Limpopo, South Africa: a ritual killer on the loose?

Nzhelele is located in the region of Limpopo, one of 9 primary administrative regions in South Africa. Reportedly, ritualistic murders – in Southern Africa called muti murders -occur frequently in the Limpopo region although presumably not all murders are reported or discovered. Also see my May 28, 2021 posting entitled South Africa: ‘Enough with muti killings’.

Kidnappings and theft rife in Nzhelele Valley, Limpopo.
Screenshot. To watch the video click here

Recently, the mutilated body of an 11-year-old girl, Pfunzo Makuya, was found floating in a local dam nearly a week after she had gone missing from Phadzima Dzumbathoho. Earlier this year there was a public outcry after the disappearance of several children and the discovery of three bodies floating in the water since the beginning of this year. One well-known case concerned the disappearance of a 10-year-old girl, Fiona Matodzi, in the Vhembe area, in August. She was never found and her family fears a muti killing.

The police has started an investigation and asked the general public to cooperate and provide all information which could lead to the culprits.
(webmaster FVDK)

A ritual killer on the loose?

The mutilated body of Pfunzo Makuya (11) was found floating in a local dam nearly a week after she had gone missing from Phadzima Dzumbathoho. Photo supplied.

Published: November 18, 2022
By: Elmon Tshikhudo – Zoutnet, South Africa

Could vicious ritual killers be stalking innocent people in villages around the Nzhelele region? This has become the most asked question in that area lately, especially following the disappearance and subsequent discovery of the mutilated body of an 11-year-old girl that was found floating in a local dam.

The girl, Pfunzo Makuya of Phadzima Dzumbathoho, was last seen on Wednesday afternoon, 9 November, between 16:00 and 17:00, after her mother sent her to the local shoemaker. According to a reliable source who spoke to this newspaper, the girl never reached the shoemaker, who runs his business not far from her home.

On Monday, 14 November, nearly a week after the girl had gone missing, local fishermen who were out fishing found her body floating in the dam. One of her hands had been cut off and in places, pieces of flesh had been carved from her body.

Naturally, this led the community to strong suspicions that she had been ritually murdered. Community leader Mr Richard Ramabulana said the disappearance of people who were later found dead had become a source of great concern in the area. “Since the beginning of the year we have had three cases and the worst part of it is that they were all later found floating in the water. As a community, we will work with the police to fast-track this investigation and our call to the residents is to give as much information to the police as possible,” he said.

The parents of the dead girl were still very traumatised and requested to be given space before making a statement.

Over recent months, many outcries have been made by communities over the disappearance of children in the Vhembe area. One of the most notable cases was that of the missing Fiona Matodzi. The 10-year-old girl was allegedly kidnapped on her way home from the local Dzindi Primary School. The incident happened at Itsani on 11 August this year, and no trace of her has been found since then.

Acting Vhembe police spokesperson Sergeant Vuledzani Dathi confirmed the recent incident and said a case of murder had been opened. He said the body would be subjected to an autopsy that would determine the cause of death. Those with information about the case should contact Detective Sergeant Ronald Kwinda at 071 677 1766 or call the Crime Stop number on 08600 10111.

Source: A ritual killer on the loose?


Kayunga District, Uganda: two get 40 years in jail over ‘child sacrifice’

On November 13 I posted on this website a report on the notoriety of Kayunga District in Uganda when it comes to child sacrifices and ritualistic murders. In this posting I mentioned the case of Allan Ssembatya – then a six-year old small boy – who was cut with a machete and left fighting for his life in a forest. The offence was committed in Busolo Village, Kayunga District, in 2009. Luckily, Allan was found alive. Two men were arrested for attempted murder; recently they were sentenced to 40 years in prison. Both Allan Ssembatya and the the convicts, Awali Kivumbi and Paul Ngaswireki (see photo), were residents of Busolo in Kayunga Sub-county, Kayunga District.

Thirteen years after the incident took place justice was delivered. Hail to the Uganda judicial system! Nevertheless the foregoing, ‘prevention is better than cure’: all efforts should be made to prevent these crimes through proper education and the eradication of superstition.
(webmaster VDK)

Warning: some readers may find the following report disturbing.

Two get 40 years in jail over ‘child sacrifice’

Awali Kivumbi (left) and Oaul Ngaswireki (right) during the court hearing. PHOTO | FRED MUZAALE

Published: September 20, 2022
By: Fred Muzaale – Monitor, Uganda

Court has sentenced two men to 40 years imprisonment each after they were found guilty of attempting to behead a six-year-old boy for ritual sacrifice.

Chief Magistrate Sarah Tusiime yesterday sentenced Paul Ngaswireki and Awali Kivumbi, after evidence linked them to attempting to murder Allan Ssembatya who was cut with a panga (machete) and left fighting for his life in a forest. 

He was only discovered by his grandparents while in a coma.

“In light of the above evidence, submissions and the law, the prosecution has provided its case beyond a reasonable doubt that A1 and A2 are guilty of the offense of attempted murder of Ssembatya Allan contrary to Section 204 of the Penal Code Act,” held magistrate Tusiime.

The prosecution led by Mr Edward Muhumuza states that the offence was committed in 2009 in Busolo Village.

Ssembatya is now 19 years and in Senior One.

At the time of the incident, Ssembatya was six years old and in Primary Two at Busaale Church of Uganda Primary School, Kayunga. 

In her ruling, the magistrate held that the conduct of the two convicts before, during and after the commission of the act was wanting.

The magistrates explained that Kivumbi, had been a good neighbour and even visited Ssembatya’s family quite often in hospital.

“It makes one believe that the frequent visits by A2 (Kivumbi) were to monitor the health of the victim or to conceal their participation. Such conduct is enough to prove that indeed there was malice aforethought,” held Ms Tusiime.

The magistrate also observed that the body parts damaged were the neck, head, skull, shoulder and testis.

The victim and the convicts were all residents of Busolo in Kayunga Sub-county, Kayunga District.

The convict was in their first trial acquitted for lack of evidence. However, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) appealed, leading to yesterday’s verdict.

Present at court were the father of the victim and a number of anti-child sacrifice activists from Kyampisi Childcare Ministries, a non-governmental organisation.

The magistrate branded the case as purely one for “child sacrifice”.

Both convicts asked for lighter sentences.

“I have 12 children and two wives and I was their breadwinner. I now don’t know what my family is up to,” Kivumbi said.

Mr Peter Sewakiryanga, the executive director of Kyampisi Childcare Ministries, said he had relocated Ssembatya’s family for their safety.

“My belief is that now we have a precedence that, however long it takes to get justice, when there is will by the community, justice can be delivered,” Mr Sewakiryanga said.

Source: Two get 40 years in jail over ‘child sacrifice’

Two chilling stories from Nigeria

I’ve repeatedly stated here that the number of ritual killings in Nigeria is too high to include all on this site. Yet for research purposes I try to keep up with the numerous reports on suspected and confirmed ritual murder cases, locally often referred to as ‘money rituals’.

