Liberia, Maryland County: murdered motorcyclist interred

Previous posts related to the murder of  Mordecious Nyemah, who was the victim of a ritual murder on March 25, have been published on April 3, 5 and 22

Last Saturday, May 15, Maryland County’s Superintendent, George A. Prowd, spoke memorable words at the funeral of the late Mordecious Nyemah. Prowd mentioned Maryland’s bad reputation as ‘Gboyo-business’ is concerned and more specifically he referred to one of his predecessors who was publicly hanged after being found guilty of a ritualistic murder. Superintendent James Anderson was one of seven convicts who were publicly executed at dawn in February 1979, a memorable event which made history as ‘The Hanging of the Harper Seven’.  (NB Superintendent Prowd inadvertently called his condemned predecessor Allen Yancy. Yancy was one of the hanged Harper Seven, but was a member of the House of Representatives when he committed his atrocious crime.)

Superintendent Prowd lauded the police for acting swiftly and arresting the suspects of the killing of Mordecious Nyemah. He cautioned the people to remain law-abiding. It may be useful to recall that public protests over the ritualistic murders in the county led to rioting which even caused the government of President Weah to impose a curfew. (webmster FVDK).

Liberia’s most notorious ritual murder case culminated in ‘The Hanging of the Harper Seven’. Readers who are interested in more information, please click here 
Photo: FRED VAN DER KRAAIJ

Murdered Mordecious Nyemah finally interred

Published: May 18, 2021
By: The New Dawn, Liberia – By Patrick N. Mensah, Maryland County–Editing by Jonathan Browne

The remains of the late commercial motorcyclist Mordecious Nyemah, who was gruesomely murdered on 25th March 2021 in Maryland County have been laid to rest, two months after the killing that sparked violent protests in the county by angry citizens.The deceased was reportedly murdered by suspects Moses Mlarmah and others near Bassiken town between Gand Kru and Maryland. His remains were finally interred on Saturday, May 15, 2021.

The home-going ceremony for the late motorcyclist, also a student, was held at the Maranatha Heritage Assembly of God Church in Pleebo, Maryland County Electoral district#2. Sympathizers included county authorities, representatives of the business community, students and women groups, national security, religious community, Civil Society Organizations, traditional chiefs and elders, among others.

Maryland County Superintendent George A. Prowd applauded citizens for attending the burial of the late Mordecious Nyemah, whose murder he described as worrisome. He assured family of the deceased that justice will be accorded them for the murder of their son.

Superintendent Prowd said the Government of Liberia is committed to protecting lives of citizens and foreign residents, while condemning ritualistic killings across the country. According to him, there have been several death cases since he took office as superintendent, but the case of the late Mordecious Nyemah has drawn attention of both citizens and national government. Superintendent Prowd recalled that in the late 70’s, similar situation occurred in the county that involved former superintendent Allen Yancy and other high profile officials, who were tried, adjudged guilty and hanged.

“When you reflect your minds back to Maryland Gboyo history, you will get to know that most of those people, who were involved into ritualistic killings by then, were mostly government officials. I remember, there was a superintendent in Maryland who was caught for ritualistic killing and was hanged and because of this, many citizens look at us as suspects of these current ritualistic acts that are happening in this county”, Superintendent Prowd lamented. He expressed excitement that suspects have been arrested and placed behind bars, awaiting court trial in connection to the murder of the late Mordecial.

“We are too happy and thankful to God that one of the suspects, Moses, who was the first to be arrested, without medicine, without threats or torture, he’s started calling names of people who are involved into the death of Mordecial”, Prowd added. He continued that in as much the suspects are behind bars, there’s a strong case, and burial of the late Modecious doesn’t in anyway end the case.

The superintendent cautioned citizens to remain law-abiding and assist government in the ongoing hearing rather than staging protests that would disrupt the county and shut down economic activities.
He county authorities, including the Maryland Legislative Caucus have received series of letters from parents and other concerned groups over the release of alleged rioters that are in prison in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County.

Prowd disclosed that those letters were sent to national government, and prayed that as soon as the case is being looked into and suspects are found guilty, it would be easy for President Weah to extended executive clemency. He urged parents of those suspects to remain peaceful as government is working out modality to transport at least three members of the bereaved family to Zwedru for the trial.

On April 5, 2021, police arrested and sent to the Zwedru Correction Palace scores of suspects, including Morris Senneh, President of the Pleebo Motorcyclists union, Thomas Kumah, president of Maryland County youth, Mamadou Diallo, Edward Toe, Sieh Gray, Edwin Lawal, Salu Ali, Lawrence Jarbee, and Wilfred Kuoh.

Also being held for the murder and subsequent rioting are Eugene Koppeh, George Nimely, John Davis, Patrick Wilson, Augustine Navy, Micheal Doblah, Sawo Bedel, Robert Wesseh, Fred Johnny, Peter Bestman, Moses Toe, Mashel Doloson, Thomas Kuma, Joseph Bannie, George Segbeh, Mark Freeman, Michael Tugbeh, Winston Smith, Christopher Dweh Prince Kouh, George Weah, John Collies, Chris Porka and Sham Beyslow.

They are accused of involving in multiple crimes during mass protests in demand of justice that led to the damage of government’s properties, including arson attacks on the home of Speaker Bhofal Chambers in Pleebo Sodoken district, Maryland County. The violence led President George Weah to impose a dusk to dawn curfew in the entire county, which subsequently calm the tension.

Source: Murdered motorcyclist finally interred

Group of Liberian citizens petitions US Government on mysterious deaths, ritualistic, secret killings in Liberia

After yesterday’s article on the spread of ritualistic killings in Liberia by the Daily Observer, this leading Liberian newspaper surprises us today again with another article focusing a phenomenon which seems so difficult to eliminate in this West African country. Another group of citizens is protesting against the mysterious deaths in the country, which they blame on certain people responsible for ritualistic and secret killings. Citizens against secret killings (CUASK) allege that while the Sirleaf administration era saw a number of mysterious, ritualistic deaths as well as secret killings, such deaths are even more alarming under the George Weah administration.

True of untrue? It’s a fact that nobody in Liberia is surprised by news of another ritual murder that has been committed. In the last paragraph of the Daily Observer newspaper article – presented below – two recent examples are being given.

