A former ULIMO commander stands trial in France accused of war crimes, human rights violations, murder and cannibalism.
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.
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.
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.
Liberia: “You are Kundi. You killed my sister” A third victim identifies Kamara as perpetrator in War Crimes Trial
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.
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.
…. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”
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.”
“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.
The following article contains two interesting aspects to which I would like to draw the readers’ attention.
First, I was struck by the public declaration of Chief Zoe, Ma Wrote Musa, to continue certain traditional practices of the ancestors, including the practicing of FGM, female genital mutilation. My interpretation of these remarks is that traditional values and behavior are still undisputed in Liberia, at least at the highest level.
Secondly, almost causal the Chief Zoe mentions ritual killings. Shocking, it’s a public acknowledgement that these age-old practices still occur in this West African country. I found it shocking – which it is not really, in the sense that everyone in Liberia knows of the existence of these crimes, based on greed, superstition and the disrespect of the rule of law and of the human rights of the victims – including the government. (FVDK)
Liberia: “We’ll Continue the Sande Bush Practice of Our Ancestors” – Zoes in Margibi Vow
“We will continue the Sande Bush practice of our ancestors in Liberia. We inherited this practice, and in no way, we are willing to end it. And, if the government and others want to force us, we will traditionally resist. If they want us to leave our ancestors’ practice, let them be equally prepared to let go other practices such as same-sex, the UBF, the Free Masons and ritualistic killings, etc,” said Chief Zoe, Ma Wroto Musa.
Published: August 30, 2022 By: Mae Azango – Front Page Africa
MONROVIA – Hundreds of Liberian school-aged girls and young women stand the risks of being initiated into the Sande Society, also known as the bush school, because, traditional leaders of Margibi County pledged to continue their ancestors’ traditional heritage.
Chief Zoe, Ma Wroto Musa, Chief Samuel Kollie and other traditional leaders in Weala Margibi County vowed to continue Sande activities admit the three-year suspension on the practice.
“We will continue the Sande Bush practice of our ancestors in Liberia. We inherited this practice, and in no way, we are willing to end it. And, if the government and others want to force us, we will traditionally resist. If they want us to leave our ancestors’ practice, let them be equally prepared to let go other practices such as same-sex, the UBF, the Free Masons and ritualistic killings, etc,” said Chief Zoe, Ma Wroto Musa.
Speaking in Weala Margibi County, during a recent town hall in meeting, organized by HeForShe Crusaders Liberia, the West Point Women for Health and Development Organization and Community Healthcare Initiative, the zoes, along with over 20 traditional leaders, said even though they are knowledgeable of the three years suspension on FGM activity in Liberia, but they will continue until same-sex and UBF is abolished as well.
During the ongoing dialogue, in affirmation of their support, all the invited traditional participants raised their hands in support of FGM continuation in Liberia.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs, which is the umbrella entity responsible for regulations of all traditional affairs, is unaware of the violation by many traditional leaders. When contacted regarding the wave of FGM activities going on after the three-year ban placed on the practice, Assistant Minister for Culture and Customs, Joseph B. Jangar, said he is surprised and shock at the same time such activities but promised to follow up with superintendents of the various counties that are said to be violating the three-year moratorium.
“The zoes and traditional leaders are all aware of the three-year suspension and not one of those zoes operating the bush schools will be able to show you any certificate from the Ministry of Internal Affairs because we are aware of the ban,” said Minister Jangar.
It can be recalled that in late February 2022, Chief Zanzan Karwor, Chairman of the National Traditional Council of Liberia, announced a three-year suspension of the practice of female genital mutilation in Liberia. The three-year ban which started with immediate effect came amidst campaigns by human rights groups for a total ban on the practice. But it seems since the declaration was made, many traditional leaders are openly violating the ban.
“FGM/C is not only a human rights violation, but undermines the peace and security of each and every female. Access to bodily autonomy is a right to every woman, end FGM and its not cultural but harmful suppression,” Saye Tamba F. Johnson, National HeForShe Crusaders Liberia. Johnson said Margibi County is the second county that has challenged the three-year suspension of FGM. The first was Grand Cape Mount in February of 2022. However, Lofa, Gborpolu, Grand Bassa, Bong, Montesrrado and Rivercess Counties are reportedly still carrying out the act, too.
According to this newspaper’s Nimba County Correspondent, two zoes in that county paid dearly for disobedience to the three-year ban when they were arrested in Sanniquellie, Nimba County, for forcing over 8000 school-going aged girls into the Sande Bush. The girls, who had gone to prepare for 2022/2023 school year, were all captured and forced into the Bush School by the two traditional leaders. And the report added that the practices are presently taking place in the 19 administrative districts in Nimba County.
HeForShe Crusaders Liberia, Lofa County Coordinator Boakai Yamah reported on the increase of FGM activities and listed towns and villages that are carrying out the practice during the three-year suspension.
“I reported earlier from Lofa County, on the increase in the numbers of Sande Bushes in operation across the county. Here are the names and locations where Sande Bush activities are ongoing.