Today two articles crossed my path which I do not withhold the followers of this site. The first article concerns the discovery of a corpse with vital organs missing in Plateau State, hence a case of suspected ritual killing. The second case within two months as mentioned in the article. The second story reports the arrest of a ‘Yahoo boy’, caught with human parts, and a herbalist, in Delta state. I leave the conclusion to the imagination of the reader.
(webmaster FVDK)

Warning: Some readers may find the following disturbing

First article

Ritual Killing: Another Corpse Recovered In Plateau Village, Vital Organs Missing

Published: November 13, 2022
By: Ado Abubakar Musa, Jos – Daily Trust, Nigeria

The corpse of a 24-year-old identified as Ealdi Marcus has been recovered in the outskirt of Babale community of Jos North Local Government Area of Plateau. The body of the deceased which was dumped in the bush was discovered on Friday afternoon with his vital organs removed.

The Plateau State Police Command confirmed the incident to Daily Trust, saying that efforts were being made to arrest the perpetrators of the crime.

Our correspondent reports that the killing of Marcus is coming barely two months after a 14-year-old, Maryam Salisu was murdered in cold blood on the outskirts of the Babale village with her vital organs also removed.

According to a resident of the community, Marcus disappeared last Saturday, and all efforts to know his whereabouts were unsuccessful until Friday afternoon when his corpse was found in the nearby bush.

Blues Samuel Bulus, commander of the neighbourhood watch in Babale, explained how the corpse was found in the bush saying, “We saw some people whose movement suggested all was not well and when we asked, they told us that they were searching for their brother who disappeared on Saturday.

“Before they came to us, we were already told that a corpse was discovered in the bush. We told them to go and confirm if the said corpse was that of their missing brother and on getting there, they discovered that it was actually the body of their missing brother.”

Nafiu Idris, a commander of hunters in the community expressed worry over the incident and called on the government to do the needful to ensure the security of the area.

He said, “We are really worried. This is the second murder in a few months and people would just be killed for nothing. We are calling on the government to come to our aid.”

Source: Ritual Killing: Another Corpse Recovered In Plateau Village, Vital Organs Missing

Second article:

Delta herbalist, ‘Yahoo boy’ caught with human parts

Published: November 13, 2022
By: Deji Lambo – Punch, Nigeria

A yet-to-be-identified suspected fraudster, alongside his herbalist, one Ike, aka Ogenesu, have been arrested after policemen attached to the Obiaruku Police Station recovered suspected human parts at the herbalist’s place in Obiaruku, in the Ukwuani Local Government Area of Delta State.

PUNCH Metro gathered that the fraudster was driving to a destination in Obiaruku around 5.20pm on Friday, October 28, when five policemen, who were on a stop-and-search duty, flagged down his vehicle.

Instead of parking, the suspect zoomed off, as the policemen, who became suspicious of his action, gave him a hot chase and caught up with him.

A resident, who asked not to be identified for security reasons, said the policemen, while searching the vehicle, found a note specifying the need for human parts.

“The instruction on the note was that the man should provide a human head, hand and leg. After recovering the note, the policemen asked what he wanted to use the specified items for and out of fear, he said it was for something.

“So, the policemen embarked on full investigation by visiting the Obiaruku Police Station to obtain a warrant to search his three-bedroom flat and while searching his house, they obtained another written note requesting the same items in the first written note that was found in his car,” the resident added.

The source said after the policemen found the notes, they detained the suspect and during interrogation, he said Ike requested the human parts.

He explained that the next day, the suspect led policemen to the herbalist’s place, and while searching the premises, a decomposing corpse was found beside a fish pond.

“The herbalist used nylon to cover the corpse and since the corpse was close to the fish pond, nobody perceived the smell because of the odour around the fish pond.

“The policemen took the Yahoo boy and the herbalist to the station and they were transferred to the state command for further investigation,” the source added.

A video clip in possession of our correspondent showed the herbalist unwrapping a sack containing the bones of a corpse.

A human skull was also seen beside the sack in the midst of policemen questioning him over the incident.

In his defence, Ike was heard saying, “It was my child that was buried; I dug the grave and removed the corpse from where it was buried.”

The state police spokesperson, Bright Edafe, did not take his calls and had yet to respond to a text message sent to his mobile phone as of the time this report was filed.

Source: Delta herbalist, ‘Yahoo boy’ caught with human parts

Death of Death Penalty in Ghana

Recommended reading for those interested in the pros and cons of the death penalty.
(webmaster FVDK)

Death of the death penalty in Ghana

Published: November 3, 2022
By: Prosper Andre Batinge – Graphic Online, Ghana

For some time now, Ghanaian penal advocates tracking liberal global criminal justice crusaders have been trying to kill the death penalty with only near successes.

The real chance at abolishing the death penalty in Ghana emerged in the case of Dexter Johnson v the Republic [2011] 1 SCGLR 601. But a majority decision of Ghana’s Supreme Court, against the spirited protestations of the minority, especially Justice Samuel Kofi Date-Bah (as he then was), declined and passed the buck to Parliament.

In throwing the ball from the Supreme Court to the chambers of Parliament, then Justice Kwasi Anin Yeboah (now the Chief Justice of Ghana) wrote: “I am aware that the death penalty has been abolished in other jurisdictions, especially in the Commonwealth countries.

“I would, like my brother Dotse JSC, advocate statutory intervention like other jurisdictions where they have degrees of murder instead of judicial intervention by way of interpretation.” [Dexter Johnson at 703.]

Bills

Parliament now has a clear chance to abolish the death penalty. The Madina Constituency lawmaker, Mr Francis-Xavier Sosu, is a front advocate of the Death Penalty Bills: The Criminal and Other Offences (Amendment) Act 1960 (Act 29) and the Armed Forces (Amendment) Act 1962 (Act 105).

These Bills seek to amend sections 46, 49, 49a, 180, 194 and 317a of Act 29 and sections 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 20, 40, 78, and 79 of Act 105. The Bills were gazzetted on Tuesday, June 28, 2022.

These Bills seek to abolish the death penalty for ordinary offences, still leaving in the purgatory of the death penalty those convicted of serious crimes like High Treason and Treason.

Cruel

Ghana has not executed anybody convicted and sentenced to the death penalty since 1993. In strict terms and in practice thus Ghana appears not a death penalty state.

But the nation’s trial courts continue to impose the death penalty on persons upon conviction. Some 165 convicted persons were on the death row at the end of 2021; the number is now more than 170.

The death penalty offends the right to life etched in crucial human rights conventions, covenants, and declarations.

The death penalty also offends African customary law. Ubuntu was influential in abolishing the death penalty in South Africa. The South African Constitutional Court in S v Makwanyane held that the death penalty violated the right to human dignity, underscoring that the right to dignity was an integral part of ubuntu.

The death penalty is too cruel and has proven parallel to the values of evolved human sensibilities. The death penalty appears a relic of backward societies of a backward era.

The psychological torture to people on death row is immense. They wait for the never-arriving day of their execution. Some have taken their own lives during this uncertain period of waiting.

As well, the psychological effect of the death penalty on executing officers is no less tormenting. The introduction of so-called mercy killing such as injecting convicts to die peacefully and painlessly has not lessen the cruelty of the practice on both the victim and the killer.

Innocent people – not infrequently – are accused, convicted, and executed for crimes, of which they are not culpable. Fairly recently, Mr Emmanuel Tetteh was released from prison after he was wrongfully sentenced to death for murder. He did 33 years behind bars. At his release, he was 75 years.

The case against abolishing the death sentence, therefore, often makes both theoretical and common sense. But on few occasions, the argument against the death penalty is difficult to advance with clear conscience in a society of persistence instances of ritual murders.

Some of our compatriots believe that they can sacrifice their fellow human beings for money, and they, according to allegations too numerous to ignore, kill others with the hope of attaining wealth.

