Early January of this year riots broke out in Chiwempala Township in Chingola District on the Copperbelt. The rioters took to the streets to protest the alleged failure by police to arrest a man they suspect to have been behind the alleged ritual killings in the district. Mob justice, often based on rumors, is wrong and reprehensible. People should respect the authorities, but as one comment on the first article reproduced below shows, not everyone disagrees with people who take the law in their own hands: ‘(…) let the civilians do what they can do. (…)’
Every year hundreds of innocent civilians – i.e. not found guilty by an independent court – die as a result of mob justice in African countries. In South Africa it even has a special name: ‘necklacing’. The apprehended suspected criminal is tied up by civilians, who put a tire doused in gasoline around the neck of the suspect. They then set the tire and the suspect on fire (alive!), who usually perishes. In 2011, 543 people died as a result of ‘lynching’ (mob justice) in Kenya, according to official statistics. In Uganda, 568 people succumbed as a result of mob justice in 2014.
Murderers must be arrested and tried by an independent court. ‘Law abiding’ citizens who turn into murderers as a result of mob justice must be apprehended and prosecuted too. Therefor, the Zambian police must be complimented for doing its work (webmaster FVDK).
Over 50 arrested in Chingola riots Published: January 9, 2020 By: Chris Phiri, Zambia Reports
Over 50 people have been arrested in connection with the riots that broke out in Chiwempala Township in Chingola District on the Copperbelt.
The unruly rioters took to the streets to protest the alleged failure by police to arrest a man they suspect to have been behind the alleged ritual killings in the district.
They blocked roads, burnt three motor vehicles and one house all properties belonging to the same person.
The rioters did not only damage property but also rooted various goods among them groceries and household goods.
Copperbelt Police Deputy Commissioner Wamunyima Wamunyima has stated that police managed to bring to book some of the rioters who are currently detained at Chingola Central Police.
Officers from the Zambia Army and Zambia Police have since managed to contain the situation.
Mourners at a funeral of a 69-year-old man in Blinkwater village outside Giyani in Limpopo went on a rampage on Sunday when they discovered that his private parts were missing.
James Makhubele was reportedly believed to have died in a hit-and-run on August 3, but family members now believe he was the victim of a ritual killing and that his body was thrown on to the road to create the appearance that he had been hit by a car.
At the funeral, family members inspected Makhubele‘s remains and reportedly discovered that body parts were missing.
This sparked a vigilante attack during which mourners burnt down three houses, one belonging to a man whom they believe to be the suspect and those of two of his employees.
According to Sowetan, police spokesperson Colonel Moatshe Ngoepe said a second post-mortem would be conducted.
However, a policeman at the local police station reportedly told the newspaper that the first post-mortem did not find that any body parts had been removed.
Incidents of mob justice continue to flare up throughout the country.
Last week, that two men estimated to be around 30 years old were murdered by groups of people in separate vigilante attacks in the Eastern Cape.
In July, in Hammanskraal, north of Pretoria, for stoning a murder suspect to death.
In the same week, two women were in the Ha-Mashau village in Limpopo. They were suspected of murdering a 12-year-old boy. Two suspects, aged 16 and 17, have been arrested.
Published: November 2, 2019 By: Chioma Igbokwe and Moshood Adebayor – The Sun
The gruesome murder of Qudus Anifowoshe on October 14, 2019, once again brought panic to the residents of Lagos town of Ikorodu.
While they had enjoyed relative safety and calm in the last two years after the killing spree of Badoo Boys, the murder of the teenager was a wake-up call that some ritualists are still prowling in the outskirt town. The victim’s body was found mutilated with missing parts, the unmistakable imprints of ritual killing. It was alleged that the 14-year-old student of Icon Primary and Secondary school Ikorodu, was last seen before his disappearance walking side by side with a suspect identified as Daniel Ameh, who was further implicated when three days later the mutilated corpse was found in an uncompleted building close to the house where he lived at Igbogbo Agunfoye Ire. Daniel Ameh, 17, has since been arrested and detained by detectives attached to the Lagos State Criminal Investigation Department, SCID, Panti.
