There’s not much to add without risking repeating myself. Let me just briefly mention what I consider the triple motive of the perpetrator(s): first, to intimidate the bystander, the perceived enemy; secondly, to make clear that he, the actor, is the strongest, the conquerer, and thirdly, without doubt, there is a religious or superstitious drive, a belief in the supernatural powers of eating the heart of the enemy. Notably the latter motive makes it a ritualistic act, and murder, a despicable crime.
The 2009 report of Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) includes many examples of ritualistic acts committed during the back-to-back civil wars (1989-2003). For reasons only known to herself, President Sirleaf (2006-2018) never implemented the TRC recommendations including the prosecution of the rebel leaders responsible for war crimes and human rights violations, possibly because she was also recommended for a sanction because of her (admitted) support of the NPLF, the rebel organization which started the civil war in 1989. Also President Weah (2018 – present) decided not to start procedures establishing a war crimes court, backtracking on previous statements when still in opposition.
The result is impunity for the perpetrators. Injustice. An insult to the survivors and victims.
Liberians will go to the polls on October 10 to elect a president, vice president and 88 lawmakers. The incumbent president, George Weah, has shown his position when it comes to justice for the victims and survivors. His main challengers are a former Vice President under President Sirleaf, Joseph Boakai, from Lofa County, whose running mate is a political protégé of warlord-turned-senator Prince Johnson – yes, the rebel commander who in 1990 gave his men orders to torture and kill then President Samuel Doe – and Alexander Cummings, who has promised to establish a war crimes tribunal when elected into the highest office.
We’ll closely watch events in Liberia during the coming month(s). (FVDK)
Chopped up with an axe and a heart eaten out: some crimes never die
Published: September 13, 2023 By: Alain Werner – Civitas Maxima
Exactly 30 years ago, in the summer of 1993, a group of rebel soldiers sowed unheard-of terror in the town of Foya, in the small West African country of Liberia, then ravaged by civil war.
Here, 450 kilometers north of the capital Monrovia, a pious man respected by his community had the courage to denounce the rebel group that occupied the premises, ULIMO (United Liberation Movement of Democracy for Liberia). He did so to a humanitarian group, and told them that ULIMO was responsible for the looting of a hospital financed by humanitarian aid.
Once the foreigners had left, the pious man was taken to what was then used as an airstrip and his thorax was cut out by the rebels, his heart extracted and eaten in front of the population. “Try ULIMO, your heart” – which could be translated as “Defy ULIMO, we’ll take your heart” – was one of the slogans used to terrorize the population, a slogan that some civilians who survived that inferno still remember.
The most bloodthirsty of the ULIMO commanders, who opened the pious man’s chest with an axe and spread his killing spree to Foya, was known by the war nickname of “Ugly Boy”, despite his handsome features. The local population, who spoke a different dialect than the ULIMO soldiers, had nicknamed this commander differently among themselves, so as to be able to alert each other to his arrival without being understood by the rebels. They called him “Saah Chuey”, or “the man with the axe” in the Kissi language, as this commander was famous for chopping up civilians with his axe.
“Ugly Boy” was never tried for his ignominious deeds. Indeed, legend has it that he died by popular vindication, having been recognized in Guinea by refugees who had fled Liberia. However, if he were still alive today, “Ugly Boy” would still not have been tried in Liberia.
Indeed, in August we will be celebrating 20 years since the end of the wars in this country, and yet no one has been tried by a court in the country; the government and the United Nations having done nothing for the forgotten victims of Liberia. Despite the fact that a national Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommended in 2009 that the main players in the war should be brought to justice, and that at least 250,000 people lost their lives during these bloody conflicts between 1989 and 2003.
However, on Thursday June 1, 2023, the Federal Criminal Court of Appeal in Switzerland convicted a man, Alieu Kosiah, of participating in the axe murder of the Pious Man. Jurisdiction was given in our country because Mr. Kosiah had been resident in Lausanne since the late 1990s. The conviction came exactly 30 years after the events, and was handed down in Bellinzona, seat of the Federal Criminal Court, some 7,000 kilometers from the scene of the crimes, Foya.