Some of the victims of ritual murders are young citizens in their prime with full potential of their lives in front of them, promising lives cut painfully short by evil people. It is with pain that I still believe and argue that even a ritual murderer ought not to suffer the death penalty.

Parliament

Writing for the majority in the case of Dexter Johnson supra, Justice Jones Dotse (as he then was) opined that “the time has possibly come for the Parliament of Ghana to seriously consider whether to have a policy shift in the mandatory death penalty regime imposed on those convicted of murder.” {[2011] 1 SCGLR 601 at 702.}

More than a full decade after the Supreme Court’s indication, and after years of campaigns to end the death penalty, Parliament appears willing to kill the death penalty in the case of ordinary crimes.

As Parliament commences a new session of its lawmaking duties last Tuesday, October 25, 2022, it should ensure that the death penalty ends with the end of the Third Meeting of the Second Session of the Eighth Parliament of the Fourth Republic.

The writer is a lawyer/doctoral fellow at Fordham Law School, N.Y., USA: 
E-mail: pbatinge@fordham.edu

Source: Death of Death Penalty in Ghana

Uganda: why human sacrifices still thrive in Kayunga District

Many of my postings on this site refer to reported or suspected ritual murder cases in West Africa. However, this phenomenon dating from ancient times also exists in other regions of Sub-Saharan Africa. Superstition and the greed for power, wealth or good health constitute the main driving forces behind the crimes of ritual murder, human sacrifice and/or ritual cannibalism.

In East Africa ritualistic murders are rife in Uganda. As mentioned below, according to the 2013 Child Sacrifice and Mutilations Report, one child is killed for rituals every week. A mind blowing statistic. Within Uganda the Kayunga District has earned the dubious reputation of being one of the most notorious killing places. Read the breath taking article below; the reader is warned as it contains graphic details.

Uganda is one of an increasing number of SSA countries where human sacrifice and ritualistic murders have become crimes which carry the death penalty. Many countries and international initiatives have outlawed the capital punishment, but several African countries take a different course, notably to contain and/or eradicate ritual murders. The big question is whether the death penalty, which is not always executed, will bring us closer to a society where people no longer fear falling victim to ritual killers. Or should we look for another approach the eradicate this scourge of ignorance and superstition?

PS For an interesting plea to abolish the death penalty the reader is invited to read the following article: ‘Death of Death Penalty in Ghana‘ or click here.
(webmaster FVDK)

Why human sacrifices still thrive in Kayunga

A suspect digs up a place where he claimed to have buried a child in Kayunga District last year. PHOTO/FRED MUZAALE

Published: November 11, 2022
By: Fred Muzaale – Monitor, Uganda

What you need to know:

  • Police say most victims of human sacrifices are children because they are easier to abduct and seen as “pure” and of “higher ritual value.”
  • Last year, President Museveni passed the Prevention and Prohibition of Human Sacrifice Bill 2021, which criminalises the act of human sacrifice.

————————————————————————————————————–

On a hot Monday afternoon at Kayunga Court premises in Kayunga District, Allan Ssembatya walks with his head lowered. 

Visibly not in a good mood, he is in the company of a man and a woman. The two grown-ups are his mother and father.

The 19-year-old Ssembatya’s forehead bares a big scar that he sustained after he was cut with a machete by two men during an attempted ritual murder incident in 2009. He was by then 6 years old.
Fortunately, Ssembatya, now in Senior One, survived, but lost both of his testicles. Because of the cut inflicted on his head, he now has persistent headaches and nightmares.

A resident of Busolo Village in Kayunga Sub-county, Ssembatya spent one month in a coma after the incident.

“Doctors who examined him after the attack said he would not be able to bear children. This is purely a case of human sacrifice,” Ms Sarah Tumusiime, the Kayunga Chief Magistrate, revealed during a court session last month.

She sentenced the convicts; Paul Ngaswireki and Awali Kivumbi, both residents of Busolo Village, who were found guilty of committing the offence, to 40 years each in prison.

According to Ssembatya’s father, his son was attacked by the two men when he had gone to the garden to harvest a jackfruit. He was later left fighting for his life in a forest.

Ssembatya’s case is the latest among such incidents, but Kayunga District has had numerous human sacrifice-related incidents.

In March 2020, a 60-year-old man in Kakoola Village, Kitimbwa Sub-county, was beheaded and his head taken by unknown assailants.

The torso was later recovered from a bush. Two witch doctors were arrested in connection with this incident although the whereabouts of the human skull is still unknown.

Additionally, a traditional healer in Kisoga Village, Nazigo Sub-county, was arrested in 2018 after five bodies were found buried in his shrine. He was sentenced to life imprisonment by Mukono High Court.

Last year, a father in Bbaale Sub-county was arrested after he allegedly killed two of his children over ritual sacrifice. He confessed to the act claiming he was promised Shs2m.

Ms Beatrice Ajwang, the Kayunga District officer-in-charge of the Criminal Investigations Department, said most of the suspects arrested in connection with such acts are “traditional healers and people who want to get rich quickly”.

Ms Ajwang said most victims of human sacrifices are children, apparently because they are easier to abduct and seen as “pure” and of “higher ritual value.”

Without disclosing statistical figures of how many cases of human sacrifice had been recorded in the district, Ms Ajwang confirms that “Kayunga is a hotbed of ritual sacrifice”.

She said out of more than 300 traditional healers operating in the district, their preliminary investigations reveal that half of the number are quacks.

“Kayunga is a unique area, you will find many households having shrines on top of being multi-ethnic. This could be a major contributor to these acts,” Kayunga chairperson Andrew Muwonge said.

Ms Ajwang said despite enacting laws to crack down on those engaging in human sacrifices, the practice has continued.

The law
Last year, President Museveni passed  the Prevention and Prohibition of Human Sacrifice Bill 2021, which criminalises the act of human sacrifice.

The legislation was moved as a private member’s Bill by former Ayivu County legislator Bernard Atiku with the intent of addressing the growing vice of human sacrifice.

According to the new law, any person who mutilates or causes the death of another person for the purpose of performing or furthering a ritual commits an offence and will be punished by the death penalty upon conviction.

“Worse still, it is a big challenge investigating human sacrifice cases because on some occasions it is carried out by parents themselves on their children while in some other cases people are not willing to give information that could be of help to arrest and prosecute offenders,” Ms Ajwanga said, adding: “We appeal to religious leaders to help us instill morals in our people. As police, we have tried to sensitise them against this vice.’’

Ms Sylvia Namutebi, aka Maama Fiina, the national chairperson of Uganda Traditional Healer’s Association, dismisses claims that the acts are committed by people who practice her trade.

“No genuine traditional healer can sacrifice a human being. These are masqueraders hiding in our job. It is our duty to ensure we [genuine healers] weed out such bad people,” Ms Namutebi said.

She said with the help of genuine healers, they have arrested and prosecuted such ‘wrong elements’, noting that she is on a country-wide tour to sensitise traditional healers on professional ethics.

Mr Peter Mawerere, the Kayunga deputy Resident District Commissioner, blamed the vice on ignorance, greed, and poverty. He noted that many people sacrifice human beings because they think it will make them wealthier.

“It is surprising that many people go to traditional healers when they fall sick, even when their ailments can be treated by qualified medical personnel,” he said.

“We have tasked the leadership of traditional healers to fight the acts, which we highly believe are perpetuated by some of their members,” he added.