However, two weeks later, the police are not close to unravelling the why or how he was killed, while the suspect, an undergraduate of Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, Ogun State, in his declaration of his innocence, insists the real killers are still at large. His evidence: the victim was once kidnapped and ransomed in the past.
The bereaved family, on the other hand, believed police are dillydallying in what they think should be an open-and-shut case.
Taofeek Anifowoshe, the victim’s father, alleged: “My son was found dead in an uncompleted building around 2 pm on Friday, October 18. They poured chemical on him, removed his eyes, tongue, heart, breasts and private parts. He went missing on Monday night and all the children with him said he was last seen with Daniel [Ameh]. We searched for him all through that Monday night but we did not see him. When we started looking for him, it was Daniel’s grandmother that went to ring the church bell and was announcing that my son had gone missing. But the surprising thing to us is that bloodstains were seen on the curtains of Daniel’s grandmother’s house and on the fence from where Qudus was thrown to the other side. We believe that he was killed inside that room and they dumped his body through the fence to the other side.”
Suspect’s story of innocence
At the SCID where he is currently detained, 17-year-old Daniel Ameh insisted that he knew nothing about the death of Qudus whom he referred to as a friend.
This was the story he told Saturday Sun: “On Monday, October 14, I went to the hospital with my grandmother for my regular check-up. She has made it a routine to take me for checkups to be sure that I did not contract any disease while in school. Few minutes after the laboratory test was conducted, the nurse told my grandmother that there were traces of Malaria and Typhoid fever in my blood. I updated my Whatsapp status to show that I was sick. One of those that commented was Tawa, the sister to the late Qudus, who is also my friend. She accused me of not coming around to see her. I promised to do so as soon as I return from the hospital.
“In the evening, I went to their house and met her plaiting her hair. We were chatting when Qudus came in, took his brother’s slippers and told them that he was going to his friend’s place. On my way out, I saw him standing with some Arabic students watching a movie on his phone. I asked him to transfer the movie to my phone and while he was doing that, a boy who lives on their street, Juwon Adebisi, left with Qudus.
Since we had not finished transferring the movie to my phone, he left his phone with me. I waited in front of their compound till I was done and luckily, he came back and I handed the phone back to him and left.”
Ameh claimed that he was already at home with his grandmother when some women were going around the area searching for Qudus.
“It was around 9 pm that I heard voices of women at our backyard complaining that they were looking for their son. I discovered it was Qudus’ mother and other women who were searching the uncompleted building beside our house.”
By 11 pm, some community women banged at their gate.
“I came out and opened the gate. They asked me if I knew where Qudus was since I was seen with him earlier in the day. In the presence of my grandmother, I told them that I was collecting a movie from his phone.”
The next day, he was at the Anifowoshe home to find out if Qudus had been found. “I was concerned because his elder sister, Tawa, is my friend,” he said. “She told me that they had not seen him.
The following day, Wednesday, he was at their house again. “To encourage my friend Tawa,” he said.
There he heard various accounts of people recounting the last time they saw the missing lad. “A woman said that while he was with the Arabic students, he received a call and wanted to leave when they pleaded with him to go for his 8 pm prayer and he replied in Yoruba that he wanted to go and jump the fence. Another man said that he saw him inside a barbing saloon that day.”
However, before the end of that day, the spotlight shifted to him.
“I went home and started receiving calls from friends asking if I am gay. My grandmother even confronted me with the same question. She said the news in town was that I was last seen with Qudus. She said that she was worried because people were saying that the way I held Qudus was as if I was holding a girl.”
Ameh insisted: “[Late] Qudus is just the brother of my friend, Tawa and I related to him as such. I have never had a reason to walk around with him neither did I force him to join any secret cult.”
Amid this disturbing development, he had to return to Ago Iwoye for his studies. However, distressing calls from Ikorodu kept coming. The most disturbing was from his grandmother who lamented the incessant harassment she was being subjected to by youths in the area who accused her of hiding her grandson.