2. Lawalazu Town, Lower Workor Clan, Voinjama District
3. Zawoadamai Town, Lower Workor Clan, Voinjama District
4. Borgondu Town, Quardu Gboni District
5. Korlelar Town, Quardu Gboni District
6. Kamolahun Town, Ngolahun Clan, Lukambeh District
7. Manena Town, Hembeh Clan, Lukambeh District
8. Lehuma Town, Wanwoma Clan, Wanhassa District.
However, for Lehunma Town all preparations have been put in place to take the children,” concluded Coordinator Yamah. Back to the Weala Meeting in Margibi, following the intense awareness on the importance of maintaining all positive attributes of the Sande Bush, making away with the circumcision aspect, the leaders and supporters disagreed. “Our leaders at the national level are seeking money and forgetting the values of our heritage. They are seeking their own personal interest and not us. They don’t consult us on issues; we only hear about them, which is a disservice to us. Hence, there is a need for you all to keep engaging us and let us know who are directly involved with the bush and speak out on what is possible,” said Chief Samuel Kollie.
The article below refers to statements made by Joseph Marzah, a former rebel-general and a former key ally of Gibril Massaquoi. Joseph Marzah, commonly known as “Zizar Marzah” said that the Finnish District Court got it wrong when it acquitted Massaquoi of charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Liberia.
The reason for including Marzah’s observations and denial is to demonstrate the complexity of war crimes courts and the handling of accusations against suspected perpetrators of war crimes including ritualistic murders. The fact that during Liberia’s civil war(s) ritualistic activities including ritual murders have been committed is not disputed. For shortness sake I may refer here to the Final Report of Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission released in 2009, which report provides ample examples of these horrific crimes.
(To be continued, see my May 24 posting) (webmaster FVDK)
Liberia: Key Massaquoi Ally Says Finnish Court Got it Wrong
Published: May 17, 2022 By: FrontPage Africa – FPA Exclusive by Anthony Stephens with New Narratives
MONROVIA – A key former ally of Gibril Massaquoi, the Revolutionary United Front commander, says a Finnish District Court got it wrong when it acquitted Massaquoi of charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Liberia.
Joseph Marzah, commonly known as “Zizar Marzah”, was a fierce general with then-president Charles Taylor’s forces in the period Finnish prosecutors alleged Massaquoi conducted his crimes during a trial that lasted more than a year. Marzah was a key figure, accused repeatedly by witnesses of atrocities allegedly committed with Massaquoi in Lofa County. In an exclusive interview with New Narratives last week at his residence along the Monrovia-Robertsfield highway, Marzah insisted Massaquoi was among the RUF troops Taylor sent to Liberia to help defend his government against the uprising by the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) rebel group that would eventually drive Taylor to resign in August 2003.
In an 850-page ruling, the Finnish judges found there was “reasonable doubt” as to whether Massaquoi, who denied the charges, was in Liberia when the alleged crimes took place. They acquitted Massaquoi of all charges. Prosecutors plan to appeal.
“Gibril Massaquoi fully took part in war here,” Marzah said listing the Lofa towns he was with Massaquoi. “He passed through the towns of Zorzor, Fessibu and Vasala.”
Marzah said Massaquoi was decorated with the rank of Captain at Taylor’s direction because of his strong performance on the frontlines of battle.
“Gibril Massquoi was assigned to me. When we sent him for our logistics like arms and ammunition, he went for them and brought them to us,” said Marzah. “Where there was intense fighting, he joined us to fight. In 2001 and 2002, he was with us, and we battled LURD in Chicken Soup Factory, Double Bridge, ELWA and Shefflin.”
Marzah’s claims back the allegations put forward by Finnish prosecutors that Massaquoi had been active in Liberia’s second civil war between 1999 and 2003. The indictment alleged Massaquoi committed rape, torture, ritual murder, torture and recruitment of child soldiers in villages in Lofa County in the years 2000-2002.
In the most shocking crime heard during trial, Liberian witnesses testified that dozens of women and children were forced into a kitchen building that was set alight, burning them to death.
Marzah, no doubt mindful of his own risk of prosecution, did not concede that he and Massaquoi committed any crimes. But he insisted Massaquoi was with him, as many had witnesses testified, in Lofa during the 2001-2002 period.
“If Gibril Massaquoi denies that he was with me, NPFL, I would like for us to sit face-to-face (in court) so that I can question him like the scenario between Taylor and I. I fear nothing.”
However, Marzah cast doubt on the most contentious prosecution accusation: that Massaquoi escaped a UN-backed safehouse in Freetown between June and August 2003 to fight for Taylor in the Waterside area of Monrovia.
“In 2003, I only heard that he came (from Sierra Leone) and went back. I was assigned to Grand Cape Mount County at the time.”
Marzah claimed Massaquoi escaped Liberia in 2002 after he stole from Taylor.
“After we had made two trips (with two jars of diamonds) along with the logistics to Taylor, he left us because he ran away with the third jar of diamonds,” said Marzah. “When the order came that if we saw Gibril Massaquoi, we should execute him because of the diamonds he stole and ran away with, I didn’t see him then.”
Massaquoi’s Lawyer, Kaarle Gummerus denied commenting on Marzah’s allegations, telling this reporter in a WhatsApp message “the defense does not feel the need to comment on Mr. Marzah’s allegations”.
Marzah said he was approached by representatives of the Finnish investigators in the case and was willing to testify. He did not say why he was not called to give evidence.
In a WhatsApp message Tom Laitienen, the Chief Prosecutor for the case said “We considered Marzah as a witness, but practical issues hindered us from hearing him. We will most likely consider him again if he agrees to testify.”
When pressed as to what the practical issues may have been Laitinen said “unfortunately, I cannot discuss them in detail, but they include his possible role in the suspected crimes and his role as a witness to the Special Court.”