Alieu Kosiah had already been convicted in June 2021 by the Criminal Court for multiple acts of war crimes, including having eaten a piece of the pious man’s heart in the company of “Ugly Boy”. At the time, however, he was found not guilty of the axe-murder, the first judges considering that he had not played an active role in this crime.
The appeal judges decided otherwise and sentenced Alieu Kosiah for complicity in the murder of the pious man, an act qualified as a war crime and a crime against humanity. During the reading of the verdict, the President of the Court, Olivier Thormann, explained that, according to the Court, Alieu Kosiah had handed the pious man over to “Ugly Boy” to be taken to the Foya airstrip, knowing full well what would happen next.
This appeal judgment marks Swiss legal history, as it is the very first conviction in our country for crimes against humanity. It now opens the way for prosecutions in Switzerland for such crimes, even if committed before 2011 and the entry into force of the new provisions of the penal code.
As a lawyer and Director of Civitas Maxima, since 2014 I have represented several Liberian victims in this case alongside Me Romain Wavre, including a friend of the pious man who was present at the scene and witnessed his ordeal, having himself been a victim of ULIMO crimes.
Our clients and other victims have shown exceptional resilience, dignity and courage. Most of them came to Switzerland three times to testify throughout the proceedings, and overcame the obstacles posed by the Ebola epidemic in 2014-2015 and the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020-2021 to finally obtain justice.
War crimes and crimes against humanity are unique in that they “never die”. Indeed, because they concern the international community as a whole, these offences are not extinguished by a statute of limitations after a certain number of years, as is the case for most ordinary crimes. Prosecutions for war crimes and crimes against humanity are thus theoretically possible as long as the person accused of committing them is alive and evidence exists, theoretically even if the victims are all dead. Just as the forgotten victims of Liberia obtained justice in Switzerland in 2023 for crimes committed so far away in 1993, victims of international crimes committed during current or recent armed conflicts must never lose hope. Even if we must do everything to ensure that they obtain justice before 2053 for the crimes they have suffered.
The article first appeared in French on Heidi News on the 16th of July, 2023.
On October 10 general and presidential elections will be held in Liberia. At least 20 candidates are vying for the presidency. The opposition is determined to make incumbent president George Weah, a famous soccer star turned politician, a one-term-president. The ruling CDC wants to stay in power. After all, elections in Liberia – and elsewhere on the African continent – is all about access to resources, ideologies and political vision hardly play any role.
Elections and ritualistic murders often go hand in hand in Liberia (also elsewhere on the continent). Reportedly there was a surge in ritual killings in this West African country in recent years. Recently, people in Montserrado County, the seat of the government and the country’s capital Monrovia, told President Weah that no ritual, human sacrifice or money can prevent his loss and that of the ruling CDC in the ensuing elections.
Of course, such a public outcry is no proof or indication of any real or suspected involvement of an ambitious politician, named or unnamed, or of the ruling coalition or the fragmented opposition in criminal acts such as ritual murders. However, the hidden message is noteworthy.
That’s why I consider it worthwhile to include it here. (webmaster FVDK)
No ritual & money can help CDC
Published: August 26, 2023 By: Lincoln G. Peters – The New Dawn, Liberia
Several residents of Montserrado County have told incumbent President George Manneh Weah that no amount of alleged human sacrifice, ritual, and money can prevent him and the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) from leaving office.
“We want to tell President Weah that no amount of human sacrifice, ritual, and money can help in this election,” potential voters said in Montsrrado County.
They were responding to President Weah’s urge for his supporters to consider the tragic motor accident that killed some of his supporters last week and then give him a resounding one-round victory this October.
But some Liberians in Montserrado have criticized Mr. Weah’s statement, describing it as completely heartless and worthless.
” We listen to the President telling his supporters to not allow the death of the Daughters of Weah to go in vain. President Weah urged them to use the death for a resounding one-round victory for him and CDC,” the citizens said.
“We are aware that he used the death of those people to remain in power. But let them be informed that it will not work because God is not sleeping,” they noted.
On Wednesday, 23 August 2023, President Weah and his party held a program to mourn the death of some members of the Daughters of Weah who were involved in an accident while en route to Gbarnga, Bong County for a political campaign.