A 46-year old woman named Florence Massaquoi was found dead on the Samuel Kanyon Doe (SKD) Boulevard, in the Greater Monrovia area, with some body parts missing. In Maryland County, Mordecial Nyemah, a twelfth-grade student of Pleebo High School, was murdered for ritualistic purposes, causing a major protest and rioting from angry citizens. See my earlier postings on this murder case, dated April 3, ‘Liberia: protests inMaryland County over alleged ritual killing of young people‘, April 5, ‘Liberia: Maryland County student leader condemns allied ritualistic murder, recalling similar cases‘, and April 22, ‘Ritual murders in Liberia, a remarkable plea: ‘Dire need to respect the sanctity of human life in Liberia‘.

Ritualistic murders in Liberia, when wil it end? Will it ever end?

The Government of Liberia needs to act, NOW. If it’s not part of the solution, it’s part of the problem (webmaster FVDK).

Group Petitions U.S. Gov’t on Mysterious Deaths, Ritualistic, Secret Killings in Liberia

Rufina Earley, widow of EPS Melvin Earley makes statement at the memorial service after CUASK’s petition presentation to the U.S. Embassy near Monrovia.

Published: April 23, 2021
By: Daily Observer, Liberia, David S. Menjor

-As families of the deceased fear for their lives for speaking in public on how they feel about the loss of their loved ones

A group of angry citizens, some of whom are mourning the mysterious deaths of their loved ones, marched on Wednesday, April 21, 2021 marched petitioned the United States government, through its Embassy near Monrovia to call on President George Weah administration to see reason and conduct further investigations in order to establish causes of the deaths and bring the perpetrators to book.

The group, under the banner “Citizens United Against Secret Killings (CUASK)” said they are saddened to know that the Liberian government has failed or is failing to properly investigate circumstances leading to the deaths of a number of people, including some high profile government officials including security personnel, financial experts, among others.

CUASK said it strongly believes that there are hidden motives behind the alleged killings of several of those who lost their lives and that the only way those motives can be aborted and prevented from causing further harm in the Liberian society is to incessantly push the government to act appropriately rather than what they have so far done.

“We are aware that the secret and ritualistic killings have been going on, even in the previous government but the exponential rate at which it is now going is alarming. We say so because we never tell who is next among us who have come to present this petition today,” said Jethro Emmanuel Kolleh, leader of CUASK.

Kolleh added: “We also believe that the autopsy reports given were done surreptitiously to cover the facts. The doubtful reports by these governments, we mean the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf-led administration and now the Weah led administration, have left us in fear about the growing rate of impunity.

“In fact, impunity has become a monster among us and if nothing is done about it now; there may be more disastrous happenings across the country, with the perpetrators having nothing to fear simply because they will be pre-informed that doing wrong, no matter how grievous, is nothing to worry about in the country.”

In their petition, CUASK listed several names of people, including children who died through alleged questionable means as raised by the concerned citizens.

“Our motto is “All Liberians Lives Matter,” and this is why we will not stop mentioning the names of all those great sons and daughters who died under mysterious circumstances,” Kolleh further noted.

He named Harry Greaves, former managing director of Liberia Petroleum Refinery Corporation (LPRC), Michael Allison, a whistle blower and Shakie Kamara, a 15 year old boy in West Point as individuals who died during the administration former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf under troubling circumstances. 

Others who died during the Sirleaf administration and named in the CUASK petition as questionable deaths were Victoria Zayzay, a young lady who Police claimed, committed suicide overnight while in custody and little Angel Togba who lived with Hans Williams and his wife in Monrovia, prior to her (Angel Togba) death which was attributed to suicide.

“We strongly believe that the deaths of Greaves and Allison were political and arbitrary. They were killed but justice was never served,” he emphasized.

The Weah era

Citizens against secret killings (CUASK) said while the Sirleaf administration era saw a number of mysterious, ritualistic deaths as well as secret killings, such deaths are more alarming under the George Weah administration.

The advocacy group said it is disappointed in the George Weah led administration because, while in opposition, they (Coalition for Democratic Change — CDC) condemned former President Sirleaf and her administration for failing to protect the lives they took oaths to protect.

“We are aware that the U.S. government is fully informed on a daily basis about happenings in Liberia. We are aware and that has been made clearly known by the State Department’s human rights report as well as the Global Magnitsky Human Rights and Accountability Act of 2021,” Jethro Kolleh said.

The group referenced the death of Zenu Miller, a journalist at OK FM 99.5 as one case that ended inconclusively, but due to his family’s wish to avoid the unnecessary rigmarole that could have proven nothing worthy, Miller was buried without justice.

Zenu Miller was beaten by Presidential security personnel (Executive Protection Service (EPS) at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex on January 25, 2020. He became sick and was admitted at the ELWA Hospital in Paynesville, the place re stayed at until his passing on February 15 of the same year.

He posted on his Facebook account saying that he was experiencing severe pain in his chest following the EPS’ brutality meted against him but in the end, Miller’s family informed the public that he died of hypertension (high blood pressure).

In October of 2020 alone, three auditors and a tax expert suffered mysterious deaths that raised public outcries.

On October 2, 2020, Gifty Lamah and Albert Peters, workers at the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), were found dead on Broad Street in a car said to have been owned by Albert Peters.

Another employee of LRA, Joseph Fahnboto, died two days later, October 4, 2020. 

On October 10, 2020, news broke, announcing the passing Emmanuel B. Nyenswa, head of Liberia’s Internal Audit Agency (IAA).

Following the deaths of the auditors and staffs of LRA and IAA, Dr. Benedict B. Kolee and Dr. Zoebon B. Kpadeh, employees of the Ministry of Health and the John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital respectively, were hired by government to conduct the autopsies on the remains of the victims.

However, the autopsies reports released by the two pathologists were received with discontent by the public.

In their report, as read by Justice Minister Frank Musah Dean, Gifty Lamah and Albert Peters died in the vehicle due to carbon monoxide.

The reports had it that the IAA boss, Emmanuel Nyenswa died as a result of massive hemorrhage, multiple bone and soft tissue injuries which he sustained after falling from the height of his home.

According to the Justice Minister, the IAA boss’s death requires further investigation, stating that circumstances leading to the cause of his demise are unnatural.

For George Fahnboto, the autopsy report indicated that he died as a result of the accident he was allegedly involved in along the Samuel Kanyon Doe Boulevard while driving.

Following those deaths, Melvin Earley, a U.S.-trained Presidential guard who served former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and later President Weah, was said to have died by suicide using his own gun, while on the nationwide tour with Weah in Tapitta, Nimba County.