It is not clear that Marzah’s testimony would have made a difference in the verdict. The court found many of the witnesses, including those who claimed to be ex-soldiers of Charles Taylor’s army, were unreliable. It said they had provided contradictory and inconsistent statements between the investigation and the trial. The court found it likely they had been influenced to a degree.
“The witnesses’ accounts have been very similar in some respects, and in some respects they have changed in court in the same way compared to the pre-trial phase,” said the ruling. “This has been the case in particular with regard to the time of the events. This suggests a kind of collective processing of the facts on the basis of which the witnesses formed their perceptions, or at least external influences. In some respects it has been difficult to distinguish between what was based on the witness’s own observations and what was otherwise based on information obtained by the witness. These factors undermine the reliability and relevance of individual reports as evidence.”
While the court was persuaded that Massaquoi, whose testimony played a key role in the conviction of Taylor and a dozen top rebel leaders in the Special Court for Sierra Leone, held very high rank in the RUF, it was not convinced he committed war crimes in Liberia.
The Court’s ruling was almost entirely about inconsistencies in the witnesses’ testimonies. It cited as examples, where some of the witnesses were not exact about key dates and names of individuals who may have carried out crimes. In one instance, witnesses accused Massaquoi of being responsible for mass killings in Kamatahun, Lofa County. In another instance, they attributed the crimes to Marzah.
“It has emerged from several witness accounts that “Zig Zag” Marzah or “Stanley” [another Taylor commander] had been responsible for the burning of people in the Lofa area, especially in Kamatahun.”
Marzah Denies Allegations
Marzah, now 64 and living in a remote part of his native Nimba County, denies he committed any atrocities.
He claimed to have provided safety for members of the Gbandi tribe, who were allegedly burnt alive in buildings, because, he claimed, his wife was a Gbandi woman. Marzah denied he was in the town when the alleged killings took place.
“It was Benjamin Yeaten [another top Taylor commander known as “Chief 50”] who sent Brigadier General Gourtor, [known as “Idi Amin” after the late Ugandan President], “Butu Lazen” and the late “Busy Boy”. They went to Kamatahun Hassala to carry out those executions,” Marzah alleged.
Yeaten, whose whereabouts are unknown, was mentioned many times by witnesses. They told the court Yeaten was very close to Taylor and coordinated the operations of government and RUF forces. Taylor, who is currently serving a 50-year sentence in a British jail for aiding and abetting Sierra Leone’s civil war, funded the operations of the RUF by giving them arms and ammunitions in exchange for diamonds according to the Special Court.
Marzah said there were times that both RUF and Taylor’s forces backed up each other, depending on the scale of the attacks they experienced from opponents.
Special Court former Trial Attorney Backs Marzah’s Comments
Marzah’s comments were backed up by Chris Santora, a former Trial Attorney for the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone and on the Taylor trial.
“Whoever really understands well the history of the links between Charles Taylor and the RUF trial knows that top RUF commanders were often in Liberia interacting at many levels with Benjamin Yeaten and Charles Taylor throughout 2000 and 2001,” said Santora.
“The reasons were many not least of which was Taylor’s use of the RUF in his own war in Liberia but also this was when the diamond pipeline was at its peak as the RUF had firm control of the diamond areas of Kono. Many of these RUF commanders including Massaquoi were back and forth frequently through 2001 as they were running diamonds. (sometimes their own side deals others through Taylor) The finding of the Finish District Court which says that Gibril Massaquoi was not anymore traveling at all to Liberia after June 2001 does not accord with the overwhelming evidence I myself have seen. It doesn’t make sense in the larger context of events at that time period,” said Santora.
Marzah Supports a War Crimes Court for Liberia
Once considered a Taylor trusted general, Marzah, dismissed allegations that he betrayed his former boss. But he said he did oppose Taylor by the end. He was “killing our people slowly,” Marzah said. He blamed Taylor for the murders of a long list of individuals, including Enoch Dogolea, Taylor’s first Vice President and Samuel Dokie, a leading opposition politician with the Unity Party at the time.
Marzah is ranked 66th on a list of 100 most notorious perpetrators recommended for prosecution for gross human rights violations by Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. But in the interview he expressed support for a war crimes court and said he was willing to appear.
“I prefer it to be in Liberia,” he said. “There are some wicked people. Some did nothing, some went in the government because they have connections. Some carried out destruction. So, it’s better for the war crimes court to come to sifter all of us. I am willing for it to come. That’s the time we all will explain everything in detail.”
Prosecutors will file a motion to appeal the District Court’s acquittal in coming weeks.
This story was produced in collaboration with New Narratives as part of its West Africa Justice Reporting Project.
As is clear from the article below, all Liberian presidents including William Tubman, William Tolbert, Samuel Doe, Charles Taylor, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as well as other political leaders are aware of the occurrence of ritual murders in the country, notably during election campaigns. It is even whispered that some presidents had a more than passive role in this respect but these – sometimes persistent – rumors have never been confirmed or proven.
The author, Melvin Pyne, presents an astonishing – sketchy – overview of ritualistic murders from the 1960s onwards hence covering a period of over half a century.
He hasn’t mentioned them all. Certain cases have never been discovered. The thick Liberian forests hide many ritual murder crimes, I am very sure about this harsh reality, though without having proof of it. Nevertheless I am pretty sure that many people in Liberia will confirm this ‘gut feeling’ of mine (webmaster FVDK).