“At about 10 pm that same Thursday, my aunt called and told me Qudus’ body was found at the uncompleted building close to our house and that angry youths jumped into our compound and started beating my grandmother. She told me she was saved by the intervention of some elders and the police who took her to the police station,” he narrated.
Ameh travelled back to Ikorodu and handed himself over to the police.
“I was the one that the police were looking for; if I stayed away they will detain my grandmother and she might die of heartache. [So] I went to Igbogbo Police Station where they detained her. They arrested me, while she was immediately released.”
In tears, Ameh claimed he had no idea how the mutilated corpse ended in the uncompleted building next to his house.
“This same building was searched by the women in the community that night and they did not find him there. I was among the young men who searched the whole area for him,” he argued. “Initially, we thought that he ran away because of fear that his mother would beat him. We also thought that he was kidnapped.”
He avowed that he was not a cultist or a ritualist and neither did he conspire with anyone to kill the boy.
“The only thing that is true was that I collected an Indian movie from his phone and this was done in front of their house,” he stated. “I never confessed to having killed him.”
The 17-year-old attributed his ordeal to malice. “I know that Qudus’ father does not like me because I was dating his daughter Tawa. He has warned me severally to stay away from his daughter. We like each other, and he is very angry about that.”
On the accusation of his being gay, Ameh denied the allegation with further clarification: “I am not gay. I love women, that is why I am dating Tawa,” he said. “While I was in secondary school, I was sexually molested by my seniors. They’d lure me to a corner and force me to touch their penises.”
He gave further insight into his background: “I was born and raised by my mother because my father abandoned her when she was pregnant with me. My mother remarried and currently lives in Dublin. I had to stay with my grandmother who is doing a wonderful job.”
On the allegation that his behaviours are effeminate, he said: “I grew up among women, who, to some extent, affected the way I walk and how neat I appear; this is why everyone assumed that I am gay and irresponsible men on the street normally approached me to have sex with them. Perhaps what worsened the matter was that during the ASUU strike, I went to learn how to plait hair for women. Everyone close to me assumed that I was attracted to women’s stuff because I am gay. Even my grandma has to visit the school with our pastor to advise and warn me of the dangers of being gay. I swore to her with the Bible and to further convince her, I joined the Christian fellowship on campus.”
He concluded his narration with a twist to the story when he urged the Police to find those who kidnapped Qudus in the past.
His words: “The bad boys in the community are envious of the man; that was why they kidnapped his son in the past and he paid them before the boy was released to him.”
Bereaved family’s version of the story
Mr Taofeek Anifowoshe, father of the late Qudus, a haulage driver, was in his place of work in Apapa when he received the bad news of his missing son on that ill-fated day. “A search party was organised by the community, just as we reported to security agencies and community leaders within our areas,” he recounted.
Mr Anifowoshe and his wife, Risikat, were at Alausa, Ikeja on Tuesday, October 29, where they spoke with Saturday Sun.
He narrated how Qudus, one of his five children, who attended Arabic school on their street, was reportedly sent home that fateful day to bring his Quran before his mysterious disappearance.
He said: “I was told that after he returned from school on that day, he was seen with one Daniel, a student of Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye after which his mutilated body was found after three days’ search in an uncompleted building near Daniel’s grandfather’s compound.”
Lamenting the cruel fate that befell his son, he wailed: “This is the height of wickedness by any mortal to his fellow human beings. I never imagined this would happen to me or any of my close relations. It is unbelievable and I still do not know why I’m the target.”
He claimed that the suspect could hardly exonerate himself from the death of his son. He also expressed displeasure with his overall impression of Police investigation. “As much as I appreciate police’s investigations, I wonder why they never deemed it fit to conduct on-the-spot investigations to the scene where the mutilated body of my son was discovered days after he was declared missing.”