The family of Earley and many critics of the Weah led government disagreed with the government’s allegation that he committed suicide. His widow and all of his family members as well as their supporters called on the Weah led government to provide evidence that he (Earley) took his own life, but no report came, according to them, as the widow said there is no death certificate to show cause of her husband’s death.

Several other deaths, mysterious and questionable, occurred in the weeks and months that followed. To name two more, Florence Massaquoi, 46, was found dead on the Samuel Kanyon Doe (SKD) Boulevard, with some parts of her body extracted, while in Maryland County, Mordecial Nyemah, a graduating high school student, was killed for ritualistic purpose, causing a major protest and rioting from the angry citizens of the county.

The advocacy group, citizens united against secret killings (CUASK) said they will not rest their pursuit for justice until it is served in each of the cases.

Source: Group Petitions U.S. Gov’t on Mysterious Deaths, Ritualistic, Secret Killings in Liberia

Ritual murders in Liberia, a remarkable plea: ‘Dire need to respect the sanctity of human life in Liberia’

I reported on the murder of Mordecial Nyemah, a commercial motor cyclist and a twelfth-grade student of Pleebo High School, Pleebo, Maryland County, earlier this month. See my postings of April 3,  ‘Liberia: protests in Maryland County over alleged ritual killing of young people‘, and of April 5, ‘Liberia: Maryland County student leader condemns alleged ritualistic murder, recalling similar cases‘.

One of Liberia’s leading newspapers, the Daily Observer, today pays attention to the gruesome murder of Mordecial Nyemah and subsequent events: the protests of women in Pleebo, the vandalization of the Harper Prison Compound by protesters, the attack on the property of Bhopal Chambers, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the curfew imposed to quell the unrest. Most remarkable however is the elaborated overview of ritualistic murders in the country (without going into details of specific cases), in the aftermath of a visit of the Peace Advocates of the Maryland/Gbenelue Chapter of Dehkontee Artists Theatre, Inc. (DATI). The delegation visited the family of the late Mordecial Nyema on Monday, April 19, 2021 in Pleebo City, Maryland County.

Both the DATI peace advocates and the Daily Observer newspaper editors are to be commended for their frankness and their plea for the rule of law and to end the medieval practices which are human sacrifices. The following article gives a rare insight in the occurrence and background  of ritualistic murders and human sacrifices in Liberia. It is highly recommended reading! 

Notwithstanding the foregoing, a footnote seems warranted. In the Daily Observer article it is explicitly mentioned that in Liberia ritual killings are mostly if not only occurring in Maryland and Montserrado counties. This, however, is not in line with what has been reported elsewhere. Honesty commands me to say that this has been based on my own research and experience in Liberia. 

Nonetheless I agree with the main conclusion and plea of the article which is presented below. Respect for human life is an essential human right. The rule of law is basic to a 21st country. A civilized nation and people respect human life (webmaster FVDK).
 
RIP Mordecial Nyemah!

The late Mordecial Nyemah, 22, a commercial motorcyclist, was gruesomely murdered in Pleebo, Maryland County.

Dire Need to Respect the Sanctity of Human Life in Liberia:

Peace Advocates Visit Family of Mordecial Nyemah in Pleebo

Women in Pleebo take to the streets of Pleebo, protesting the murder of Mordecial Nyemah.

Published: April 22, 2021
By: Daily Observer, Liberia  

Peace Advocates of the Maryland/Gbenelue Chapter of Dehkontee Artists Theatre, Inc. (DATI) visited the family of Mordecial Nyema on Monday, April 19th, 2021 in Pleebo City, Maryland County. The high-powered DATI delegation was led by its Maryland County Director Meshach Sieh Elliott. During the solemn ceremony, the youths of Dehkontee Artists Theatre’s Maryland Chapter expressed their deepest condolences to Ms. Mary Nyemah, the surrogate mother of slain youth and commercial motor cyclist Mordecial Neyma and his family, for their irreparable loss. Mordecial Nyemah was a twelfth-grade student of Pleebo High School.

DATI also presented a humble consolation package to Ms. Nyema and her family to help defray some of the funeral expenses for their son. During the ceremony, libation was poured to acknowledge the presence of the spirits of our forefathers so they would bless the gathering. Mr. Thomas Kuwait Nyemah expressed gratitude on behalf of the family. He stated that what DATI did to reach out to his family was heartwarming. He thanked Dr. Gbaba and the DATI team for a job well done. Ms. Mary Nemah, aunt of the deceased also thanked DATI for their general support.

What Really Happened in Maryland?

Recently, Mordecial Nyema was gruesomely murdered in Pleebo, Maryland County by twenty-eight-year-old suspect named Roland Appleton and three other individuals identified as Moses Malmah, Francis Clarke, and Daniel Wesseh—all youths. According to the April 9, 2021 edition of  “The Bush Chicken” online magazine, Mordecial Nyemah was murdered along the Maryland-Grand Kru Highway in Gbolobo-Bessiken, Pleebo Sodoken Statutory District. As a result, concerned citizens, including mothers, youths, and students organized a peaceful protest and marched from Pleebo to Harper City to seek  timely justice and redress from County authorities regarding the death of their slain son and colleague.

Harper Prison Compound vandalized by protesters seeking transparent justice for Mordecial Nyemah.

However, observers reported that the crowd turned angry when the Acting Superintendent informed peaceful protesters Mordecial Nyemah’s murder would be addressed during the August court term while the protesters had hoped their grievances would be addressed by carrying out a speedy investigation and trial.  Consequently, angry protestors burned down and vandalized several private and public properties including but not limited to the home of Borfur Chambers, Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Republic of Liberia, the Harper Central Prison Compound, and vehicles, while expressing their frustrations for the continual ritualistic killings that occur in Maryland with impunity.

In response, the government of Liberia imposed a dusk to dawn curfew and arrested several individuals and youths, including students from Tubman University. They were incarcerated at the Zwedru Palace of Corrections. Those arrested have not been arraigned and/or no fixed court dates have been set for their trial. In addition, the Liberia National Police confirmed that the

The Sanctity of Human Life

Human life is very sacred. It cannot be manufactured in a scientific laboratory, neither does man have the power to create a human being, except Almighty God. Though man plays a role through sexual intercourse during the procreation process, yet, that process of itself is a divine plan which can only occur when a male sperm mates with a female egg. Therefore, to emphasize the essence of human life God included “Thou shall not kill” as part of his Ten Commandments he gave to the Children of Israel. 

