Liberia has been in the grip of a series of mysterious deaths, unexplained disappearances and confirmed cases of ritual murders since at least early 2021 but in fact much earlier. It started with the unexplained death of a number of tax officials, three senior employees of the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) and the Director General of the Internal Audit Agency (IAA), who were found dead within one month, in 2020.
Still, despite repeated appeals from prominent civil society and church leaders, politicians and journalists in Liberia, the reaction of the Liberian Government is one of silence and disappointing. This leads unnecessarily to fresh rumors of involvement of high ranking government officials, unfortunately not uncommon in Liberia.
Recently a UN human rights expert urged the Liberian Government to act and investigate the mysterious deaths and disappearances and arrest the culprits of the heinous crimes which are ritualistic murders for occult purposes (‘juju’).
The ball is now in President Weah’s court. In 2017, the former soccer champion-turned-politician was elected by a majority of the unprivileged youth of Liberia after an election campaign promising them ‘change’. Liberia faces new presidential elections in 2023 and with mounting criticism and an opposition determined to unseat him, Weah is uncertain to gain a second mandate (webmaster FVDK).
UN human rights expert urges Liberia to probe suspected ritual killings
Published: December 10, 2021 By: Punch, Nigeria
A UN human rights expert on Friday urged Liberia to investigate claims that a spate of murders this year had a ritual motive, despite authorities having already denied those claims.
Rumours of ritual murders spread on social media in the West African nation this year, with reports of corpses found with body parts removed — possibly for occult purposes.
Liberian police have denied the bulk of the reports, however, and arrested a member of the political opposition accused of fanning the rumours.
On Friday, Morris Tidball-Binz, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, nonetheless urged Liberia’s government to investigate the killings.
The independent expert said in a statement that at least 10 people in Liberia had been murdered in unclear circumstances in 2021 year, “some of which have reportedly been linked to ritualistic practices”.
“Investigations should fully explore all possible motivations for these killings,” he was quoted as saying.
Ritual murders are not unheard of in Liberia, and were common during the country’s back-to-back civil wars from 1989 to 2003.
Body parts severed from the victim’s corpse are thought to be used in rituals designed to benefit the murderer.
However in September, Liberian Police Inspector General Patrick Sudue announced that most of the recent alleged incidents are baseless.
The same month, police arrested a member of the opposition party Alternative National Congress for posting misinformation about ritual slayings online.
After yesterday’s article on the spread of ritualistic killings in Liberia by the Daily Observer, this leading Liberian newspaper surprises us today again with another article focusing a phenomenon which seems so difficult to eliminate in this West African country. Another group of citizens is protesting against the mysterious deaths in the country, which they blame on certain people responsible for ritualistic and secret killings. Citizens against secret killings (CUASK) allege that while the Sirleaf administration era saw a number of mysterious, ritualistic deaths as well as secret killings, such deaths are even more alarming under the George Weah administration.
True of untrue? It’s a fact that nobody in Liberia is surprised by news of another ritual murder that has been committed. In the last paragraph of the Daily Observer newspaper article – presented below – two recent examples are being given.
-As families of the deceased fear for their lives for speaking in public on how they feel about the loss of their loved ones
A group of angry citizens, some of whom are mourning the mysterious deaths of their loved ones, marched on Wednesday, April 21, 2021 marched petitioned the United States government, through its Embassy near Monrovia to call on President George Weah administration to see reason and conduct further investigations in order to establish causes of the deaths and bring the perpetrators to book.
The group, under the banner “Citizens United Against Secret Killings (CUASK)” said they are saddened to know that the Liberian government has failed or is failing to properly investigate circumstances leading to the deaths of a number of people, including some high profile government officials including security personnel, financial experts, among others.
CUASK said it strongly believes that there are hidden motives behind the alleged killings of several of those who lost their lives and that the only way those motives can be aborted and prevented from causing further harm in the Liberian society is to incessantly push the government to act appropriately rather than what they have so far done.
“We are aware that the secret and ritualistic killings have been going on, even in the previous government but the exponential rate at which it is now going is alarming. We say so because we never tell who is next among us who have come to present this petition today,” said Jethro Emmanuel Kolleh, leader of CUASK.
Kolleh added: “We also believe that the autopsy reports given were done surreptitiously to cover the facts. The doubtful reports by these governments, we mean the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf-led administration and now the Weah led administration, have left us in fear about the growing rate of impunity.
“In fact, impunity has become a monster among us and if nothing is done about it now; there may be more disastrous happenings across the country, with the perpetrators having nothing to fear simply because they will be pre-informed that doing wrong, no matter how grievous, is nothing to worry about in the country.”