He alleged the police had not returned to the scene of the crime or the home where the suspect lived with his grandmother, Mrs Comfort Omoyeghe Dickson.
“They never entered the premises where the Daniels live to see series of evidence that abounds there,” he said.
Anifowoshe appealed to the Inspector General of Police and the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu to impress on the detectives to carry out thorough investigations into the murder and bring the culprit to book.
His appeal, he said, became imperative as “we are not truly convinced that the police was carrying out any investigation as they had promised.”
His wife, Risikat Anifowoshe, a trader, also denounced the lassitude displayed by the police towards the investigation. She alleged that the police had, a few days ago, tried to assist a family member of the suspect to pack some items from his grandmother’s house.
Reaction from the Police
Lagos State Police Command Public Relations Officer, Bala Elkana said there is no basis for the allegation of a cover-up on the part of the police. “The DPO did a good job by arresting the suspect. There is no concrete evidence linking the grandmother with the murder, but the boy is still in custody,” he stated.
Elkana, who insisted that he did not want to join issues with the bereaved, said: “The boy has been transferred to the SCID. It is painful that they lost a child; they should be calm as the police are carrying out intensive investigation and will ensure that justice is done.’’
October 18, 2019 was a day of horror for the Anifowoshes in particular and residents of Igbogbo community in Ikorodu area of Lagos. This was due to the discovery of the lifeless body of 14-year-old Kudus Anifowoshe, in an uncompleted building, located three buildings away from his parents’.
The Senior Secondary School 1 student of Icon Primary and Secondary School had gone missing four days before, with his whereabouts unknown, until his body which was in its decomposing state was discovered.
Further discovery revealed that his eyes, tongue, private parts and breast were missing, indicating that he could have been killed for ritual purpose.
Late Kudus, as gathered, was last seen on October 14, 2019, in the midst of some boys, in front of his father’s building. But apprehension set in when he did not return home, which was described as unusual of him. A search party combed the community, banging on residents gates to ascertain if he was with them. But their efforts were to no avail.
But residents pointed accusing finger at one Daniel Ameh, as those seen with the boy claimed he was seen with his hand on late Kudus’ shoulder, as they walked out of his father’s compound at about 7pm.
Late Kudus distraught father, Alhaji Taofeek Anifowoshe, who is yet to come to terms with the rude reality of his son’s demise, was quoted to have said, “The body of my son was found in an uncompleted building around 2pm on Friday, October 18. His killers poured chemical on him, removed his eyes, tongue, breasts and private parts”
“All the children with him confirmed that my son was last seen with Daniel, before he went missing on Monday night. Daniel’s grandmother was part of the search party. She even went to ring the church bell to announce his disappearance.
“Surprisingly, blood stains were found on Daniel grandmother’s curtains. We suspect that my son was murdered inside that room before they threw his body through the fence to the other side because there was also blood stains on the fence from where we suspect Kudus was thrown to the other side”.
Following the suspicion that Daniel, a 200 level Social Studies (Education) student of the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ogun State, could be responsible for the murder, irate youths stormed the accused building on 4, Alhaji Anifowoshe street, to carry out jungle justice, in order to extract the truth from him. But Daniel was said to have gone to school.
His grandmother, Mary Omozopia, was said to have been beaten and dragged on the floor by the mob who accused her of being in the know. They attempted to burn down the woman’s house but for the intervention of some elders in the community who suggested that she should be taken to the police station, where she would be compelled to bring her grandson, the accused.
I have no hand in is death
However, in this interview with the accused undergraduate, he denied having anything to do with the murder of late Kudus. Though he admitted seeing him that night before he went missing , he maintained that he never walked along the street with him, as claimed.
According to Daniel, “ On Monday, October 14, 2019, I went to the hospital with my grandmother because anytime I come back from school, I usually went to the hospital for check up so that I don’t fall sick when I go back to school. Grandma went with me because she wasn’t feeling too well. I was diagnosed of Malaria and Typhoid fever and given some medicine.