The Liberian government must take charge of our security, or else…
Published: January 17, 2022 By: Melvin D. Weh – Front Page Africa
Last year ended on a rather low note for many Liberians with the wave of alleged ritualistic, serial killings which instilled fear across the country. Communities and residents were on the brink of paranoia. Thus is upsetting the way of life for everyone.
Liberian history tells us that such killings have happened in the past. In the 60s and 70s, Gboyos (Heartmen) ravaged the southeastern parts of the country. Gboyos were a feared society that allegedly wore top hats, black suits, and captured people for ritualistic purposes. They took body parts, especially the hearts of their victims, thus earning them the nickname, Heartmen. The situation was so bad that the citizens pressured the government to act.
In 1979, the administration of President William Tolbert, took action. It investigated and convicted seven individuals including top government officials who were involved in the ritualistic murder of Mr. Moses Tweh in Harper, Maryland County. The court, after hearing the case, established a precedent. They handed down the verdict of guilty. The convicts were sentenced to death and subsequently executed publicly in Harper. Amongst those executed were James Anderson, Superintendent of Maryland County, Allen Yancy, representative of Maryland County and Philip B. Seyton, Senior Inspector of the Ministry of Commerce, Maryland County. This deterrent action practically slowed the act.
Years later in 1989, President Samuel Doe’s administration tried and convicted Defense Minister Maj. General Gray D. Allison and his wife Mrs. Angeline Watta Allison for the ritual murder of a police officer, J. Melvin Pyne in the Caldwell community. Gen. Allison was tried under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) at a military tribunal, found guilty and sent to Belleh Yalla, the maximum-security prison in Lofa County. His wife was convicted at ‘Criminal Court C’, and sentenced to life imprisonment according to the Mr. Max Dennis, son of Mrs. Allison.
Allison was the most renowned government official convicted during the Doe regime. However, it is reported that an aide to president Doe, Mr. David K. Clarke and five others were tried, convicted and executed for the ritual murder of two little boys in 1987.
During the war years and President Taylor’s administration, there were rumors of murders for ‘Juju’ purposes. We must note that those were years of injustice and arbitrary justice, therefore there is not much record on how those cases were legally handled. Men in arms allegedly conducted speedy quasi-investigations and punished alleged perpetrators, wrongly too. Serious attention was not placed on the issues perhaps because killings were almost the norm, sadly.
On 29 June 2005 before the special general elections, there were reports of ritualistic killings almost across the country. The interim leader, Gyude Bryant warned that candidates tempted to boost their chances by carrying out human sacrifices will be executed if caught. While no one was successfully tried and convicted, Mr. Bryant’s warning seemed to have eased the situation for sometimes, as it was observed. ( BBC News, 29 June 2005)
In 2017 during the reign of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, protesters (women in majority) stormed Gbarnga City in demand of answers to over series of young women including 12 years old girl who were seen dead with missing body parts. The women of the county under the banner Bong Women Association and the Bong Christian Association marched in the streets demanding more actions from the government in addressing such monstrous crimes.
Another notable case of ritual killing was the murder of seventeen years old Cyrus Yeawonyee in September 2015 in the suburb of the commercial city of Ganta. Cyrus was killed and body parts including eyes, ears and tongue were extracted according to report. Cyrus’ convicted killer was another teenager, Jacob Vambo who was sentenced to life in prison in February 2016. Vambo confessed to luring his friend Cyrus into the trap of powerful muscular men who allegedly killed him for a well-connected government official. His claims of the involvement of others in the killing could not be authenticated to punish those he had accused.
However, his lawyer (a Public Defendant) Cllr. Mewaseh Payebayee (late) and some observers believed his claims as they felt such a lanky looking child was incapable of overpowering someone and committing such gruesome murder.
A day after the investigation into Cyrus’ murder case by the Liberia National Police-LNP on 29th September 2015, Ganta experienced one of the most violent disruptions since the civil war. This time, it was a motorcyclist. The news of Cyrus killing was gradually fueling tension when the young man was discovered dead with blood allegedly drained from his body for the wealthy businessperson. Though, investigation disproved the allegation of ritual killing and established that the killing happened as a result of robbery, the damage was done. The popular Alvino Hotel in the City was looted and burned while two persons were reported dead, among the many damages done. About fifty arrests were made in connection to the riot.
With such history, it is no surprise why the public will be alarmed if there is a rearing up of such activities. The FrontPage Africa News Paper September 23, 2021 edition reported the alleged murder of John Tubman at his residence with deep cuts in the neck. John was the son of Liberia’s longest serving president William V.S. Tubman. Barely a month later, the death was reported of the renowned Rev. William Richard Tolbert, III, a peace ambassador and son of another former president, William Richard Tolbert, Jr. then, a Madam Maude Elliot of the Liberia Immigration Services (LIS) was also found dead. Both were murdered in their respective homes in similar conditions.
Additionally, amongst many others, the FrontPage Africa newspaper published on November 8, 2021 a list of several murders all of which occurred this year alone with victims displaying similar conditions. On that list was Jane Doe (Unidentified Woman) found on 17th Street Beach (September); Mordecai Nyemah (May), Florence Massaquoi (February), as well as, Robert M. Blamo, Jr., Bobby S. Gbeanquoi, and Siafa G. Boimah.