Furthermore, to make himself very clear regarding the issue about the sanctity of human life, God rescued Isaac’s when God tested Abraham and asked him to sacrifice his only child. When Abraham raised the dagger to sacrifice Isaac, God miraculously intervened and changed what would have been a human sacrifice to one with an unblemished lamb. God performed this miracle because he wanted to teach mankind that we do not need human sacrifice to please him and/or to get or retain big government jobs.  Ever since then, it became customary and the acceptable norm of every civilized society to slaughter an animal if one desires to make a sacrifice, whether to appease the dead, or to seek greater fortune in life.

Grebo culture is very rich. In the photo above, the young man is passing out kola nuts and pepper to traditionally greet the DATI Peace Advocates to the Nyemah home before any other business can be conducted. This is followed by the presentation of water or anything in the form of a liquid, such as gin, rum, etc., as a sacred drink. In which t-shirt is Thomas Kuwait Nyemah, cousin of the deceased.

The slaughtering of human beings is a barbaric act. It dates to barbaric eras when there was no rule of law. During those dark eras, man naively believed that offering another human being as an ultimate sacrifice would bring them fame, wealth, and success in life. However, when man became civilized and began to conglomerate there was a need to put an end to ritualistic killing because there is no scientific proof that killing another man makes you to become successful in life. In most instances success in life derives from hard work, steadfastness, and a firm determination to make ends meet. Therefore, ritualist killing and/or snatching another man’s life away in the darkness of the night is wrong and should be discouraged at all levels of society.

Compound of Bhofal W. Chambers, Speaker of the House of Representatives of Liberia, set ablaze during the protest. It is not clear why Speaker Chambers property was signaled out.

Ritualistic Killing Is Not Kwa or Grebo Culture and Not Liberian Culture Either!

Ritualistic killing is not Kwa or Grebo culture or Liberian culture either. It is mainly prevalently carried out in two specific regions of Liberia—Maryland and Montserrado Counties. This does not mean that ritualistic killings do not occur in other parts of Liberia. Nevertheless, when it comes to the frequency with which ritualistic killings occur in Liberia, these two regions rank top on the list. Hence, in my view and observation ritualistic killing as a foreign cult or custom was imposed on the Liberian people through the introduction of foreign cults or secret ‘societies’ in Liberia. Below, I submit some reasons for my assertion and observation as a cultural researcher.

Throughout the narratives that were told by our Kwa ancestors I have not heard any mention made of people being brutally killed outside of tribal wars like the way ritualistic killings have taken place in Maryland and Montserrado Counties over the past century. Centuries back, the Krahns were referred to by their Grebo, Kru, Bassa brothers and sisters as “Pineyoun” (Rich People). As descendants of biological brothers, members of these Kwa ethnic groups travelled to one another’s countries (territories) frequently. The Krus, Grebos, Bassas came on pilgrimage to Mount Gedeh to see the Oracle at Putu and the Krahns or Pineyoun travelled by foot to go to Gbenelue (Cape Palmas) or Zinonqlee (Krus call it Siloklee) in Sinoe County, just to see the Atlantic Ocean or to purchase salt, tobacco and other foreign goods that were not produced in the hinterland of Liberia.

Due to their fraternal relationships, those days a Krahn man traveling to Maryland or Sinoe or Grand Kru or Bassa could stop for days or weeks in any family house along his journey trail without any questions asked. They would accommodate themselves when the hosts were on the farm and when the hosts arrived, they would warmly greet their guests and accommodate them until it was time for them to leave. Not once did I hear the old folks say anyone got ‘mysteriously missing’ or was ritualistically murdered while traveling through Grebo, Bassa, or Kru land. In addition, it is also safe to say that even in the Mel and Mande territories of Liberia (western, northern, central Liberia) people roamed about freely without any incidents of ritualistic killings in Nimba, Bong, Lofa, Bomi, Barpolu, Grand Cape Mount, except for Montserrado where such diabolical act is also rampant!

Therefore, individuals who are members of the “Gboyo Cult” in Maryland must stop tarnishing the reputation of the Grebo people. Ritualistic killings are not an inherent attribute of Grebo or Kwa culture. It is a custom derived from the imposition of a foreign cult that is mainly prevalent in Maryland and Montserrado Counties.

Conclusion of DATI Peace Advocates Visit with the Nyemah Family in Pleebo

Members of Dehkontee Artists Theatre, Inc. (DATI) dressed in yellow t-shirts pose with the Neyemah Family at their residence in Pleebo, Maryland County. DATI Kukatonon Peace Project in Liberia was established in 2019 to promote peace and reconciliation and rule of law. The organization is comprised of college students and graduates of Tubman University in Harper, Maryland County.

During DATI Peace Advocates’ visit with Mordecial Nyemah’s family, Ms. Mary Neymah, aunt and surrogate mother of the deceased, bitterly wept for the loss of her son and nephew. She said Mordicial’s biological parents passed when he was a child and she reared him. She lamented that he would not be graduating from high school when his colleagues successfully complete their secondary education.

DATI Peace Advocates pose with mothers of the deceased during the condolence visit in Pleebo.

However, despite the pain she and her family are going through, the Nyemah family is appealing to the Liberian government to please release those that are imprisoned as a result of their involvement in the peaceful protest that turned violent.  Ms. Nyeman was speaking on behalf of her family on whose behalf thousands of citizens (mothers, fathers, students) took to the streets to protest and to march many miles from Pleebo to Harper City to present their grievances to the authorities. She says the Nyemah family regrets that what was intended to be a peaceful march turned into vandalism. However, she is also appealing to His Excellency George Manning Weah, to please release Tubman University students who are incarcerated so they can return to school. Dehkontee Artists Theatre, Inc. also condemns the violent act perpetrated by individuals to derail the good intent of the peaceful march by the women of Pleebo and pray that our farsighted leader will ensure justice is served and that those who paid teenagers to perpetrate such violent ritualistic act will have their day in court.

Published by Dehkontee Artists Theatre, Inc. Public Relations Section

April 21, 2021

Source: Dire Need to Respect the Sanctity of Human Life in Liberia:

Liberia: Maryland County student leader condemns alleged ritualistic murder, recalling similar cases

The chairman of the Student Unification Alliance (SUA) from the William V.S. Tubman University in Harper, Maryland County, Joshua D. Musu, has reacted on an alleged ritual murder case. The victim was a student, who was a resident of Pleebo Sodoken District (see my April 3 posting).