Rev Fr Maurice Kigoye, the parish priest of Kangulumira Parish in Kangulumira Sub-county,  said: “It [human sacrifice] is really an inhuman act. How can you think that when you kill a person and drink their blood, you can get rich? As religious leaders, we have tried to lure them [culprits] to turn to God and get saved,” Fr Kigoye said.

NGO role
Mr Peter Sewakiryanga, the executive director of Kyampisi Child Care Ministries (KCM), said his organisation receives a number of human sacrifice cases from Kayunga District every month.

“We work with probation officers, police, and other agencies who bring to our attention such cases,” he said.

Mr Sewakiryanga added that in a bid to ensure the culprits are arrested and prosecuted, his organisation facilitates investigations carried out by police officers.

“Many such cases die at the investigation stage, but with our support, a number of the suspects have been prosecuted and convicted like the recent one of Ssembatya. Court sentenced the convicts to 40 years each in jail,” he said.

He explains that KCM also offers treatment, counselling, and psychosocial support to survivors of ritual sacrifice.

“We have in some cases relocated families of the victims for their safety, built them houses and offered education to survivors,” Mr Sewakiryanga said.

2013 report

According to the 2013 Child Sacrifice and Mutilations Report, one child is killed for rituals every week.

The report indicates that people carry out human sacrifices to seek wealth, among others. 

Source: Why human sacrifices still thrive in Kayunga

Ivory Coast tackles ritual child killings (2015 article) 

Reports on ritualistic activities including murders in Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire) are few on this site since its start in early 2018. In September 2018 I posted a report on the ritual killing of a four-year old boy, Bouba.

I’ve indicated earlier that there’s a bias in my research which uses sources which are more focused on the anglophone world than on francophone and lusophone countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. I very much regret this situation which for the moment I can’t change.

A few years before Bouba was found murdered, mutilated, clearly for ritualistic purposes, in early 2015, the BBC published a shocking report following the reported kidnapping and killing of at least 20 children in the preceding weeks across the country. Most of the lifeless bodies found showed signs of mutilation, indicating ritualistic motives.

What were the reasons for this surge in ritual murders which took the lives of so many young, innocent children and left their families grieving? Unfortunately, reliable information on the why, how and by whom is lacking. All I can say is that 2015 was an important election year In the Ivory Coast. In October 2015 presidential elections were held. A coincidence? Or an indication of the explaining circumstances?

He or she who knows the answer may contact the webmaster of this site (webmaster FVDK).

Ivory Coast tackles ritual child killings

Published: January 30, 2015
By: BBC

Police in Ivory Coast have set up a special unit to investigate a series of suspected ritual child killings.

At least 20 children have been kidnapped and killed across the country in recent weeks and most of the bodies have shown signs of mutilation. 

Extra police and soldiers have been deployed to patrol known danger spots in the city of Abidjan, including areas around schools. 

The BBC’s Tamasin Ford sent us this report from Abidjan.

Screenshot. Ti listen to the original broadcast, please click here

Source: Ivory Coast tackles ritual child killings

Atrocities, witchcraft, superstition and ritualistic cannibalism during Liberia’s First Civil War (1989-1997)

A former ULIMO commander stands trial in France accused of war crimes, human rights violations, murder and cannibalism.

The rebel fighters pictured here are not related to the story below

For shortness sake reference is made to Civitas Maxima’s monitoring of the arrest and trial of Kunti Kamara, a former ULIMO commander who was arrested in France in 2018. Kunti Kamara is accused of war crimes and human rights violations including torture, rape, murder and cannibalism committed during Liberia’s first civil war (1989-1997) in Foya, Lofa County, Liberia. His trial started in Paris/France on October 10.

Ritualistic activities including ritual murder and acts of cannibalism are well-known in Liberia. This site has reported frequently on ritual murder cases, the discovery of mutilated bodies, and unexplained disappearances which allegedly are linked to ritualistic activities. Election periods and the back-to-back civil wars (1989-1997; 1999-2003) are notorious peaks in the occurrence of ritual murders.

As far back as the 1970s, President William Tolbert (1971-1980) condemned ritualistic murders (‘An eye for an eye‘) and refused to grant clemency to seven convicted ritual murderers in what was perhaps Liberia’s most notorious ritual murder case (‘the Harper Seven‘). In 2005, the Head of the LNTG, Gyude Bryant, warned presidential candidates not to commit ritual murders to boost their chances. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (2006-2018) on more than one occasion spoke out against ritualistic murders. In 2017 people in Bong County protested against the ‘election year ritual killings’. More recently, during the Weah Administration (2018 – present), Liberia is again confronted with a wave of mysterious deaths, unexplained disappearances and ritual murders which has led politicians, religious leaders, civilians, to condemn these practices, urging President Weah to act.

Kunti Kamara is not the first or only rebel commander who’s being accused of ritual murder and cannibalism. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission mentions in its 2009 Final Report that hundreds of Liberians were murdered for ritual purposes during the two civil wars. In his book The Mask of Anarchy (1999), the late Stephen Ellis accuses the leader of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) who started Liberia’s first civil war, Charles Taylor, of drinking human blood during a juju ritual. Also Gibril Massaquoi, a RUF commander in neighboring Sierra Leone and a key-witness in the SCSL trial of warlord-turned-president Charles Taylor, was accused of murder for ritual purposes, but acquitted in April (2022).
(webmaster FVDK).

“I would never eat human heart” –
Kunti Kamara denies accusation before a French War Crimes court

Published: October 18, 2022
By: Prue Clarke, Front Page Africa – Monrovia, Liberia

PARIS, France – The former Ulimo commander Kunti Kamara, on trial here for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Liberia’s civil wars, had his first chance to make a substantive response to the allegations made against him in the first five days of this trial.

Under questioning from the judges, civilian lawyers and prosecution lawyers Kamara denied all the accusations that victims have made against him of torture, rape, murder of civilians and “barbarism” in the town of Foya in Lofa County, Liberia between 1993 and 1994.

Kamara told the nine-person jury and four alternates that the accusations of cannibalism – that he roasted and ate the heart of a civilian who had allegedly reported his crimes to international observers – made him sick.

“Since I was arrested nothing bothered me in the trial like what they’re talking about now. Eating human beings,” Kamara said. “Even if I spend 100 years in jail I will not admit to eating a human being’s heart. Each time I hear it I want to vomit.”

“Since I was born until today I never eat pork,” said Kamara a Muslim. “Why should I eat human being heart? I have nothing to say. I am innocent. I don’t know them today. I don’t know them tomorrow.”

Kamara denied that he had ever knew anyone who had said they ate human heart including in rituals of the Poro, a traditional African society.

“Since I was small that is a rumor in the ear,” he said of Poro human sacrifice and consumption of human flesh. “But I never met anyone who said they ate heart.”

Kamara insisted that the Ulimo committed no atrocities against civilians in the four-month period he was with them in Foya though he conceded Ulimo may have committed atrocities elsewhere during the war.

He said Ulimo in Foya was under the ultimate command of Ulimo Commander Dekau. Kamara said his mandate was only as battalion commander in charge of platoons “on the frontlines”. He denied any leadership role in the town over civilians.

Kamara acknowledged Ulimo fighters that victims have identified in this trial “Ugly Boy”, “Fine Boy” and Alieu Kosiah, convicted of war crimes in Switzerland in 2021, were all with him in Foya but Kamara claimed he hardly ever saw them.