“Same day, I posted Agoway on my WhatsApp status and the deceased’s sister, Tawa, who is my friend, replied by asking why I didn’t come to check on her when I knew she was around. I went to see her on the evening of same day and met her plaiting her hair.
“Then, Kudus (deceased) rushed inside, he took his brother’s slippers told them he was going to his friend’s place and left. As I was going home I told his elder brother, Alamini, to open the gate for me. When I stepped out, I saw Kudus standing with some Arabic students, all boys. They were watching a movie on his phone. I went closer to him and asked if he had any movie on his phone, he said yes and I told him to transfer it to me. He sent me an Indian film.
As I was transferring the film into my phone, one Juwon, came, shook hands with me and went to meet the Kudus. He (late Kudus) excused himself, but gave me his phone to hold as I continued the download. I stood at their gate waiting, until he came back and I gave him back his phone and went home.
“Around 9pm, his mum and some women with torch lights were going round. They entered the uncompleted building close to our house and left. Around 11pm, some community women came banging on peoples gates. When they came to ours, they started shouting ‘grandma, grandma a wan omo o.( Grandma, we are looking for a child o) I quickly ran outside because I was the one with the key to the gate. By the time I stepped outside, our tenants had also rushed outside. When I went outside, they asked me if Kudus told me where he was going to, that they saw me standing with him. I told them that I only collected a movie from his phone and they left our house. My grandmother and I went inside at about 3am that day because we also joined in the search. “The following morning, I went to their house in the morning because Tawa was my friend. I asked her if her brother told her anything about his whereabouts, she said no. While there, my grandma called me to come and take the medicine given to me at the hospital and I left.
Daniel, said he left for school on Wednesday, only to receive calls from home that he was accused of killing Kudus. He said, “Some people in the community even said they saw me in Ikorodu, that I was not in school. One of my aunties called to say that my attention was needed at the Police station to defend myself. My grandmother even called to ask if I knew anything concerning the tragedy, I said no.
To my surprise I was told that the missing boy was found dead in the same uncompleted building his mother and other youths searched.
I was forced to leave school for Lagos last Tuesday, when I was told that my grandmother was beaten and detained at the station, pending when I would show up. She was released when I got to Ikorodu police station”.
Part of the news making the round in Ikorodu was allegation that Daniel was a gay and could have killed late Kudus over his refusal to consent to him.
Again, Daniel denied being gay. He said, “I am not a gay. The story about my being gay came about while I was in Secondary school. Then, I was sexually molested by some senior students. They only told me to touch their private parts but I never and have never had anal sex. I have never had sex with any lady either, even though I have a girl friend.
This is because my father impregnated my mum and abandoned her. I don’t want to repeat his mistake, that is why I decided never to have sexual intercourse with any lady until I am married.
I am not a cultist too. They said a boy testified that I approached him to cone join secret cult with a promise to give him things. I don’t know who the person is and I dare the Police to bring him before me to state that before me.
I am not a murderer, I did not kill Kudus. I am not gay and I am not a cultist”, he said in tears.
The suspect has been transferred from Igbogbo division to the State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department, SCIID, Yaba , for further invention.
The bereaved mother, Mrs Risikat Anifowose, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that her late son was last seen with 17-year-old Daniel Amme before his mutilated body was found in their backyard.
According to her, a search party, which was formed when her son went missing on October 14, found his dismembered body in an uncompleted building behind Amme’s house two days later.
Anifowose alleged that police in the area advised her to resolve the murder incident “amicably,” instead of conducting thorough investigation into the matter.
The distraught mother said she was shocked when she later learnt that the police had released her son’s suspected killer and grandmother and allowed both to move out of the community
“Am begging the CP of Lagos State that he should please come to my rescue; the suspected killers of my son are being shielded and helped by the police.
“My son was just 14-year-old and why should he die such a painful death, with his organs being removed, please help me.
“His tongue, heart and private organ was removed and there are still blood stains over the fence on which his body was thrown into the uncompleted building from Amme’s compound.