During the mourning, President Weah urged supporters of the CDC not to allow the death of their partisans to go in vain.
Mr. Weah urged CDCians to ensure that the deaths of the Daughters of Weah be repaid with a resounding one-round victory.
“I want to urge every one of you here today, don’t allow the blood and death of those that died in the accident go in vain,” said Mr. Weah.
“We [want] you to ensure that this be repaid with a resounding one-round victory. We have to make sure that we pay for the death of those that died by giving me, CDC one-round victory, ” President Weah stated.
In response Thursday, 24 August 2023, one of those interviewed, Mr. Jeremiah Doe, a resident of Logan Town Community, said President Weah is daydreaming.
Mr. Doe said Liberians have resolved to democratically remove President Weah, claiming that no amount of human sacrifice, rituals, and money spent by President Weah and the entire CDC can help them to remain in power.
” We are aware that President Weah and the CDC sacrificed those girls. But what I want to say is that President Weah is daydreaming because he can never be elected again,” Mr. Doe alleged.
“This President has failed us and the only way to prevent this is to stop him from being re-elected,” he noted.
In October this year presidential and general elections will be held in Liberia, Africa oldest republic, created in 1847 by African Americans including freed slaves, free-born blacks and colored people in general. They commonly referred to themselves as Americo-Liberians and constituted an elite of less than 5% of the total population who, notwithstanding their minority status, controlled political life in the republic until 1980 when a brutal military coup ended Americo-Liberian rule over Liberia.
Ritualistic activities and murders in Liberia have a long history. Notably when elections are coming, there is a surge in reported cases of ritual killings. See my previous postings. Yet again, elections are due in October and again there are cases of ritual murder. This time in Bomi County, about 40 miles (60 kilometers) from the country’s capital Monrovia. According to former Bomi County senator, Sando Johnson, “As we approach elections, this act is always happening in those two districts. Suehn and Dewein districts are noted for these kinds of ritualistic killing.”
The police announced it had arrested six suspects, among them the uncle of the 2-year old boy who was ‘sacrificed’. A swift and commendable action, but who ordered the ritual killing? Very often, powerful people involved behind the scene manage to prevent further investigations and arrests. Will it be different this time?
Only time will tell but – very unfortunate – I have my own thoughts on future developments…. (webmaster FVDK)
Liberia: Police Launch Probe into the Grisly Murder of 2-Yr-Old Boy in Bomi; Six Arrested
MONROVIA – Police in Tubmanburg, Bomi County have arrested six persons in connection with the gruesome murder of a two-year-old child in Dewein District.
The victim identified as Saah Momo went missing during the afternoon hours of Monday, January 23.
When he was reported missing, residents of the town and other surroundings launched a manhunt search for him.
His remains were discovered in a Bamboo bush, with his stomach opened and parts extracted from his body, including one of his eyes.
Following the incident, the LNP arrested the six inspects, including the uncle of the victim identified as one Siafa Gray.
“Siafa Gray is the uncle of the victim; the victim is his sister’s son. He has been arrested as one of the prime suspects and they are currently in police custody in Bomi,” a source, who preferred not to be named stated.
Police Spokesman Moses Carter told FrontPage Africa via telephone that the suspects are being transferred to Monrovia and a news conference will be held on the incident today.
When news of the gruesome murder of little Saah Momo broke out in the county, fear gripped the residents and parents were panicking to also send their underage children to school in the county.
Normal working and commercial activities also commenced on a slow pace in the county for fear that the incident would stir up a violent protest.
Speaking in an interview with FrontPage Africa via telephone , former Bomi County Senator Sando Dazoe Johnson described the incident as “alarming, barbaric, and uncivilized.”
He challenged state security actors to leave no stone unturned in ensuring that justice prevails in the matter.
“For a two-year old child to be murdered in cold blood and body parts extracted it is painful and it should not be tolerated in our society. All of the perpetrators should be brought to book and when they are found guilty, they deserve a harsh punishment.”
Mr. Johnson observed that this is not the first time for a minor to be gruesomely murdered in the county.
According to him, similar incidents have consistently occurred in Dewein and Suehn Mecca districts in the county.
He linked the incident to alleged ritualistic killing.