Kamara blamed the accusations that have brought him to trial here were part of a “plot” orchestrated by “a clique” led by Fayah Williams, the late deputy director at Global Justice and Research Project, the Liberian justice activists.

TRC Commissioner Massa Washington is interviewed by New Narratives’ Anthony Stephens after her testimony at the Paris trial

Late in the evening Massa Washington, the former commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, gave a powerful testimony that could prove decisive in the trial.

It was designed to answer questions that jurors may have had about whether they should be passing judgement on a Liberian for crimes committed 30 years ago in a country a long way away. That was a question French journalists were asking eachother on the sidelines of the trial.

“These trials are important because they give them people of Liberia justice,” an emotional Washington told the jury. “They give us hope that one day we’ll be able to get justice with our own judges, our own prosecutors, on our own soil. In the meantime we are grateful that some of the people who committed these gross violations of human rights who are in this country, in the US, in every country in the world where they find them they can try to bring them to justice. In the absence of our government addressing accountability these trials are the Liberian people have.”

Washington thanked the jury.

“It sends a message that we belong to the universal human race,” Washington said. “It says that the world has not forgotten Liberia. It says that we all share that common human dignity. We have the same needs. We feel the same pain. We thank you for the opportunity to tell some of these stories. I hope this has provided an important clarification for why this trial is important.”

Washington told some of the horrors she had personally witnessed as a journalist in Monrovia during the first civil war. The jury was riveted by her testimony which made clear that the testimony they were hearing from witnesses here was just a fraction of the myriad atrocities that had been committed during the war. She told of rapes of girls as young as five and of elderly women. She said her work with women made it clear to her than many of the elderly women had not come forward to the TRC hearings because of the stigma.

She told the story of an 82-year-old woman who told her she was made a war wife.

“’I was raped all the time by boys who could have been my grandchildren,’” Massa quoted the woman as saying. “Her story is just one story that represents thousands of stories. The rebels were so bad that when people were on checkpoints trying to get away from the fighting the rebels were raping the wives in front of the husbands. They even forced sons to have sex with mothers in front of the family to destroy the men. They took the young girls away.”

Earlier in the day the fifth victim to testify against Kamara detailed the alleged torture, killing and cannibalism of a schoolteacher in Foya that all victims have claimed was directed by the defendant.

He also talked more broadly of the suffering of people in Lofa during Ulimo’s occupation of the town. His telling of the experience of the women he had planned to marry was a harrowing example of the broader suffering of the people.

“M. was my girlfriend and Ugly Boy took her as a sex slave,” the victim told the Paris court talking of the now deceased perpetrator that many victims have alleged was Kamara’s lieutenant who followed his orders to commit many of the crimes. The court has ordered press to withhold victims’ names for their security.

“This was another blow to me,” the victim told the court. ”I really planned to marry her. The first time I saw her after the war, it was painful, but it had happened. She was not at fault. I saw her but the stigma was too heavy. I could no longer take her as a wife. By tradition anyone who takes a wife after that is easily rejected from society. In addition, because of her time as a sex slave, she conceived. I am feeling it for her now because her situation is too deplorable.”

The trial continues Tuesday with more testimonies from victims about the murder of a woman in Lofa.

This story is a collaboration with New Narratives as part of the West Africa Justice Reporting Project. 

Source: Liberia: “I would never eat human heart” Kamara Tells War Crimes Court as TRC Commissioner Washington Makes a Powerful Case for the Legitimacy of the French Trial

And:

Liberia: “You are Kundi. You killed my sister”
A third victim identifies Kamara as perpetrator in War Crimes Trial

The three judges in the trial of Kunti Kamara in Paris, France (Credit: Leslie Lumeh/New Narratives)

Published: October 19, 2022
By: Anthony Stephens and Prue Clarke with New Narratives, Front Page Africa – Monrovia,

PARIS, France – On Tuesday a third victim identified Kunti Kamara, on trial for torture, cannibalism and crimes against humanity in the Paris Court, as “Co Kundi” the rebel commander who allegedly committed atrocities in Foya, Lofa County, Liberia.

The man was one of four plaintiffs who have brought the case against Kamara here in Paris, France where Kamara was living when he was arrested in 2019 after French investigators built a case against him.

“You are Kundi,” the man said turning to look at Kamara directly, barely containing his obvious emotion and rage. The plaintiff pointed at Kamara who was sitting behind his lawyers in a protective glass case. “I know you very well. You the one that killed my sister.”

The now elderly man told the court Kamara arrived at his house in Foya in late 1993 after the man’s sister’s baby had died. He alleged Kamara gave the family $L100 for their pain.

Soon after that Kamara allegedly ordered the victim’s sick and half naked sister – the mother of the child – dragged from the house. He accused her of witchcraft. The victim said Kamara and his troops had taken over the house for themselves and already had his wife, son and mother in custody at the time. Kamara did not know the man, who was standing with a crowd, was a member of the family.

The victim was overcome with tears as told the court that he had watched as Kamara put three bullets in his sister’s head.

Within months the man’s mother was also dead from illness. The victim blamed Kunti for the grief the murder of his sister had caused her.

“She cried every day,” he said. “So she became sick from not seeing my sister.”

The lawyer for the civil parties asked the victim if he had anything to say to Kamara but he took the opportunity to issue a warning to the judges instead.

“I’m very happy to see all the officers to take care of Kundi,” he said pointing to the court officers who accompany the defendant at all times. “This government should not leave Kundi to come back to Liberia.”

Kamara rejected all the allegations as he has done consistently throughout this trial.

“I’m just shocked,” an agitated Kamara told the president of the court Thierry Fusina. “I don’t know him. These people, it’s my first time to see them in my life. I don’t know them! They are lying on me. I’m not a criminal.”

Earlier in the day another witness to the alleged murder of the sick woman accused of witchcraft gave evidence that appeared to contradict testimony that he gave to an earlier investigating judge in the case.

Source: Liberia: “You Are Kundi. You Killed My Sister” – A Third Victim Identifies Kamara as Perpetrator in War Crimes Trial

After two suspected ritual murders, in Nimba County, Liberia, tribal devils become detectives

Unfortunately, ritual murder are no exception in Africa’s oldest republic. Experience teaches us that ritualistic murders in Liberia are on the increase during elections campaigns and when important political appointments are expected – which though does not exclude other circumstances explaining a rise in ritual killings. In the past four to five years, ritual murders have been reported in at least seven of Liberia’s fifteen counties including Montserrado, Bomi, Bong, Nimba, Grand Bassa, Grand Kru and Maryland counties. However, the absence of discoveries of mutilated bodies or reports of ritual murders should not be interpreted as the absence of these criminal and outdated superstitious practices. By definition, occult practices and ritualistic murders take place in secret.

In the article below reference is made to a prominent person who held a very senior position in the Weah Administration and who allegedly is said to be implied in the reported case of two young boys who were murdered for ritual activities. It should be underlined here that this is not the position of the webmaster of this site (FVDK). Moreover, I uphold the principle that no one is guilty unless found guilty by an independent judge after an impartial, public trial.

The original article shown here includes a number of links referring to other, previously published articles containing relevant and related information. I have decided to also include these articles in this posting in order to avoid the (future) situation that the original articles are no longer available or accessible after they have lost been lost in cyberspace, unfortunately not an uncommon phenomenon.