“We are appealing to the CP of Lagos to ensure proper investigation is carried out and the perpetrators brought to justice accordingly,” she said.
Confirming the incident, Lagos Police Command Police Relations Officer, DSP Bala Elkana, told NAN that investigations were ongoing to ensure that the culprits were brought to book.
He assured the parents of the deceased that justice would prevail and the perpetrators would be punished accordingly. “Detectives are on the issue and investigations are ongoing. We assure that the offenders would be brought to book,” the police spokesman said.
Liberia is not known to actively fight ritualistic murders or to prosecute and condemn perpetrators of these heinous crimes. Yet, according to a recent newspaper article (reproduced below) it has a anti-ritual killing taskforce – which is quite revealing. Is the Taskforce just window-dressing or is it a sincere attempt to fight these criminal, traditional practices which are so hard to wipe out? I do not know the taskforce’s mandate, year of creation or its yearly budget, but will try to do some research and will let you know my findings asap.
Recently, Montserrado County District #1 Representative Lawrence Morris donated two brand new motorbikes to the anti-ritual killing Taskforce. At the occasion, he again expressed his condolences to the families of Elijah Porluma, 9 and Thomas Kollie, 10, who were reportedly abducted and killed allegedly for ritual purposes in early June 2019 (see my August 4, 2019 posting with the article entitled ‘Ritual Killings’ Spark Riot in Kingsville, dated June 25, 2019).
Representative Morris made a generous gesture by donating two motorbikes to the anti-ritual killing taskforce, but will his donation solve the endemic problem of ritualistic killings in the country, or make a significant contribution to fighting these crimes?
I have my doubts. In my view, more needs to be done to effectively end ritual killings in a country where superstition, ignorance, poverty, greed, lack of rule of law and impunity are responsible for the continuation of these criminal practices (webmaster FVDK).
Two brand new motorbikes, in the tune of L$490,000, have been donated to the Anti-Ritual Killing Community Watch-Team in Number 7 Community, Kingsville Township, Montserrado County District #1 on Thursday, October 24, 2019 to assist the Liberia National Police (LNP) to protect lives and properties.
Montserrado County District #1 Representative Rep. Lawrence Morris called on the District to choose peace over violence and end violence and ritualistic killings that would have the propensity to cause civil war or divide the district and, at large, the nation.
He again expressed his condolences to the bereaved families of the two children, Elijah Porluma, 9 and Thomas Kollie, 10, who were reportedly abducted and killed allegedly for ritual purposes in early June 2019 (italics added by the webmaster FVDK).
The House’s chairman on Refugees Repatriation, Resettlement and Reintegration urged his constituencies to join him not to applaud the ritualistic killings, and must never choose violence instead of peace; lies instead of truth and laugh at obscenities instead of correcting them.
He pointed out the new bikes are in fulfillment of his promise to support the Community Watch-Team to save lives and protect properties.
The Montserrado County lawmaker said: “You shall not murder or You shall not kill, is a moral imperative included as one of the Ten Commandments in the Holy Bible and it’s a sin against God.”
It may be recalled that, on Monday, June 24, 2019, aggrieved citizens of the Kingsville town blocked the main road from Red-Light to Kakata in demand for justice for two boys, Elijah Porluma, 9 and Thomas Kollie, 10, who were reportedly abducted and later killed allegedly for ritual purposes (italics added by the webmaster FVDK).
The demonstrators were holding aloft placards bearing inscriptions that read, “We want justice,” as they occupied the middle of the road with themselves and abandoned pieces of timber and metallic objects used to set up the roadblock.
The lifeless body of a 14-year-old boy was discovered at the back of the cemetery at Majozi village last Thursday morning. It is alleged that the body has a gorged skull and was missing its private parts. It is suspected that the deceased is another victim of ritual murder.
The enraged community of Masia allegedly set a suspect’s hut on fire on Sunday night. However, the man and his family managed to slip away by jumping over the fence at the backside of his main house.