“As we approach elections, this act is always happening in those two districts. Suehn and Dewein districts are noted for these kinds of ritualistic killing. Anytime we are approaching elections, these things will happen.”
Mr. Johnson maintained that the parents of the victims and other family members are the ones that are mostly affected as a result of the growing wave of ritualistic killings in the county.
“This is a ritualistic killing-when people died under this kind of mysterious circumstance and body parts are extracted.”
He claimed that the body parts extracted from the victims are most often used, “with an evil intent by wicked individuals and others for political and financial gains.”
Becoming a habit
“This is not the first or second time this has happened in Bomi County. It is becoming a habit in those two districts wherever there are elections around.”
Mr. Johnson pointed out that residents of the two districts in the county were already living in fear prior to the latest incident.
According to him, the ghastly murder of little Saah will further elevates fear among the residents.
“These acts are normally done by evil men and we pray to God that one day they will be exposed.”
Mr. Johnson, however, challenged authorities of the Liberia National Police (LNP) to be vigilant in bringing both the killers and their sponsors to book.
He called on the citizens to be mindful and take precautions during this electioneering period in Liberia.
“We want to call on our people to man their little children because, during these times, evil men are in the bushes trying to hunt down children for their personal gains. We will work along with the police to ensure that these criminal-minded individuals in high or low places are brought to book.”
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 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 I wrote earlier, 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 – though the recent spate of killings and mysterious disappearances dates from earlier. It started in 2020 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. See my December 2021 posting UN human rights expert urges Liberia to probe suspected ritual killings.
What can I add besides dismay and the ardent wish that these barbaric practices cease to exist? The following article demonstrates that the Liberian government continues to fail in providing protection to its citizens and maintaining the rule of law by arresting, prosecuting and sentencing the culprits of these heinous crimes (webmaster FVDK).
Living In Extreme Fear, Liberia A Country Where Citizens Are Unsafe
LIBERIA IS FAST gaining notoriety as a country of ritualists with stories of mysterious deaths daily reported in the traditional and social media.
THE LATEST IS THE GRUESOME murder of Princess Cooper who was discovered dead in a fence that is attached to the Fawaz building materials store at the ELWA Junction on March 24, 2022.
PRINCESS’ GRUESOME murder is only an addition to the harvest of deaths by ritualists in the last few weeks across Liberia. Recently, the lifeless body of a girl believed to be in her 30s was discovered in Caldwell with body parts extracted. To 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.
THE MURDER OF PRINCESS has sent shock waves to all as anybody’s child, relative or friend could be the next victim.
CONTRARY TO THE EXPECTATIONS of compatriots after the current administration came into office, a general feeling of insecurity and helplessness is on the increase in Liberia.
FROM ARMED ROBBERIES to ritual killings, Liberians are worried that they have been given the short end of the stick.
IN ALL OF THIS, the security forces appear to be helpless as well. The Police, especially charged with internal security virtually lie prostrate in the face of security challenges.
INDEED, LIBERIANS no longer have the inner confidence that the country can protect lives and property and provide a climate where prosperity could spring from.
ADDED TO THIS IS THE TENSION caused by the rising cost of living, inflation, failing businesses, the abysmal rate of exchange of Liberian dollars to the United States dollars, unemployment, and a feeling of despondency are challenges we also face.
PEOPLE ARE DISENCHANTED with the current government because of its failure to address the basic daily problems, which confront them. Uncertainty about the fate of the economy and how to face the future is also a major concern.
ENSURING GENERAL security is the main duty of government to the people. Any government, which fails to guarantee the safety of life and property is not worth its salt.
FURTHERMORE, after criminal acts have been carried out, the Police ought to be able to fish out the culprits. Our experience has been that criminals of some dastardly crimes are hardly ever caught. Intelligence gathering has failed. Crime prevention is abysmal. Crime detection appears worse.
COUNTLESS FAMILIES have been subjected to the trauma of mysterious deaths, and the time has come for the Liberia National Police to develop a counter-measure to this menace.
THE BARBARIC ACT of ritual killing is still present with us. Some depraved citizens still believe that offering a human being for sacrifice is a gateway to prosperity.