The SUA chair said such alleged ritualistic act is worrisome and scaring, and it seems to be a common practice in the county. He recalled that Maryland County has a glaring history of mysterious murder of innocent people either for theft or ritual purposes.

Last week, President George Manneh Weah imposed a dusk to dawn curfew in the entire country to enable the Joint Security conduct investigation into the reportedly murder.
(webmaster FVDK)

Student leader condemns gruesome murder in Maryland

Published: April 4, 2021
The New Dawn – Patrick N. Mensah, Maryland County–Editing by Jonathan Browne 

In the wake of the gruesome murder of a student from the Pleebo High School in Pleebo City, Maryland County recently, a group of students from the Tubman University in Harper has condemned the murder.

The students under the banner Student Unification Alliance (SUA) frowned on vandalism by motorcyclists and protesters, calling for thorough investigation and prosecution of suspects.

Speaking thru a press release, the chairman of SUA Joshua D. Musu admonish all militants, cadres, solidarity forces and the student populace of the William V.S. Tubman University to remain vigilant and responsive as immoral societal issues in the country are on the increase.

Chairman Musu said they denounce very strongly the uncivilized and brutal murder of a patriot, dutiful and fallen student, who was a resident of Pleebo Sodoken District, describing that act as barbaric and unscrupulous.

He said such alleged ritualistic act is worrisome and scaring, which seems to be a common practice in the county. He recalled that Maryland County has a glaring history of MYSTERIOUS MURDER of innocent people either for theft or ritual purposes.

Musu reflected that as far back as 1999, similar incident occurred, involving one oldman Pachey-Pachey, who went missing and was later found dead with body parts allegedly abstracted. He noted that relevant authorities at the time could not bring the murderer (s) to book, and impunity prevailed over justice.

He added that the death of Pachey-Pachey was followed by the disappearance of an Immigration Officer (Alphonso Chelleh), who was also found dead alone Lake Shepherd, in Harper City, and again, the killer (s) walked with impunity, as the authorities failed to make any arrest.

He also recounted that similar to those incidents, Octavos Landford, who was a resident of the Hance Street Community, was allegedly murdered in 2004, and in spite of many calls for the perpetrators to be brought to justice, those behind such killing took a comfortable bath in the pool of impunity as usual.

The student leader continued that another victim, Charles Derrick, was allegedly murdered in 2019, including Bill O. Meyers, but all these cases were allegedly swept under the carpet.

“There are many of these instances in the history of this county (Maryland) that we cannot mention, as souls of Tumu Yuade Allison and many others are anguishing and calling for justice”, he lamented.

He said, regrettably, some of these instances did not even claim public attention. “To name few, we will point at the death of Karpeh Allison, a citizen of River Gee, who was residing in Harper. He was allegedly murdered at the Catholic Mission. The culprit (s) who was/were believed to have been thief (ves) remains unknown, even today.”

He noted that next was James Morias commonly called (Te’loo-way), a cassava leave grinder, who was pitifully murdered across the Hoffman River in 2016, while laboring to earn a living.

“Considering all of these instances, we are certain that the murderers are not from Pluto. They are here on earth! As such, it is the sole responsibility of the government to do everything possible to unearth doers of this pernicious and heavily wicked act. This is a new beginning! We will remain peacefully engaged with the Government of Liberia to end this societal embarrassment (MURDER)!”

The SUA chairman noted that although he condemned the wicked act, but he also frowned on the action of protesters, noting that they have exacerbated the matter through actions of vandalism. He added the protesters’ behavior was squarely misguided and inhumane, cautioning them not to arrogate Justice as they are historically aware that justice delay in these instances usually ends murder cases without justice being served.

“We would further like to caution Government of Liberia to carefully and gently handle this situation before it escalates and get beyond control. In our view, keeping mute on trending ritualistic issues will not aid the process, but intensify the situation, since protesters are already aggrieved.”

Last Tuesday, protesters went wild in Pleebo and Harper cities burning prison compound and home Speaker Bhofal Chambers, the second biggest protest in Maryland County since January 2019, when the body of Bill Myers, a 24-year-old motorcyclist was discovered along the Harper-Little Wrebo highway. The incident led to the destruction of the Harper Police Station as well as barricading campuses of the William V. S. Tubman University.

Despite calls for calm by Speaker Bhofal Chambers, Senator Joe Gble-bo Brown and local authorities, tension mounted in the county with protesters vowing not to leave the streets until their demand is met.

Several gadgets belonging to local journalists were seized by the protesters who earlier warned reporters against taking photos and streaming videos during the demonstration However, President George Manneh Weah on Wednesday imposed a dusk to dawn curfew in the entire country to calm the violence to enable the Joint Security conduct investigation into the reportedly murder.

Source: Student leader condemns gruesome murder in Maryland

Liberia: protests in Maryland County over alleged ritual killing of young people

The mysterious death of a motorcyclist identified as Mordecial Nyemah has prompted thousands of residents of Maryland County, especially women, to publicly protest over the alleged ritual killing of young people. Maryland County, in the southeastern part of the country, is notorious for ritual murders. The most notorious ritual murder case dates back to the 1970s and led to the hanging of the Harper Seven, including the Superintendent of Maryland County and the county’s representative in the House of Representatives.  

This may explain the protests though – as far as we, in the outside world, know – there seems to be no proof of another wave of ritual killings in Maryland County.
To be continued when more news emerges (FVDK).

Curfew imposed in Liberia as inmates escape prison amid violent protests

Police trying to contain the unrest – Photo: AFP 

Published: April 1, 2021
By: Face2Face Africa  – Mildred Europa Taylor 

Liberia’s President George Weah has imposed a night-time curfew on the coastal county of Maryland after about 90 inmates broke jail amid violent demonstrations led by women. Thousands of residents of Maryland county, especially women have been protesting for several days now over alleged ritual killings of young people.

On Wednesday, during one of these violent protests in Harper city, near the border with Ivory Coast, demonstrators broke into the county’s prison compound in search of an alleged killer of a motorcyclist, resulting in the escape of the inmates, police spokesman Moses Carter told the BBC. The home of the speaker of the house of representatives, who comes from the region, was also set on fire by the protesters, Carter said.

Weah in a statement said “in order to keep the peace, and to ensure that law and order prevails, a curfew is hereby imposed throughout Maryland County, ” adding that the “curfew will be strictly enforced by the police, who will be supported by the Joint Security Forces.”

