Copies of this statement were presented to key embassies near Monrovia including the American and British Embassies. Subsequently, ten arrests were made and the case was transferred from the 3rd Judicial Circuit Court in Sinoe County to the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court in Grand Bassa County. The case was scheduled to be heard during the August Term of Court.
The August Term of Court opened on August 12th, 2019 and the Johnny’s Town Murder Case was the first on the docket. Seven persons indicted for murder, gang rape, aggravated assault, criminal conspiracy and criminal facilitation faced a jury trial with fifteen jurors handing down the verdict. Initially, ten persons were arrested, indicted and taken to court in relation to this case. Three were nolleprosequoi, (the legal term for dropping charges against an accused for lack of evidence). Final arguments in the case were heard on Friday, August 30. Immediately thereafter, the jury unanimously handed down a guilty verdict against all seven indictees.
Sinoe County Women Platform
Prior to the opening of the August Term of Court, NIPO and FCI jointly sponsored ten members of the Sinoe County Women Platform to Grand Bassa County to continue advocacy actions and witness legal proceedings. The sponsorship covered the travel, accommodation and feeding of the ten-member team. They arrived in Grand Bassa County on the 10th of August and were met on arrival by NIPO and FCI. Advocacy in Grand Bassa was coordinated and executed alongside the Grand Bassa Women Development Association (BAWODA).
The women gathered before the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court holding placards with inscriptions such as “No Excuse for Abuse” and “They Deserve Justice”, and called for a speedy and fair trial. They were assured that there was no need for protest actions because the case was the first on the docket. This position was reinforced by the president of the Grand Bassa County Bar Association who spoke with the women and assured them that the Bar would do everything necessary to ensure that justice is served in a timely manner.
This case significantly helped the Platform to expand its network and amplify their voices at the regional level. Thanks to collaboration with the Grand Bassa Women Development Association (BAWODA). The women continuously recommitted themselves to continuing their advocacy until the case was brought to a logical end.
Lorraine G. Mennon is the chairperson for the Platform. She committed to providing leadership in planning, organizing and implementing continuous advocacy actions and coordinating activities of the Platform until perpetrators were brought to book. She described the unanimous guilty verdict as a magnificent precedence and prayed that the state takes similar action against other people indicted for harmful traditional practices and violence against women and girls across Liberia. Madam Mennon informed NIPO and FCI that they will keep the Platform proactive, indicating that smaller community awareness actions will be organized and implemented to inform local women and girls about the effects of harmful traditional practices, expand knowledge and information about the Platform and create linkages with towns and villages with the view of monitoring, documenting, reporting and advocating against these bad cultural practices.
NIPO’s Lawyer joined the Prosecution Team
On Monday, August 12th, NIPO’s lawyer, Atty. Freeman, joined the prosecution team and promised to put his legal and research expertise to the disposal of the government towards winning the case. He promised to play active role in the cross examination of defense witnesses but later restricted his role to liaising with and motivating state lawyers. He told NIPO that after examining all the pieces of evidence against the accused, proof was evident and presumption great for their conviction. Atty. Freeman was hired and is paid by NIPO’s access to justice project, funded by UNDP-Liberia through Oxfam.
The Johnny’s Town Trial was a landmark case involving harmful traditional practices which inflicted serious injuries on two of three young Liberian women. This inhumane and criminal act led to the gruesome death of one of the victims and the hospitalization of another. Due to sustained advocacy actions at both the county and national levels, ten arrests were made, the case transferred to a neutral location and the survivors relocated. Legal proceedings in the case began in this August Term of Court. NIPO, FCI, Sinoe Women’s Platform and other women’s groups including the Bassa Women Development Association (BAWODA), were very unwavering in supporting the survivors’ protection and access to justice in this case.
NIPO and FCI’s advocacy around this case was supported by Oxfam with funding from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands. The project, called “Funding Leadership Opportunities for Women” or FLOW, has the goals of promoting women’s rights to be heard and to live free from violence. The FLOW Project has successfully run in Liberia since 2016.
The lawyer hired by NIPO to support the State’s case is paid by the UNDP through Oxfam. This project is called “Strengthening Access to Justice for Women and Girls in Sinoe and Grand Gedeh.”