While last year, amidst the global Covid-19 pandemic, several other killings occurred- Elijah Polumah, Abraham Tumay, and George B. Fanbutu, mentioning a few.
But most troubling of all this were two separate incidents. First, is a statement by President George Weah in November, when he signed the book of condolence for the late Mr. Emmanuel Barten Nyenswa. Mr. Weah is on record urging citizens and residents to install at their premises, Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) Cameras. He pointed out that government’s focus of security was on the country’s borders. Mr. Nyensuah’s death like three other auditors from the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) is still being investigated. Many believe their deaths were for political reasons or cover up for some malpractices they may have uncovered.
Mr. Weah is either unaware of the financial hardship in the country or does not care much about the innocent lives being lost. A people that can barely afford, how does he expect them to buy CCTVs that cost $1000 USD at a minimum? With many parts of the city out of electricity, how does he expect the cameras to work?
The second concerning issue is the remark made by the Liberia National Police Inspector General, Col. Patrick Sudue at Ministry of Information Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT) press conference. Col. Sudue alleged that the news of serial and ritualistic killings in Monrovia and other parts of the country were fake stories being created by opposition politicians who want to implant fear and give negative image of the country and malign government’s reputation.
The IG’s statement on these recent issues suggests a political posturing. While Col. Sudue is a political appointee, the office of the Inspector General needs to be apolitical and professional, always endeavoring to maintain the integrity and independence of the Liberia National Police.
In midst of this scaring security situation, such comments undermine the confidence of the people in the government and the ability of the Liberian National Police to combat these criminal acts.
Such levels of insecurities lead to several dire consequences. Those who can afford, would now take the law into their own hands, those who can’t might find other means not necessarily legal. Are we to now become a lawless society? Then, there is the investment angle. It doesn’t present a secured environment for investors. They could then leave the country and with them other citizens and residents out of fear would flee the country. Investors (local and international) do shy away from investing due to insecurity and lack of justice. When investors do not invest, economically the country is affected as unemployment increases. Government incomes (personal and corporate income taxes are lost. Aggrieved citizens usually take mob justice as the only alternative. These amongst many negative reactions are recipes for chaos and anarchy.
The questions now are: what can be done here to change the atmosphere of fear? And how can we do it?
To these questions considering the preceding, the government is under obligation to protect the lives of those residing in the country. To ensure that the citizens do not regret electing the current administration, she has to act, and do it now. To avoid mob justice, the government must take charge of matters immediately. To avoid fleeing of citizens and other residents from the country, the government must muster the courage to dig deep into these happenings and punish perpetrators. To ensure current and potential investors that their lives and properties will be protected here, the government must change gear and expedite investigations into these matters.
In closing, while these acts have happened in the past, the onus is always on the government to fight them and protect the people. The Liberian National Police has to step-up, take control of the security, and avoid becoming political in handling these issues.
Liberia is again in the grip of ritualistic murders. An alarming wave of insecurity terrorizes the population. Reportedly, secret and ritualistic murders are being committed. The Liberia National Police is pressed by the public to do more. President Weah is being asked to address the nation and speak out against these heinous crimes, which are far from uncommon in Liberia.
In the past, ambitious politicians have been found involved in ritualistic activities including murder. The presidential elections of 2023 are still far away but politicians and their supporters are already preparing for a fierce election campaign. Moreover, on November 16 of this year, by-elections will be held in Bomi, Bong, Nimba and Grand Gedeh Counties to fill the vacancies in the House of Representatives following the election of Representatives in the Senate in December 2020.
The combined opposition – the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) including the ANC, ALP, UP and the LP – has to come to grips with the internal battle for a unique, common presidential candidate for the 2023 elections if it wants to defat the incumbent president. However, its political leaders: ANC leader Alexander Cummings, the UP candidate and former Vice President Joseph Boakai, ALP’s Benoni Urey and Grand Bassa County Senator and political leader of Liberty Party, Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, are not on the same line when it comes to a common candidate.
The ruling Coalition for Democratic Change is also far from homogeneous. The coalition is composed of Weah’s Congress for Democratic Change plus the National Patriotic Party of warlord-turned-into-president Charles Taylor, now led by one of his ex-wives, Jewel Howard Taylor, currently Vice President in the Weah Administration, and the Liberian People Democratic Party of the corrupt and for this reason disgraced former House Speaker Alex Tyler. It is a public secret that relations between the Present and his Vice President are far from harmonious.
The foregoing does not pretend to provide an answer to the question why there’s currently a surge in ritualistic killings in Liberia – assuming that reports of a surge in ritual murders are not unfounded. Moreover, as one newspaper commented, ‘There is speculation that the majority of those who disappear perpetually without a trace are often victims of ritual killings.’
The Inspector General of the Liberia National Police, Colonel Patrick Sudue, has labelled the reports on ritualistic murders as fake news, accusing the opposition of tarnishing the good reputation of the Weah Administration. In sharp contrast, however, Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor publicly disagreed with him, pleading for an end to the many mysterious deaths that are linked to ritualistic killings.
Be that as it may, Liberia’s human rights reputation, which wasn’t that good anyway, is being further damaged by these reports of ritualistic and secret killings whereas critics of president Weah who accuse him of inaction will be more convinced than ever that he is not the right man in the right place.
As an observer of Liberian politics since the 1970s I’m afraid that this is not the end of the story…
To be continued (webmaster FVDK).