All articles together sketch a reality in Liberia which is rarely shown but which exists. No use to deny or to ignore it. A reality of traditional practices and beliefs, a reality of cultural history including respect for the ancestors. Notwithstanding the foregoing, it goes without saying that a ‘war on ignorance and superstition’ is a must in Africa’s oldest republic, which was created in 1847 by African Americans.

Finally, my June 25 posting, Liberia: Traditional devils arrest six men for allegedly killing two children for rituals, refers to the same case.
(webmaster FVDK)

Liberia: In Nimba, Tribal Devils Become Detectives

The suspects in the deaths of two children in Boe Bonlay Town, District #6, Nimba County.  

Published: October 4, 2022
By: Ishmael F. Menkor – Daily Observer, Liberia

…. When the National Police could not solve a double homicide in their rural community, the people of Beo Bonlay Town, Nimba County, employed the most unconventional means.

It was a breakthrough in a double-murder case that would have been written off as an anomaly except that, in the context of numerous unsolved gruesome murders across Liberia in recent years, police investigations have consistently come up with the same results as they did in this one — “no evidence” or “no foul play” — case closed. 

But the people of Beo Bonlay Town, District # 6, Nimba County, would not take ‘no’ for an answer. In an unprecedented move, they summoned their tribal devils to confirm their hunch and solve what they believed were the murders of two innocent boys who had gone missing and later turned up dead in separate locations. 

It all started on June 9, when the two boys, Handsome-boy Mahn, 9 and Zayglay David, 4, went missing after they returned from the farm in the afternoon.

Hours after their disappearance, the community launched an immediate manhunt for the children. Unfortunately they were found dead with their bodies dumped in two separate wells about 20 minutes apart. 

The deaths of the two children sent shockwaves of fear and  concern among citizens of the district, especially when the first batch of investigators from the Tappita Police Detail, led by the detail commander and the 15-man coroner jury, ruled that there was no foul-play. 

But reports reaching the Daily Observer said an initial examination of the corpses showed that the boys’ necks had been broken. There was also an alleged ‘erasing mark’ on the coroner jury’s report, but this is yet to be verified. 

“The devil”, it is said, “is in the details.” Or is it? 

Unconvinced by the “no foul-play” conclusions of the coroner jury and the police, the citizens this time brought out their tribal devils to search for the perpetrators. It was during the search that seven men were arrested on July 16,  and turned over to police in Sanniquellie for interrogation.

Even after the tribal devils arrested the suspects, the police (again) claimed that due to lack of scientific evidence, they could not charge the alleged perpetrators. This caused the case to drag on until September, when the Crime Services Department (CSD) sent another batch of officers, backed by former Ganta Police Commander, Adolphus Zorh, to conduct the investigation.

Commander Zorh’s team was able to establish the facts and determine that two of the seven men be released because police could not find any evidence to charge them. The other five men arrested by tribal devils were charged by police and sent to court.

According to the CSD, Sanniquellie Detachment, Liberia National Police, the five men were charged with “murder, criminal facilitation and criminal conspiracy” and sent to the Sanniquellie Magisterial Court for preliminary investigation.

Initial confessions

Following their arrest by the tribal devils in the beginning, one of the suspects, Prince Karney, age 41, immediately confessed that they were given the amount of US$1,200 for the murderous operation.

He said he then hired one Zayee Winpea, 43, to kill the two children for the amount of US$300 and gave US$150 to Nenkerwon Mahn, an 18-year-old uncle of the kids, to serve as a watchman while the killing was carried out.

The oldest among the suspects, 45-year-old Morris Gonwon, was also promised US$150 for his role in the killing, which was not spelled out.  Two of the seven suspects, George Sumah and Lawrence Sumah, were hired to take the victims’ blood to Monrovia, while another suspect, Harrison Sumah, was the one who lured the kids with candy before grabbing them. 

During the CSD final investigation, Morris Gonwon and George Sumah were released on grounds that there was not enough evidence to prosecute them. The five persons charged and sent to court are Prince Karney, Harrison Sumah, Lawrence Freeman, Nenkerwon Mahn, and Zayee Winpea.

Prince Karney is said to be the Youth leader of Boe Bonlay and coordinator for the “Friends of Jackson Paye”, a political canvassing group. Jackson Paye is a former Deputy Minister of National Defense who has expressed his desire to contest for the Nimba County District #6 representative seat in 2023.

The murder suspects alleged that the former deputy minister facilitated the killing by giving them the US$1,200 for the operation — to get the children’s blood, allegedly for ritual purposes.

However, Jackson Paye on Truth FM on Thursday, June 22, 2022 denied having any connection to the killings, describing the acts as barbaric, inhumane and uncivilized. He explained that the “Friends of Paye” want the law to take its course, ensuring the alleged perpetrators face the full weight of the law. 

Traditional justice 

It is not clear whether the tribal devils ever got to the heart of the matter to determine exactly who ordered the men to kill the two children.  We may never know. 

However, in cases where communities in Liberia have invoked tribal justice systems to supersede statutory law — especially in the absence of forensic evidence — statutory systems tend to give way. Especially in rural communities, law enforcement personnel dare not interfere with matters involving tribal devils. 

In the recent past, such has been the case in instances where communities have risen up to express their dissatisfaction when their expectations of government have been egregiously dashed. 

In November 2021, Lofa County, a powerful sect of the Poro Society, the Ngaimu, staged a protest, blocking the bridge that connects Bong and Lofa counties, to oppose the delay by the Supreme Court to decide whether Senator-elect Brownie Samukai should take his Lofa County senatorial seat, which had been unoccupied due to a disability imposed on him by the Court for nearly a year.

In response, the Deputy Inspector General for Operations of the Liberia National Police (LNP), Marvin Sackor, threatened necessary actions against any country devil protest. Yet, no move was made on the part of the police.  

A month earlier, October 18, 2021, members of the secret Poro Society shut down ArcelorMittal Liberia’s operations in Yekepa, Nimba County for more than 48 hours at both Mount Tokadeh and Mount Gangra, over claims that AML failed to live up to its previous amended mineral development agreement (MDA) with the government.  

For ArcelorMittal Liberia, this was not the first time.  Barely six weeks earlier, on September 27, 2021, the Poro masters temporarily besieged the operation areas of AML, halting operations for 8 hours. 

But tribal or traditional devils are only one extreme of traditional justice systems. Liberia recognizes a whole regime of what it calls “trial by ordeal”, a method by which suspects are made to undergo an often dangerous test to determine their innocence or guilt. However, while the United Nations has called on Liberia to abolish all forms of trial by ordeal, only the most harmful aspects of this system of justice have been abolished.

Source: Liberia: In Nimba, Tribal Devils Become Detectives

Also:

Lofa County locked down by “Country Devil”

(L-r)  Cars forcefully stopped at the crossing point between Bong and Lofa Counties – leaving several business people stranded along the way.  

Published: November 26, 2021
By: Marcus Malaya – Daily Observer, Liberia

A protest against the Supreme Court of Liberia has resulted in the shut-down of the border crossing point between Bong and Lofa Counties – leaving several business people stranded along the way.

The protest, which is being led by the powerful sect of the Poro Society, the Ngaimu, is intended to oppose the delay by the Supreme Court to decide the fate of the Lofa County senatorial seat, which has been unoccupied due to the disability imposed on Senator-elect Brownie Samukai by the Court.