On the alleged killings, the president said he is aware of the gruesome killing of a young man in Harper City, Maryland County. “Although a suspect was apprehended by the police and incarcerated pending subsequent investigation in accordance with due process of law, we have seen residents of Harper City, as well as Pleebo City, take to the streets to protest the killing,” Weah said.

“I would like to assure the people of Maryland County that this killing has claimed the urgent attention of the Government, and will be thoroughly, promptly and fully investigated. The perpetrators will face the full weight of the law.”

The search for the inmates continues, Front Page Africa reports. The police have appealed to the public not to harbor any of the escapees but to turn them in.

Source: Curfew imposed in Liberia as inmates escape prison amid violent protests

Related news:

Liberia: Violence in Maryland; Speaker Chambers’ House Set Ablaze as Pres. Weah Orders Curfew

Published: March 31, 2021
By: FrontPageAfrica – Gerald C. Koinyeneh   

Monrovia – Reports from Maryland County in Southeastern Liberia said that House Speaker Bhofal Chambers’ house in Pleebo, Sodoken District has been set ablaze, while angry protesters have stormed the Harper Central Prison, freeing 91 inmates.

In the wake of the incident, President George Weah has declared a daytime curfew in Maryland County from 6: AM to 6: PM.

The political officer in the office of Speaker Chambers, George Watkins, confirming the arson attack on the Speaker’s house to FrontPageAfrica, said Police has arrested the alleged perpetrator only identified as Kalagbah who said he acted based on rumored that the Speaker ordered the police to use force on protesters in Harper city.

Recently, a group of angry people took to the streets in Pleebo, the county’s commercial hub to protest the mysterious death of a motorcyclist identified as Mordecial Nyemah.

To calm the situation, Watkins said, the Speaker, exercising his responsibility as a senior citizen of the area, liaised with his colleagues and they engaged the Liberia National Police (LNP) to restore calm in the area and investigate the incident.

But rumors soon began to spread that the Speaker has ordered the Police to beat on the protesters and remove them off the streets forcefully, something he said that prompted Kalagbah to the set the four-bed room house, valued at US$100, 000 ablaze.

Responding to whether the Speaker ordered the LNP to forcefully remove the protesters off the streets, he said: “It is not true, the Speaker just exercised his responsibility and worked with his colleagues to see how calm can be restored on the ground. We leave it with the government of Liberia to do something about it.”

Meanwhile, the Joint Security in the county has issued a search order against 91 inmates including the main subject of the latest violence, identified as Moses Mlamah who fled the Maryland Central Prison in Harper and called on the public to assist in re-arresting them.

In the statement, the Joint Security said beside releasing 91 prisoners, the prison was vandalized on March 30, 2021 by angry protesters from Pleebo and other surrounding towns, damaging important materials of the prisons.

The Joint Security also added that some of the items from the prison were looted by some community members and is requesting those behind the unwholesome act to turn in those items to the prison authority or call 0886-922-486/0770-243-749.

Excerpt of the statement: “The Joint security says whoever comes across Mr. Moses Mlamah, the accused should called these numbers: 0777-005-551/0886-839-991/0886-642-204. And for those who are on the run should also turn themselves in to the joint security of this county. Please note if they are refusing, their sentencing terms will be added if they are caught.”

While the search for the inmates continues, the Joint security is appealing to the public not to harbor any of the escapees, but to turn them in, assuring they will be accorded due process.

‘Unlawful and totally Unacceptable’

Meanwhile, the Pleebo Sodoken District’s student group has ‘strongly’ condemn the recent murder of Mordecial Nyemah, but also expressed dismay over the wave of violence that erupted in the wake of the incident, leading to the burning of the Speaker’s House.

“This is unlawful and totally unacceptable,” the group said.

“The alleged scale and gravity of these attacks by protesters mark a worrying escalation of violence. No cause can justify such brutality against the Speaker’s house and even the senseless killing. Perpetrators should be held to account. We urge the security forces to exercise restraint in dealing with the situation and above all ensure that innocent civilians are not harmed.”

The group further urged all students, communities and groups to reject violence, adding, “After years of insecurity and instability, it should be clear that violence is not the solution to the challenges facing Pleebo.”

Source: Liberia: Violence in Maryland; Speaker Chambers’ House Set Ablaze as Pres. Weah Orders Curfew

Another background article:

Liberia: President Weah Declares Curfew In Maryland, Following Violent Protest

Published: March 31, 2021
By: FrontPageAfrica – Willie N. Tokpah  

MONROVIA — President George Manneh Weah has declared a curfew in Maryland County from 6am to 6pm following violent protest by women and motorcyclists over the alleged death of a motorcyclist by four unknown men.
President Weah condemned the violent attacks and warned that his government will not in any way condoned any act of lawlessness.

Citizens of the county reportedly cut one of those allegedly linked to the murder allegation. On Wednesday, scores of women and motorcyclists took to the street of Pleebo, demanding justice in the death of the motorcyclist, Modacious Nyemah, who is said to be a senior student of the Pleebo Central High School.

Their action reportedly resulted to led to the burning of House Speaker Dr. Bhofal Chambers’ residence in Pleebo, Maryland County.

Speaker Chambers upon series of calls and text messages to his orange number did not respond up to press time.

Liberia National Police Spokesman Moses Carter confirmed the situation, stating that one arrest has been made in connection to the situation.

Carter further noted that the individual arrested on Wednesday, March 31 along the Bateken, Grand Kru Highway is currently in police custody in Harper and will be charge and forwarded to court.

The protest which came as a result of the mysterious death of the motorcyclist halted normal activities in Pleebo City on Wednesday, March 31.

Due to its brewing tension, President George Weah then declared 6am -6:00Pm curfew in Maryland County following violence among the people in that part of the Country.

According to the Executive Mansion, the curfew will remain enforced until further notice.
Though it is still unclear what may have linked the Speaker’s residence to the saga but the prompt decision by the President has so far brought a partly calm to the situation as the citizens are now under obligation to abide by his mandate or face the full weight of the law.

It can be recalled that scores of women and cyclists on March 25, 2021 stormed the City of Pleebo in protest of the alleged murder of student Modecial Nyamah along the Grand Kru, Maryland Highway.

Meanwhile, Police Spokesman Moses Carter said further investigation is still ongoing into the matter.

Source: Liberia: President Weah Declares Curfew In Maryland, Following Violent Protest

Liberia: Maryland police arrest eight suspects for murdering three for witchcraft

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).