Public anxiety over ritual killings increases; President Weah must address the nation and speak out on the scourge of ritualistic killings in Liberia
Published: September 30, 2021 By: Editorial Board, Front Page Africa, Liberia
THE SPATE OF KILLINGS for ritual purposes is gradually assuming an alarming rate in Liberia with little or no effort by government of President George Weah to checkmate the trend.
OFFICIAL STATISTICS indicate that there has been an increase in the number of missing persons all over the country in recent times. Some are found, while others are not.
THERE IS SPECULATION that the majority of those who disappear perpetually without a trace are often victims of ritual killings.
ONE WOULD HAVE expected such acts to be a thing of the past following decades of civil war in Liberia which claimed the lives of over 150, 000 people, and made hundreds of thousands became refugees throughout the region.
BUT SADLY murdering people to appease the deities appears to be on the increase in Liberia.
THESE RITUALISTS hide under different covers to get their victims. For some, they kidnap their victims from various points, while others who pretend to be commercial drivers, pick unsuspecting commuters at bus-stop only to take them to their slaughter slabs to carry out what they know how to do best.
RECENTLY, the lifeless body of a girl believed to be in her 30s was discovered in Caldwell with body parts extracted.Till date perpetrators of the dastardly act are yet to be found.
A DAY EARLIER, another lifeless body of a man believed to be in his 40s was found in the Soul Clinic community. As at the time his body was recovered, some parts had been removed. They included his penis, eyes and tongue. Still, the perpetrators have not been arrested.
GIVEN THE RATE of increase of ritual killings in Liberia, no one is immune from becoming a victim. But some people are at greater risk. People with mental illnesses and virgins are unique targets as the ritualists allegedly believe that their eccentrics and purity make for a more viable sacrifice.
ALSO, PEOPLE living with albinism have equally become victims of ritual killings, fuelled by the belief that their ‘body parts’ could allegedly make one wealthy or prolong one’s life.
IT IS DISHEARTENING to point out that as developed countries invest in science and technology to keep abreast with a dynamic world, Liberia is still stuck in the mistaken belief that sacrificing human blood is the surest route to wealth, safety, and protection.
IT’S TIME the government of President Weah play a more active role in ameliorating the negative impact of these dastardly acts?
POVERTY AND ECONOMIC hardship in the country are reasons for ritual killings. However, these are not justifiable reasons to commit ritual murder. Impunity encourages ritualists to commit murders because they believe they will not be apprehended or punished.
ANOTHER REASON for ritual murders is the collapse in our moral values, ignorance and superstition, and lack of an adequate punishment system.
WE SHOULD also consider poverty and unemployment as significant risk factors. If Liberians have equal opportunities to earn income legitimately, there will be a reduction in horrific crimes such as banditry and human killings for ritual.
THE HIGH INCIDENCE of serial ritual killings in Liberia demands an urgent action at the level of the government of President Weah.
TO CURB THE INCREASE in ritual killings, government should thoroughly explore the intelligence-gathering approach. Timely arrest and prosecution of arrested suspects would serve as a deterrent to anybody contemplating perpetrating ritual killing.
RECORD OF SUCCESSFUL prosecution of ritualists is not in the public domain. When there are no consequences for deviant behavior, it is incentivized.
THE CONSCIENCE of Liberians are being troubled by reports of recent ritual murders including that of those whose body parts were ripped out for ritual purposes.
LIBERIANS SEEM to be rapidly losing faith in the ability of President Weah and his government to detect and punish ritual killers, and it’s time President Weah act to address the scourge in ritualistic activities in Liberia.
A heartbreaking plea to political parties, religious and civil society leaders
Published: September 30, 2021 By: Staff Editor – The Daily Observer, Liberia
This is a plea to Civil Society, Religious Leaders and political parties, especially the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), to act in concert and speak with one voice on the deteriorating security situation in the country. Every God-sent day is replete with accounts of mysterious and brutal killing of peaceful citizens apparently for ritualistic purposes.
This is also a plea to civil society and their respective organizations to become seized of the current situation and also speak with one voice on the current situation. From all indications, this government is failing to protect the people and this does not augur well for peace and national security.
We say this because there is an inherent danger in allowing things to deteriorate to the point where ordinary citizens begin to take action to protect themselves from harm. Judging from reports, it appears that females are being particularly targeted but in the face of such assaults against our women, especially, not a word has been heard from the Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia (AFELL) and the same goes for other women groups.
Religious leaders, Muslim as well as Christian, etc., have also failed to take up the issue as a matter of priority concern. Innocent children of God are being slaughtered like animals, but the voices of our religious leaders have either been silent or at best feeble. Just where are our so-called men of God in the face of such brutal onslaught against the children of God, one is tempted to ask.
More importantly, just where is our President and why has he maintained such a conspicuous silence in the face of mounting cries of the people craving the intervention of the state to protect their lives? The Police have not proved very helpful in the eyes of the public.
Such displayed ineptitude by the Liberia National Police (LNP) in addressing urgent security concerns of the people is leaving most people with the impression that the rise in ritualistic killings and other forms of violence is linked to top officials of this government. In their view, this is why such killings continue to happen despite massive public outcry.
In such situations, opposition political parties, religious leaders and civil society organizations are usually looked up to for help and guidance. But to the disappointment of the public, they also seem to appear helpless to deal with the situation. Whether their inaction is borne out of fear and trepidation, or out of a desire to ingratiate themselves into the good favors of the President, remains unclear.