In their petition, CUASK listed several names of people, including children who died through alleged questionable means as raised by the concerned citizens.
“Our motto is “All Liberians Lives Matter,” and this is why we will not stop mentioning the names of all those great sons and daughters who died under mysterious circumstances,” Kolleh further noted.
He named Harry Greaves, former managing director of Liberia Petroleum Refinery Corporation (LPRC), Michael Allison, a whistle blower and Shakie Kamara, a 15 year old boy in West Point as individuals who died during the administration former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf under troubling circumstances.
Others who died during the Sirleaf administration and named in the CUASK petition as questionable deaths were Victoria Zayzay, a young lady who Police claimed, committed suicide overnight while in custody and little Angel Togba who lived with Hans Williams and his wife in Monrovia, prior to her (Angel Togba) death which was attributed to suicide.
“We strongly believe that the deaths of Greaves and Allison were political and arbitrary. They were killed but justice was never served,” he emphasized.
The Weah era
Citizens against secret killings (CUASK) said while the Sirleaf administration era saw a number of mysterious, ritualistic deaths as well as secret killings, such deaths are more alarming under the George Weah administration.
The advocacy group said it is disappointed in the George Weah led administration because, while in opposition, they (Coalition for Democratic Change — CDC) condemned former President Sirleaf and her administration for failing to protect the lives they took oaths to protect.
“We are aware that the U.S. government is fully informed on a daily basis about happenings in Liberia. We are aware and that has been made clearly known by the State Department’s human rights report as well as the Global Magnitsky Human Rights and Accountability Act of 2021,” Jethro Kolleh said.
The group referenced the death of Zenu Miller, a journalist at OK FM 99.5 as one case that ended inconclusively, but due to his family’s wish to avoid the unnecessary rigmarole that could have proven nothing worthy, Miller was buried without justice.
Zenu Miller was beaten by Presidential security personnel (Executive Protection Service (EPS) at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex on January 25, 2020. He became sick and was admitted at the ELWA Hospital in Paynesville, the place re stayed at until his passing on February 15 of the same year.
He posted on his Facebook account saying that he was experiencing severe pain in his chest following the EPS’ brutality meted against him but in the end, Miller’s family informed the public that he died of hypertension (high blood pressure).
In October of 2020 alone, three auditors and a tax expert suffered mysterious deaths that raised public outcries.
On October 2, 2020, Gifty Lamah and Albert Peters, workers at the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), were found dead on Broad Street in a car said to have been owned by Albert Peters.
Another employee of LRA, Joseph Fahnboto, died two days later, October 4, 2020.
On October 10, 2020, news broke, announcing the passing Emmanuel B. Nyenswa, head of Liberia’s Internal Audit Agency (IAA).
Following the deaths of the auditors and staffs of LRA and IAA, Dr. Benedict B. Kolee and Dr. Zoebon B. Kpadeh, employees of the Ministry of Health and the John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital respectively, were hired by government to conduct the autopsies on the remains of the victims.
However, the autopsies reports released by the two pathologists were received with discontent by the public.
In their report, as read by Justice Minister Frank Musah Dean, Gifty Lamah and Albert Peters died in the vehicle due to carbon monoxide.
The reports had it that the IAA boss, Emmanuel Nyenswa died as a result of massive hemorrhage, multiple bone and soft tissue injuries which he sustained after falling from the height of his home.
According to the Justice Minister, the IAA boss’s death requires further investigation, stating that circumstances leading to the cause of his demise are unnatural.
For George Fahnboto, the autopsy report indicated that he died as a result of the accident he was allegedly involved in along the Samuel Kanyon Doe Boulevard while driving.
Following those deaths, Melvin Earley, a U.S.-trained Presidential guard who served former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and later President Weah, was said to have died by suicide using his own gun, while on the nationwide tour with Weah in Tapitta, Nimba County.
The family of Earley and many critics of the Weah led government disagreed with the government’s allegation that he committed suicide. His widow and all of his family members as well as their supporters called on the Weah led government to provide evidence that he (Earley) took his own life, but no report came, according to them, as the widow said there is no death certificate to show cause of her husband’s death.
Several other deaths, mysterious and questionable, occurred in the weeks and months that followed. To name two more, Florence Massaquoi, 46, was found dead on the Samuel Kanyon Doe (SKD) Boulevard, with some parts of her body extracted, while in Maryland County, Mordecial Nyemah, a graduating high school student, was killed for ritualistic purpose, causing a major protest and rioting from the angry citizens of the county.
The advocacy group, citizens united against secret killings (CUASK) said they will not rest their pursuit for justice until it is served in each of the cases.