The protesters, who are all men and led by the fearsome, Ngaimu – the traditional name of head of the Poro Society in that part of Liberia – have blocked the road, halting the movement of people and goods between the two counties, while those who are not members of the society have remained indoors since the morning hours of Thursday, November 25.

“Ngaimu has set a roadblock in the village of Beyan Town on the Lofa side of the border.  The action of Ngaimu is in protest of the Court and the Government of Liberia’s failure to announce the Senate seat of Lofa County vacant since the Senator-elect Samukai has not been able to take the seat due to his disability by the Supreme Court,” disclosed eyewitnesses at the scene of the protest.

The protesters, however, vowed to keep the road closed until the Court ruled on the matter – deciding if the senate will be declared vacant or not. And security personnel, some of whom are not members of the society, have also been dared to remove the roadblock, setup by Ngaimu.

The fear of the Ngaimu has also prevented the women from going out to tend to their farms, since it is forbidden for a woman to lay eyes on it – as doing so comes with consequences, traditionalists claim.

The eyewitness accounts revealed that there are more than three “Ngaimus” currently at the St. Paul Bridge in Beyan Town and there are more “Ngaimus” coming to join the others currently at the bridge.

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court months ago denied Samukai’s request for the high court to reverse the judgment of the Criminal Court ‘C’ at the Temple of Justice, which found him and two others guilty of misapplying over US$1 million in pension funds stored up in a bank account for members of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) when he served as Defense Minister. 

The disability includes the payment of US$173,276.05 as some portion of his share of money illegally withdrawn from the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) pension funds, for which he was found guilty of misapplication of entrusted property, theft of property, and other criminal offenses by Criminal Court ‘C’ with such ruling confirmed by the Supreme.

While Samukai made a payment of US$173,276.05, his two deputies Joseph F. Johnson, former Deputy Minister for Administration, and J. Nyumah Dorkor, former Comptroller, did not despite being found guilty jointly.

Samukai, together with Johnson and Dorkor, were to pay the amount of US$573,832.68 within a six-month period to avoid imprisonment, according to the Supreme Court mandate to the Criminal Court ‘C’.  It was out of the amount of US$573,832.68 that Samukai alone managed to pay the US$173,276.05, which his followers believed is the portion of his share of the money.

The Court then ordered the National Election Commission not to certify him until the disability imposed on him as a result of his conviction for felony is removed. The Court argued that from a review of the records, Samukai and his two deputies were jointly charged with the commission of the crimes for which they were brought down guilty.

The Supreme Court added that the restitution is a part of the sentence, as such; Samukai and the two others are to restitute the amount withdrawn from the AFL Pension Account without the permission or authorization of the soldiers.

History of the case

Samukai, then former Defense Minister, together with Johnson and Dorkor without any authorization, withdrew the amount US$1,147,665.35 from the pension fund belonging to soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL).

The three men were later declared guilty of multiple crimes including misuse of private funds and subsequently sentenced to two years in prison each, and also ordered to restitute the money within a year by the Criminal Court ‘C’. The judgment was later modified by the Supreme Court after Samukai and the others appealed against it to the high court.

In the modification, the Supreme Court said it was suspending their prison term on grounds that, if they were to pay fifty percent (50) of the judgment amount of the US$1,147,665.35, which is $573,832.68, within six months period, which expired by August, 26, they would avoid Imprisonment.

Source: Liberia: Lofa Locked Down by “Country Devil”

Also:

Liberia National Police warns against ‘Country Devil’ protests

Headquarters of the Liberia National Police (LNP)

Published: December 10, 2021
By: Tina S. Mehnpaine – Daily Observer, Liberia

The Deputy  Inspector General for Operations of the Liberia National Police (LNP), Marvin Sackor has threatened necessary actions against any country devil protest.

He said if people are disenchanted, they should make use of the legal means rather than staying in protest to undermine the peace of the country.

“It is unfortunate and unfair that some of our people are using the tradition to undermine the peace and security of this country. Let me say this, article 17 of our constitution gives citizens the right to peacefully assemble and petition their government. So if you, as a citizen of this country, will use whatever political means or any disenchantment to undermine the peace of this country, I can assure the public that the Liberia National Police will use whatever force necessary to contain that situation,” he warned.

Since the staging of a protest by members of the poro society in Lofa county to call on the attention of the Supreme Court to decide the fate of Senator-elect Brownie Samukai, traditional leaders have been accused of allowing politicians to influence them.

The group of men led by their powerful poro master, Ngainmu, on November 30, blocked the entrance of the St. Paul bridge that connects Bomi and Lofa counties to pressure the court to reopen the case of Senator-elect Samukai.

Sackor added that if traditional people have any disenchantment in the country, they should use legal means to get redress instead of blocking roads to cause chaos among citizens.

“There is no exception to the rule of law; our traditional people need to understand that this country is governed by law,” Sackor declared. “ Anyone – I am very clear here – that thinks that they have any other power to undermine the Constitution, trust me, the Liberia National Police will use every legal means to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law. So, I am appealing to our traditional people in Lofa. Handle your situation through the legal means. Any attempt to block the St. Paul Bridge, we are under obligation to make sure that the Constitution is intact.”

Nathaniel F. McGill, Minister of State, also accused politicians of masterminding the protest and branding it as a disgrace to Liberian culture.

“I was watching Facebook live and I saw a country devil protesting. This has never happened in our country, it is a shame and whoever did that must be disgraceful,” said Minister McGill.

Addressing the Ministry of information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT) regular press briefing in Monrovia, Sackor reminded traditional leaders that they are not above the law and, therefore, any attempt to block roads, the police will not hesitate to act.

Meanwhile, the deputy inspector general has revealed that due to the increasing wave of criminal activities in the country, there will be restrictions imposed on motorcyclists. 

He said a police investigation has shown that criminals are transported by motorcyclists so the Police have commenced the implementation of the no-go-zones for motorcyclists ahead of the festive season in Liberia, to avoid the transportation of criminals.

Source: Liberia: LNP Warns Against ‘Country Devil’ Protests

Also:

Poro Society halts ArcelorMittal’s operations in Yekepa

AML train in motion in Liberia

Published: October 19, 2021
By: Ishmael F. Menkor – Daily Observer, Liberia

Steel giant ArcelorMittal was forced yesterday to shut down its Yekepa operations after members of the secret poro society made an unannounced visit to protest against alleged neglect by the company.

The strike action, which is highly unprecedented for members of the highly respected Poro Society in Liberia, comes amid rising tension in the company’s operating areas weeks after it had signed an amended mineral development agreement with the government of Liberia.

The agreement, which now awaits ratification from lawmakers, has been met with rejection by mines communities in Nimba County, where the company operates, over claims that AML failed to live up to its previous amended mineral development agreement (MDA) with the government. 

Poro Society members, led by the Poro Master,  shut down AML operations for more than  48 hours  at both Mount Tokadeh and Mount Gangra and might likely last for 14 days, according to an insider close to the Poro masters. 

The protest, which is the second in a month, is happening as county officials remain mute on the matter while they negotiate behind closed doors.

However, an elderly resident of one of mine communities has disclosed that the company, through its’ Community liaison manager, has begun negotiating with society members to cancel their protest and meet on the round table to discuss issues relating to their concerns.

In a statement, the  AML confirmed the incident, saying, “on early Saturday morning, October 16, 2021, some individuals wearing ceremonial traditional costumes blocked the main access road to the mining site of ArcelorMittal Liberia in Yekepa, disrupting business operations of the company.” 