For now, it is basically the media which has inadvertently found itself thrust into the fore to speak out on behalf of a seemingly helpless people. Their efforts are indeed commendable but grossly insufficient without the active support of civil society, including political parties and religious organizations. They cannot afford to wait until things run out of hand before they can muster the courage to step up to the plate.
For the past few weeks, the media has been awash with reports of the ongoing feud within the CPP, which has been touted as the last bastion capable of restoring hope of Liberians for sustainable peace and giving the people some respite from the suffering and hardships being experienced under the leadership of the Coalition for Democratic Change.
This coalition composed of the National Patriotic Party of disgraced and imprisoned war convict Charles Taylor, and the Liberian People Democratic Party of disgraced former House Speaker Alex Tyler, was hailed by its supporters as the answer to Liberia’s problems, following President Weah’s selection of Charles Taylor’s ex-wife Jewel Howard Taylor as Vice President.
Under the rule of her ex-husband Taylor, Liberia became a pariah state largely as a result of runaway corruption and the massive and egregious human rights abuses committed under his watch by his security forces.
But those very vices that eventually led to Taylor’s disgraceful exit from power and subsequent trial and conviction on war crimes, appear to have now taken center-stage under the current ruling Coalition. In the face of this, civil society, including political parties especially the CPP, appear to have their attention fixed elsewhere. The CPP, for example, finds itself locked in a bitter and seemingly unending internecine feud.
Whether ANC leader Alexander Cummings and UP leader and former Vice President Joseph Boakai will find common ground on the question of who has the popularity and political strength to lead the Collaboration to elections in 2023 is anyone’s guess.
While Joseph Boakai appears to enjoy overwhelming support in vote-rich Lofa County, the same cannot be said of Alexander Cummings in any county including his home country Maryland. It may therefore be suicidal were he to quit the CPP to go it alone. And apparently he realizes this and such could be reasons why he has declared that leaving the CPP is a non-option.
Similarly, it can be said that it would be suicidal for Joseph Boakai to leave the CPP to go it alone. Both individuals appear hopelessly stuck together with each wanting out, but too timid to make the break for fear of the consequences. But the Liberian people cannot forever wait for justice, neither can they forever wait on the government to bring ritualistic killings to an end.
This can perhaps explain why there are increasing calls from the public for the reintroduction of the Death Penalty to serve as deterrent to would be ritual killers. They point to the United States of America, the foremost global champion of Human Rights, which still maintains the Death Penalty without censure from international human rights institutions. Then, why not Liberia, they ask.
And their point of reference is the 1977 trial, conviction and public hanging, in Harper, Maryland County of several individuals including a former Superintendent involved in the ritual murder of Moses Tweh, a popular folk singer, which put a stop to ritual killings in that country for a long period.
Monrovia — In recent months, reported cases of ritual killings have surged in Liberia, but the country’s Police Inspector General, Patrick Sudue and his deputy Prince Mulbah say such reports are untrue and being fueled by opposition politicians to tarnish the image of the government.
Sudue and Mulbah, at a news conference Wednesday, disclosed that the police are only aware of a single ritualistic incident, which occurred in MaryLand County recently, adding the perpetrators are facing justice.
“People are being paid to tarnish the image of the country and to raise false national security alert. There are inconsistencies in their statements,” Sudue says.
Meanwhile, Mulbah, Deputy Police Inspector General for Administration, described information about ritualistic killings in the country as a ploy designed by the opposition to create fear for diaspora Liberians who want to return home.
“As far our investigations are concerned, we haven’t established anything called ritualistic killing apart from what happened in Maryland County,” Mulbah says.
“We have heard a lot of people talking on social media of people being kidnapped and taken away, these are paid agents.”
A rising number of mutilated bodies on streets in Monrovia and other parts of the country this year has sown fear in Liberians.
Recently, the lifeless body of a girl believed to be in her 30s was discovered in Caldwell with body parts extracted.Till date perpetrators of the dastardly act are yet to be found.
A day earlier, another lifeless body of a man believed to be in his 40s was found in the Soul Clinic community. As at the time his body was recovered, some parts had been removed. They included his penis, eyes and tongue. Still, perpetrators have not been arrested.
Liberians have taken to social media to raise alarm about the rise in ritual activities, urging commuters to always write down the identification markings of public conveyance vehicles as they enter and make phone calls to loved ones to pass on the information.
But Sudue said most of these social media pictorials and videos about ritualistic incidents are not a representation of what is unfolding in the country.
He warned those involved in orchestrating a negative image about the country to desist, or face the full weight of the law.
The rise in ritualistic killings has claimed the attention of opposition political leaders, who are calling on President George Weah to redirect every penny he intends to spend on his 55th birthday celebrations on Friday, October 1.
Alexander Cummings of the Alternative National Congress (ANC), Wednesday said the country is fast becoming a cesspool of crime ranging from these mysterious killings, armed robbery, drug dealing, and money laundering.
“This is in addition to the numerous past mysterious deaths of the auditors, the missing boys and other violent crimes that are yet to be investigated or the perpetrators found,” he says.