Featured photo by Franklin Nehyalor

Published: September 5, 2019
By: Franklin Nehyalor – The Bush Chicken

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.

Source: Maryland Police Arrest Eight Suspects for Murdering Three for Witchcraft

Liberia: ritualistic killings spark mob action in Maryland County (2005 article)

There are so many reports on ritualistic killings in Liberia, one should almost lose track. Below is another article, dating from 2005, on ritualistic murders in Maryland County, perhaps the most notorious region of Liberia as far as ritual murders are concerned. (webmaster FVDK)

Hanging of Convicted Ritual Killers (‘Harper Seven’) in Harper City, Maryland County (1979) – Picture by FVDK Fred van der Kraaij

Published: January 27, 2005
By Josephus Moses Gray – The Perspective 

Some panic-stricken inhabitants of the southeastern county of Maryland, mainly in Harper city, over the weekend took the law into their hands when they staged a violent protest over the wave of ritualistic killings which has re-surfaced in the area.

The county is noted for ritualistic killings, despite serious actions taken over the years by the Liberian government – by putting perpetrators to death by hanging while giving others lengthy prison sentences.

According to latest report emerging from the county, hundreds of angry residents came out to protest the alleged failure of the appropriate security apparatus to curtail the wave of ritualistic killings in the county.

During the violence demonstration staged by the youth of the county, several persons were victimized while several business houses and private homes were reportedly attacked and looted by the mobs. Liberia’s Justice Minister, Cllr. Kabineh Ja’neh told journalists in Monrovia this week that the mobs attacked the National Police Headquarters on Green Street in Harper and released several prisoners sentenced for various crimes.

The Justice Minister explained further that the mobs ransacked the Harper Police headquarters and flogged two detainees severely. The two victims, according to minister, have been accused of being involved in the ritualistic killing in the county.

In order to restore calm in the area, the transitional government has imposed a dust to dawn curfew in the county, while at the same time the government has instituted a thorough probe into circumstances that led to the mob action.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Secretary General Special Representative in Liberia, Ambassador Jacques Paul Klein told journalists in Monrovia that the UN Mission in Liberia is carefully studying the situation in the county.

According to the UN diplomat, UN peacekeepers are on standby to move into the county should the situation continue in an effort to help ensure the safety and security of the people of Maryland. Warning the residents to remain in doors during he curfew which run from 6: PM to 6:AM daily, ambassador Klein said UNMIL will provide full security for the people of the county.

The situation in the past led to severe punishment administered against convicted sons and daughters of the county, with some of them being publicly hanged to death, while others were given long prison sentences. Among those hanged were the former Superintendent of the County, James Anderson, Jr., Allen Yancy, Francis Nyepan, Philip Seton, Oldman Barclay and Madam Wreh Tarnyonoh, just to name few. They were hanged on 17th February 1979 during the regime of the late President William R. Tolbert, Jr. after a guilty verdict was brought down against them for killing a popular Kru traditional singer Moses Tweh.

Similar situation re-emerged in 1986 and took away the lives of two little kids in the county. Those connected to the act include former NDPL county chairman, David Clark, Alfred Davies, Jasper Bedell, Gbason Toe and one Gardner. They were arrested and brought to Monrovia where they were sentenced to prolong detention while under going investigation.

Another 200 persons were round-up by the former Superintendent of the county now Minister of Internal affairs, Minister H. Dan Morais for the mysterious death of Lt. Alphonso Chalde, former employee of the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN).

Source: Ritualistic Killings Spark Mob Action in Maryland

Liberia: More women in ritualistic killings in Sinoe County

As I continue to say, both on this site and on my website Liberia Past and Present, the phenomenon of ritual killings has never completely disappeared in Liberia. Originally a cultural practice, nowadays it is closely linked to politics, elections and the greed for (more) wealth and power.  At this particular moment in time it is not known what the background and linkages are of the ritualistic killings in Sinoe County disclosed here by County Attorney Cllr. J. Adolphus Karnuah. As soon as we learn more about these cases we will come back with the relevant news. (FVDK)

For more details on Liberia’s history of ritual murders, see Ritual Killings in Liberia: From Cultural Phenomenon to Political Instrument

Flashback: Scene of the most famous ritualistic killing ever in Liberian history that occurred in Maryland County in the 1970s

Published: January 25, 2019
By: The New Dawn

County Attorney for Sinoe Cllr. J. Adolphus Karnuah has disclosed that more women have been caught for ritualistic killings in Sinoe County, southeast Liberia.

Speaking to a team of journalists at the Temple of Justice on Thursday, 24 January, Cllr. Karnuah disclosed that cases of ritualistic killings have topped the docket.

He narrates that six out of 20 women were arrested by police officers, charged and placed behind bars for the alleged crime of ritualistic killings.

Cllr. Karnuah tells the interview that during the police raid, the key perpetrator was arrested, but she was very boastful in her utterances, noting that the matter would end up nowhere.

According to Cllr. Karnuah, the issue of ritualistic killing is said to be taking place in January this year in the district of Numorpor which has its own superintendent and other county officials.

According to him, one of the ritualistic killing incidents took place when the mother of a little boy left him on the farm to go out to fetch some pepper, bitter balls and other food substances for cooking.

He says upon the lady’s arrival, she realized that her son was missing.

Cllr. Karnuah explains that after days of searching without a trace of the missing boy, his father decided to use the help of a herbalist.

The lawyer says upon the father’s return, his wife was said to be part of the crime.

The county attorney says the mother made confession that she was part of the devilish club and it was now time for her to give her own son as a share of her sacrifice.
But he says the lady escaped along with three other women who also confessed to be witchcrafts.

He notes that while the women were in the bush, they were pursued by some men in the community who caught and stripped them naked and gang raped them until one of the ladies identified as Wallet Nyenweh was allegedly killed in the process.

The lawyer narrates that during the trial, he ordered the body of the dead woman exhumed in other to prove the alleged gang rape which was said to have caused her death.

Source: 
https://thenewdawnliberia.com/more-women-in-ritualistic-killings-in-sinoe/

Liberia’s elections, ritual killings and cannibalism (2011)

I have written extensively about Liberia’s history of ritual killings, in books, articles, and on my website ‘Liberia: Past and Present of Africa’s Oldest Republic‘, notably in the section ‘Past and Present of Ritual Killings: From Cultural Phenomenon to Political Instrument‘.