The boy’s body was first discovered in the early hours of the morning by a group of women who were walking down the mountain from fetching wood. It was later revealed that the boy came from a neighbouring village, Masia.
The body was later identified as Nkhumeleni Mukhadi by his father, Mr Frank Mukhadi.
A suspicious finger pointed at a man for whom the boy used to perform odd jobs, after some community members said that he was seen walking out of a church crusade service with him on Wednesday evening (17 April).
Mukhadi is a heartbroken man, following the discovery of his son’s body. He believes that a bicycle was used to lure his son to the Phadinwe mountain, where he was then killed for muti. “There were fresh prints of a bicycle, which led us to the spot where Nkhume was killed,” he said. “We saw blood soaked into the ground.”
Nkhumeleni was a Grade 4 pupil at Vhangani Primary School. Mr Bernard Bopape, a teacher, said that the school was unable to accept that the young boy is no more. “We need answers to his death. We need to know who killed him and the motive behind the killing.”
Bopape said the pupils could hardly focus on their school work since everyone in the village was speaking about the pupil whose private parts had been cut off.
Cllr Sarah Makhuvha of Ward 7 maintains that she had received a sketchy report about the boy’s death from the ward committee and the deceased’s family. “There are community members who are maintaining that the man whose house was burnt had fetched Nkhumeleni from an evening church service and the boy never returned,” Makhuvha said. “To lose a child under such horrific circumstances is really painful.”
Makhuvha, the school and affected community members continue to hold meetings at the deceased’s house, as a way of trying to comfort the family of the deceased.
The police’s provincial spokesperson, Brig Hangwani Mulaudzi, said the police had opened a case of murder. “No arrests have been made thus far, but our investigations are ongoing,” said Mulaudzi. “We are also waiting for the doctors to perform a post-mortem.”
Mulaudzi added that the police had opened an arson case after a house of a man was set alight.
Chief Vho-Thanyani Masia called for calm in the village and requested the community members who might have information regarding the boy’s killing to supply it to the police.
When Limpopo Mirror visited the village on Monday evening, there was a large number of community members scattered about the suspect’s yard with the intention of setting the remaining rooms alight. The Vuwani police kept an eye on the situation from a short distance.
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.
Yesterday I posted an article Liberia: ‘Devils’ and ‘Deagons’ – defendant details victim’s death. While searching the internet for more news concerning this case I stumbled upon this Front Page Africa article (dated June 12, 2019). It contains no specific new developments, but provides nonetheless some valuable information which I do not want to withhold the readers (webmaster FVDK).
Published: June 12, 2019 By: Front Page Africa
Monrovia – The much-publicized “witchcraft case” in Sinoe County involving nine defendants – all men – has been transferred from Greenville to Buchanan, Grand Bassa County for trial.
The nine defendants are charged with murder, gang rape, aggravated assault, and criminal facilitation in connection with the humiliation of three ladies accused of witchcraft activities in that part of the country.
Assistant Justice Minister For Litigation at the Ministry of Justice, Wesseh Alphonsus Wesseh told FrontPAgeAfrica Tuesday, June 11, that the Government of Liberia has decided to prioritize the prosecution of the nine Defendants and assured the public that everything will be done to ensure the Defendants get a free, fair and transparent trial.
Cllr. Wesseh then frowned on individuals bent on engaging in “jungle justice,” stating that trial by ordeal was outlawed by the Supreme Court since 1916, adding that it has no place for “contemporary society like Liberia”.
Those nine Defendants from Sinoe County that were transferred over the weekend to the Buchanan Central Prison to face trial during the current May 2019 Term of Court are: Moses Solo Jr, Shelton Kelgbeh, Teah Gmawlue, Marshall Gbala, Anthony Karmoh: others are Tweh Keglbeh, Wilson Pyne, alias Swen Pyne, Victor Solo, and Sylvester T. Cherdy.
The defendants were indicted early this year by the Grand Jury of the 3rd Judicial Circuit Court sitting in the provincial capital, Greenville Sinoe County.