“As a company that prioritizes safety and security, ArcelorMittal Liberia warns of the associated risks of unauthorized entry of individuals into an industrial environment and condemns such illegal action, said the statement from AML. “AML reaffirms its commitment to community engagement on issues around its operations as a means of finding a common ground.”

Meanwhile, AML said while they respect and continue to support traditional and cultural activities especially in their operational areas, they disagreed with disruptions and acts aimed at causing fear among its workforce are unwarranted and undermine close working relations.

On September 27, 2021 the Poro masters temporarily sieged the operation areas of AML, halting operation of 8 hours.

There has been tension in Nimba County since the Government and AML reached a new Mineral Development Agreement to extend the operation to 2036, where AML stands to invest about UD$ 800 million.

The deal has so far been rejected by mining communities due to claims of past abandonment and negligence of previous MDA.

Source: Poro Society Masters Halt AML Operations in Yekepa

Also:

The following article was originally published on November 1, 2007. It contains highly recommended reading for the readers of this site. It was decided to include it in this posting for two reasons. First, it was originally included in the Daily Observer article on the two slain boys in Nimba County (on top) and secondly, because it contains relevant background information on traditional beliefs and practices which still exist in Liberia despite being outlawed for reasons which will be clear after having read the article.

Liberia: Trial by ordeal makes the guilty burn but “undermines justice”

Sassywood and Witch Persecution in Liberia – by Leo Igwe. To access the article, please click here
Igwe’s article serves as illustration and is not related to the OCHA article below.

Published: November 1, 2007
By: OCHA Services – Relief Web

MONROVIA, 1 November 2007 (IRIN)

  • About 50 people in the village of Klay, northwestern Liberia, recently gathered to watch a man apply red-hot metal to the limbs of four youths accused of robbery.

The man dipped a machete in a concoction of water, palm oil and kola nuts, held it in fire for several minutes, and then placed it on the right legs of the four suspects. None of the youths – ages 16 to 26 – appeared to flinch. They were deemed not guilty.

This practice known as ‘sassywood’ is banned under national law, but is still regarded as a legitimate form of justice by many Liberians. A suspect is subjected to intense pain and judged on his or her reaction – if the hot metal burns the person’s leg, he or she is found guilty.

The UN has repeatedly warned that the practice is undermining efforts to improve human rights in Liberia as the country attempts to recover from 14 years of war.

Many legal specialists and human rights activists say relying on customs such as trial by ordeal – often harmful and even deadly – is down to the decrepit state of Liberia’s judicial system. And many say not enough is being done to restore the sector, left in tatters by the war.

Four years after the fighting ended, progress in rebuilding the judicial and corrections system is “very slow”, according to an August report by the UN Security Council. “The judicial system is constrained by limited infrastructure, shortage of qualified personnel, lack of capacity to process cases, poor management and lack of the necessary will to institute reforms.” The report said most people do not have access to legal counsel.

Legal advisers in Liberia say the absence of functioning courts in most rural areas is due in large part to lawyers’ reluctance to take judgeships there, as well as the lack of infrastructure for courts.

In the central Liberian town of Gbarnga in Bong County, 150km north of the capital Monrovia, residents told IRIN that trial by ordeal is the only means to adjudicate alleged crimes.

“If somebody is accused of stealing money, clothes, jewellery, food or other items, the best [way] to know who committed the act is to administer sassywood, which is fast – it takes less than 30 minutes to know who did the act,” Gbarnga resident Johnny Bono said.

Users of sassywood believe the person administering it and the instruments used have mystical powers. Practitioners are paid in money or goods – up to 2000 Liberian dollars (US$32) per ‘trial’ in the capital and about a third of that in rural areas. Sometimes payment is kola nuts and a pure-white chicken.

According to a rights activist in Nimba County, the problem is that many people will submit to sassywood because they do not know it has been outlawed.

“Sassywood is very common here and most people believe that it is the only means of knowing a guilty person,” said Dualo Lor of the church-based NGO Equip-Liberia in Nimba, 300km from Monrovia. “They are not even aware the practice is outlawed.”

He group recently prevented the application of sassywood on a 32-year-old man accused of theft. “We have been trying very hard [to educate] the people about the danger of sassywood, but they just have not stopped it.”

Some legal experts say it will be tough to stop if citizens do not feel they have a reliable justice system to take its place.

“The trial by ordeal in most parts of the country clearly shows that most people do not have confidence in the court system,” Anthony Valcke, Liberia country director of the American Bar Association in Africa, told IRIN. “If people had such confidence, they would not resort to trial by ordeal.”

Tradition

“No amount of laws or government order can stop sassywood,” Yerkula Zaizay, a resident of Gbarnga, told IRIN. “It is a tradition that our forefathers left with us. This is better than going to court. My late grandfather taught me how to apply sassywood and it is part of my culture so it cannot be easily stopped.”

Gbarnga resident Bono said, “We cannot waste our time going to court. The sassywood is our courtroom. This is what our forefathers have been practising in the past and it has been working.”

Lawyer Augustine Toe, head of the Justice and Peace Commission, a Catholic human rights group, said: “Sassywood undermines the justice system of this country and the rights of an accused are not protected. Our constitution provides that anyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty by a [court of law].”

Liberia’s chief prosecutor, Tiawon Gongloe, told IRIN he had instructed all county prosecuting officers to arrest anyone carrying out trial by ordeal.

“We are aware sassywood is going on and this act is not only unlawful, but unconstitutional,” he said, noting that 12 people were arrested earlier this year in southeastern Liberia for having administered sassywood.

UN independent human rights expert, Charlotte Abaka, said the government had to do more. “The Liberian government should take concrete steps to enforce the ban on trial by ordeal,” she said, calling the practice a “grave” breach of human rights.

ak/np/mw

Source: Liberia: Trial by ordeal makes the guilty burn but “undermines justice”

Ghana: Invoke death penalty as punishment for ritual killers — PNC

In many African countries the capital punishment has been abolished, yet in a number of countries people start pressurizing their governments to re-introduce the death penalty notably for convicted ritual murderers.

Consequently, in Malawi and other Southern African countries (Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe) as well as in East Africa (Uganda), in West Africa (Nigeria) and in Central Africa (Equatorial Guinea) the death penalty is no longer a taboo or has been already legalized.

In the aftermath of an increasing number of shocking ritual murders it is now Ghana’s turn. Recently, the People’s National Convention (PNC) called on the government to reintroduce the death penalty for convicted ritual murderers. (webmaster FVDK).

Invoke death penalty as punishment for ritual killers — PNC

Published: October 2, 2022
By: Modern Ghana

Source: Invoke death penalty as punishment for ritual killers — PNC

Ghana – Mankessim ritual murder: Awakrom chief calls for arrest of ‘missing’ fetish priest, Ebusuapanyin

For a better understanding of the article cited below it is highly recommended to read yesterday’s posting with useful background information on the cultural-historic background pertaining to this ritual murder case as well as background information on the three arrested suspects (webmaster FVDK).

Mankessim murder: Awakrom chief calls for arrest of ‘missing’ fetish priest, Ebusuapanyin

Two of the arrested suspects

Published: October 2, 2022
By: Ghana Web

Source: Mankessim murder: Awakrom chief calls for arrest of ‘missing’ fetish priest, Ebusuapanyin