I was confronted with the phenomenon of ritualistic murders in Liberia when living in Monrovia – where I taught at the University of Liberia – and, later, in Harper, capital of Maryland County, in the second half of the 1970s. In Harper I witnessed the public execution of the Harper Seven, in 1979. They were convicted of the ritual murder of a fisherman and popular singer, Moses Tweh, and sentenced to death by hanging. The trial of the Harper Seven turned out to be Liberia’s most notorious ritual killing case.

Big shots’ were involved, such as Maryland County’s Superintendent, Daniel Anderson – son of the Chairman of Liberia’s only political party, the True Whig Party – and Allen Yancy, member of the House of Representatives for Maryland County and cousin of former Liberian president William Tubman (1944 – 1971). Reportedly, Allen Yancy had been involved in previous ritual murder cases but he was never convicted, allegedly because of Tubman’s protection.
Ritualistic killings in Liberia have been rampant, and I fear the gruesome practice has far from disappeared – as is demonstrated by the article reproduced below.

The article reproduced below summarizes well Liberia’s recent history of ritualistic murders. What used to be a cultural phenomenon – human sacrifices for the well-being of the clan or tribe – has become a political instrument, used by unscrupulous politicians and businessmen to further their interests.

I will not dwell too long here on these atrocities and outdated but persistent beliefs in supernatural powers. Readers are invited to visit my website for more details.

Last but not least, my publications on ritual murders in Liberia became the prelude to the present website on ritual killings in Africa in general. See the site’s menu, notably the section ‘Why publish this site?

Public execution by hanging of the ‘Harper Seven’, including Maryland Superintendent Daniel Anderson and Representative Allen Yancy, at dawn in Harper, Liberia on February 16, 1979. Picture taken by Fred van der Kraaij (copyrights).


Liberia’s elections, ritual killings and cannibalism

Published: August 01, 2011 · 10:52 AM UTC
By: Emily Schmall and Wade Williams

MONROVIA, Liberia — The pregnant woman was found dead in the shallows of Lake Shepherd. The fetus had been removed.

A candidate for Liberia’s Senate and a former county attorney are among those standing trial for the 2009 murder, the latest in a long history of ritual sacrifices performed for political power in Liberia.

In this case in southeastern Maryland County, prosecutors were tipped off by a witch doctor who provided a list of 18 people allegedly connected to the killing, including Fulton Yancy, the former county attorney, and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s Special Envoy and Ambassador-at-Large Dan Morias.

Vials of blood were discovered in Yancy’s home. Nine were charged with murder but were released earlier this month following a Supreme Court ruling.

Liberia will have general elections later this year and the ritual killings tend to flare up during election season, according to Jerome Verdier, former chairman of Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

”Unfortunately it happens during elections time because people are competing for political power, they don’t know God and they believe that these supernatural powers will come to them once human blood is shed,” Verdier said.

During Liberia’s two-decades-long civil war hundreds were killed for ritual purposes, the TRC discovered during its hearings.

”During our research at the TRC we found out that bloodshedding was very, very common during the conflict. People killed indiscriminately women and children believing that it would give them some power to continue fighting and that they would be protected,” said Verdier.

Liberia’s Maryland County has traditionally been the hub for the country’s ritual murders. The killings have haunted the southeastern county for decades. In recent years, however, ritual killing cases have cropped up across the country.

Verdier said some of those who confessed at the TRC hearing gave graphic accounts of ritual killings they carried out.

“People went as far as eating their opponent’s body — when such person is killed in battle they cook their body to eat, believing that the spirit, the powerful spirit of that person, will come to them and by eating them, the person’s power is completely destroyed, so there can be no reemergence in that person’s family line or their ethnic line.”

‘General Butt Naked’, a notorious warlord in Liberia’s First Civil war (1989 – 1997) testified and confessed before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that he committed numerous ritualistic murders and ate body parts of his victims.

A former warlord who calls himself General Butt Naked and who fought against former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor, confessed in 2008 to taking part in human sacrifices that included the killing of a child and “plucking out the heart, which was divided into pieces for us to eat.”

In 2005, the leader of Liberia’s transitional government, Gyude Bryant, pledged to hang anyone found guilt of ritual killing.

Dispatched to Maryland County by President Johnson Sirleaf to calm residents’ fears earlier this year, Justice Minister Christiana Tah acknowledged that “there are still lots of unresolved cases of this nature,” according to a report in the daily New Democrat.

In a case from the 1970s known as the Maryland Murders, seven people, including Fulton Yancy’s older brother Allen Yancy, a member of the House of Representatives, were hanged for killing a fisherman (see picture above). The following year Defense Minister Gray D. Allison was convicted of killing a police officer whose body was discovered on the Bong Mines railroad, apparently used in a ritual sacrifice. The government at the time displayed blood drained in gallons believed to be that of the dead man.

Dan Morias, one of those accused of the 2009 killing of a pregnant woman, is planning to run for senator in the upcoming legislative elections in October. He has maintained that the charges against him are politically motivated. He must be cleared of the charges to be eligible to run for office.

Morias is listed in the TRC report for alleged abuses committed while he served as Minister of Internal Affairs for the Charles Taylor regime. When reached by GlobalPost, Morias said he could not comment on the case as it would be “prejudicial,” but insisted that the evidence against him — namely the testimony of a witch doctor — was “weak.”

Earlier this year, President Johnson Sirleaf warned Maryland County citizens against seeking retribution for the killings with a traditional practice called “sassywood” or “trial by ordeal.”

The government insists that trial by ordeal is illegal and Johnson Sirleaf banned the practice in April 2007. Since then traditional leaders have been pleading with the government to allow them to practice the act which they believe is the only way justice can be served in cases like these.

“Sassywood” is the insertion of an accused person’s extremity into hot oil or the placing of a heated metal on a suspect’s body. If the suspect is burned then it is concluded that he or she is guilty but if there is no burn then the suspect is deemed innocent and set free. Those found guilty are killed.

The police are working to stamp out both the ritual killings and the “sassywood” practices, said George Bardue, spokesman for the Liberia National Police: “The police are doing everything possible to make sure that these things do not happen.”

Emily Schmall is a multimedia journalist now based in Monrovia, Liberia, where she serves as country director for New Narratives, a journalism mentorship project for women. Wade Williams is a New Narratives fellow and an editor at FrontPage Africa, Liberia’s most widely circulated newspaper.

Source: Liberia’s elections, ritual killings and cannibalism
GlobalPost