“It is clear that our security sector is under-staffed, under-paid and overwhelmed. This can not continue. I am calling on the President to redirect every penny he intends to spend on his elaborate and glamorous birthday celebration, into the security sector. We need to empower our community policing and night patrol and strengthen community vigilante groups to work with the Police in each community. This should include the distribution of basic materials and basic training. We need to also investigate these crimes with a sense of urgency and bring perpetrators to justice. The government needs to get to work.”
Grand Bassa County Senator and political leader of Liberty Party, Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, who’s in the United States of America, said she would start a women movement against the ritualistic killings of children, mothers and sisters, brothers and husbands upon her return to Liberia.
Sen. Karnga-Lawrence called on all women to rise up and ensure that the serial killings are brought to an end. “The voices of women must be heard at every level, from the vice president down. This must stop, our survival is at stake and Liberia must be safe for all of us,” Sen. Karnga-Lawrence says.
Dr. Daniel E. Cassel of the People’s Liberation Party (PLP), whose secretary general, David Beyan, was reportedly shot by unknown gunmen, called on the government of President George Weah to address the issue of ritualistic killings in the country.
“This is the time for President Weah to act quickly and bring an end to the end to the rise in ritualistic killings,” Dr. Cassel says.
Reacting to the reported shooting incident of Beyan, Sudue rejected claims that the PLP secretary general was shot by unknown gunmen.
He claimed Beyan lied about being shot infront of his fence when medical records showed that he (Beyan) told doctors that he shot by himself.
“I think if this young man would have killed himself, the whole country would say it is the government that killed him. He lied about being shot,” Sudue says.
Sudue claimed a shell from a firearm was seen in Beyan’s vehicle, which confirmed medical records that he shot himself.
After being thoroughly quizzed about the situation, coupled with medical proof, Beyan couldn’t lie, Sudue said.
“He told us that he criminally and knowingly took the weapon from residence as far as 20 Street and then to Soul Clinic community to hide the weapon,” Sudue claimed.
However, he said the police are in possession of a weapon by Beyan as he undergoes investigation at the Police headquarters in Monrovia.
“We will prosecute him for illegal possession of firearm and raising false alarm to security apparatus.”
At the same time, Inspector General Sudue has disclosed that the LNP has increased its patrols in major streets and communities, and has begun vigorous search and inspection operations to combat crimes in the country.
He said the LNP will leave no stone unturned in ensuring that the country is stable and peaceful and that citizens are protected.
Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor disagrees with Liberia National Police Inspector General that opposition is responsible for reports of ritualistic killings
Published: September 29, 2021 By: Henry Karmo – Front Page Africa, Liberia
MONROVIA – Vice president Jewel Howard has joined the many voices of Liberians calling for an end to the mysterious killings of Liberians and wants those in authority of the security to take action that would end the many mysterious deaths that are linked to ritualistic killings.
In an interview with reporters, Liberia’s Vice President said, women in Liberia are feeling more insecure than ever before in the history of Liberia. She placed more emphasis on the mysterious deaths of women for ritualistic purposes.
“I like to call upon our security sector to please put in place a regime that will enable our people to remain safe. The situation involves instances where women’s private parts are being cutoff, stories of young people being taken in specific location where others allegedly were being used for ritualistic purposes are very alarming.”
The VP also expressed hopes that in this 21st century, it will be easy for security apparatus to discover and arrest people involved in such killings of Liberians for the purpose of ritualistic killings because these acts have far reaching negative implication for the peace and security of Liberia and the investment climate.
Madam Taylor: “As far as I know, Government’s responsibility is to provide the peace and security of its people, that is why we have the different security apparatus of our country. If this was just one case people will want to wait but it is alarming; every single morning there is a report of a dead body somewhere.
“In a country like Liberia, such a thing that is happening should not be happening, so I believe we should call on all of our security forces to do more.”
The VP also told reporters that complaints from the police and other security entities about the lack of logistic should not be an excuse, because that is a responsibility they have taken. “The police should be more vigilant if it requires bringing in the army, we should do that because it is alarming,” she said.
She also seems to have a different belief to that of many, especially those in government, who think the alarming rate of mysterious deaths is a strategy implored by the opposition to make the state ungovernable for the ruling CDC.
According to her, such portrayal of what is happening is hard to believe because nobody will want to kill innocent Liberians because they want to make Liberia ungovernable.
“If an opposition or politicians do that, it will be ungovernable for everyone. If we are the sitting government we must now do more to make sure that whatever is happening will be brought to an end. This is a planned act carried out by some group of people.”
Federation of Liberian Youth condemns series of secret & ritualistic killings
Published: September 29, 2021 By: Press Release – Front Page Africa, Liberia
MONROVIA – The Federation of Liberian Youth said it is troubling the alarming wave of insecurity currently existing in Liberia.
The group through its President Amos Williams said the terrifying decline in national security is worrisome and needs to be addressed.
Mr. Williams said the growing waves of recent ritualistic and series of secret killings have the propensity to undermine the current and uninterrupted peace which the general population has enjoyed for over fifteen years now.
As a means of addressing the issue, FLY has therefore called on the attention of President George Weah including the Ministry of Justice and the Liberian National Police (LNP) to promptly act in addressing decisively the current state of insecurity by providing safety and security to all citizens and foreign residents alike in the borders of Liberia.
Mr. Williams at the same time encouraged all citizens to be supportive and attentive in providing any important information which can be used by national security apparatus in accordance with the growing waves of insecurities in the country.
In a move to practically address the issue, FLY wants the Government to acknowledge the issue of insecurity in the Land and address it hands down.