Due process was necessary to rendering justice against harmful traditional practices, protecting women and girls from the dangers of the practice, punishing perpetrators for wrongful actions and finding redress for victims and survivors. This landmark verdict has brought great relief to survivors and their families and set the right precedence that would possibly deter would-be perpetrators of harmful traditional practices in Liberia.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of Oxfam, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, or the UNDP.
The article below – published by Liberia’s leading newspaper FrontPageAfrica – reports that on August 30, the Trial Jury of the Grand Bassa County Circuit Court unanimously found seven defendants guilty in the Sinoe murder case. This is not consistent with an earlier article, published by The Bush Chicken – another well known Liberian newspaper – which reported that 10 of the 12 jurors voted for a guilty verdict, while 2 abstained (see my September 2 posting).
Judge Joe Barkon of the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court in Grand Bassa County is to hand down final ruling in the Sinoe County murder case on Monday, September 9.
Monrovia – Court sources at the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court in Grand Bassa County, have disclosed that Judge Joe Barkon is to hand down final ruling in the Sinoe County gang rape and murder case, on Monday, September 9.
The judge’s ruling will be followed by the sentencing of the seven defendants found guilty of murder and gang rape in
Trial Jury of the Grand Bassa County Circuit Court Friday, August 30, unanimously found the defendants guilty in the murder and gang-rape case.
This comes after more than two weeks of legal battle between government lawyers, led by Cllr. Wesseh Alphonsus Wesseh, Assistant Justice Minister for Litigation, and Defense lawyers, led by Cllr. Paul Philip Jarvan.
Judge Barkon reserved ruling into the case last Friday, August 30, in line with the law that provides for time in sentencing of Defendants who are found guilty.
The seven guilty defendants are Moses Solo, Ellis Karpeh, Sylvester Chardy, Swen Kelgbeh, Teah Gmanwolou, Victor Solo and Pyne Nyene. They will be sentenced for Murder, Gang Rape, aggravated Assault, Criminal Conspiracy and Facilitation.
The defendants were among 10 persons who were arrested by state security and indicted in Greenville City, Sinoe County in 2018 after they accused three ladies, Williete Nyenwlah, Angeline Saydee and Florence Tarklay, for being responsible for the disappearance of a four-year-old child in Johnny Town, Normorpoe District, Sinoe County on December 12, 2018.
The three women were stripped naked and paraded publicly in the town and then taken to the society bush where they were allegedly tortured and sexually abused with the men inserting sticks into their private parts resulting to the death of one them, Williete, who was buried secretly in a swampland.
The case was to be heard in Greenville Sinoe County but state prosecutors requested for a change of venue to the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court in Grand Bassa County based on what the prosecutors termed as due to local prejudice.
As the case was called for trial this August 2019 Term and before the reading of the indictment to the defendants, Cllr. Wesseh A. Wesseh, Assistant Justice Minister for Litigation, entered a plea of Nolle Prosequoi (free) in favor of three co-defendants, Anthony Karmon Marshall Gballa and Shelton Kelgbeh for lack of sufficient evidence to prosecute them while the rest of the defendants were arraigned and pleaded not guilty to the multiple charges.
During the trial, the state produced five general witnesses including the two survivors and three rebuttal witnesses.
While on the witness stand, two of the five co-defendants, Moses Solo and Alex Karpeh, described themselves as the “devil’s spokesperson” and the town crier of Jonny Town, respectively, though they denied the allegations but admitted been present and member of the country society that took custody of the victims.
The two co-defendants said the deceased died after she was questioned by the country devil, who shouted at her and she allegedly dropped dead after she was transformed into a dragon and that her left eye was removed and given to her father who according to the defendants turned her over to the society people or country devil.
However, the other five co-defendants denied been members of the secret society and that they were not in Johnny Town when the incident occurred and that they were arrested based on mistaken identity by the Liberia National Police.
Their testimonies prompted the state lawyers to introduce the father of the deceased as one of its three rebuttal witnesses who denied been the head of the Zoe people and that it was him who turned his daughter over to the country devil to be penalized for been a “witch.”
During the final legal argument, state lawyers argued that the defendants were under obligation to have brought in witnesses to prove their defense that they were arrested based on mistaken identity; but they miserably fail to do same while the Defense lawyer, Cllr. Paul Jarvan, counter argued that the state did not prove its allegation against the defendants.
The other defendants, who claimed that they were not in the town of the incident, did not produce witnesses to testify that they were not in the town when the incident occurred.