REPORTS OF DISAPPEARED children or ladies are rife. Sometimes, corpses are found with missing body parts. Unlike their counterparts in other climes who pursue mysterious murder cases to a logical conclusion the Liberian Police is not known to take this task seriously.
ONE OF THE OBLIGATIONS of power, which the people entrusted to the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) government is to create and sustain an atmosphere in the polity where individual and collective security is guaranteed.
THE PRESIDENT and his government, the Liberia National Police under the supervision of Col. Marvin Sackor should rise to the occasion and reassure all that the situation can be controlled.
PRESIDENT WEAH should go beyond lamentation and take drastic action and must dig into the root cause of this barbaric act and approach it from there.
WHAT WE ARE seeing are symptoms rather than cause and the president should make affirmative pronouncements and take concrete actions to instill confidence in the people.
Liberia: Citizens Plan To Protest Against Unsolved ”Murders” and Rising Insecurity On Monday
Liberia Justice Minister Frank Musa Dean
Published: March 27, 2022 By: African Star
Monrovia, Liberia – March 27, 2022
It now appears that unsolved murders and increasing crime in the Liberian capital over time are now triggering a citizens’ response in the form of a planned protest being organized under a trending social media hashtag #JusticeforPrincessCooper.
According to our Correspondent in Monrovia, the lifeless body of a young Liberian female name Princess Cooper was found late last week in the compound of a business in Monrovia and it was the latest unexplained death. On Friday the body of a man was found in the suburb of Johnsonville. No arrests have been made.
Police preliminary report dismissed “foul play” but say they are continuing their investigation in the death of the victim. There has, however, been a fierce backlash against the preliminary report of the police by citizens who say they are highly frustrated with the high level of crime, violence and insecurity in the county which is still recovering from back-to-back wars in the 1990s which killed an estimated 250,000 persons.
Organizers of the impending citizens protest who posted to social media listed the names of 19 individuals and incidents of alleged murder and disappearance and crime hotspots in the capital Monrovia and are urging residents of various communities in Monrovia to gather on Monday, March 28 for the peaceful protest to highlight the rising level of insecurity in the country. No once has been prosecuted.
Various Liberian social media groups have blown up in the last few days with postings expressing outrage at the lack of security for citizens.
A sophomore student at the state-run University of Liberia told African Star in an interview that while she appreciated the Government’s foreign policy position of urging Russia to provide humanitarian assistance and protection for the people of Ukraine, the Weah Administration was failing to provide safety for its own citizens. “The first duty of Government is the protection and welfare of its citizens,” the Liberia college student emphasized.
African Star has not been able to authenticate the identities of the March organizers although it appears to have been organized spontaneously by concerned citizens.
The unsolved alleged murders, ritualistic killings and disappearances are compounded by other issues including lack of reliable power and worsening sanitation problems which some international partners have cited to the embarrassment of the Government of Liberia.
A diplomatic source in Monrovia told African Star on Saturday that the Monrovia City Government and the City Mayor appear to have lost complete control of effectively managing Monrovia.
Recently the Inspector General Of Police Colonel Patrick Sudue tried to deflect responsibility for the dismal performance on public safety when he described the rising spate of murders and crime country as “fake stories being created by opposition politicians” to a give negative image of the country and damage government’s reputation.
Last January, the Police Inspector, however, complained that local logistical constraints, including lack of internet availability, were preventing Police from staying connected to Interpol.
It is unclear if Liberia’s Ministry of Justice and Police are aware of the peaceful protest on Monday and whether it will be allowed, since President George M. Weah is out of the country attending a business conference considered as Expo 2020 even though it is 2022. African Star Correspondence in Dubai said it is unclear how the business meeting is dubbed as Expo 2020 in Dubai instead of 2022. President Weah in a speech in Dubai referred to the business session of the conference as Expo 2020. Presidential Affairs Minister Nathaniel F. McGill in the office of the President is also out of the country in the United States.
Government security forces have violently cracked down on prior citizens’ peaceful protests.
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.
Introduction In previous posts I highlighted the articles published by two leading Liberian newspapers, Frontpage Africa and the Daily Observer. Also The New Dawn, another well-known Liberian newspaper, has been paying attention to the increasing unrest and insecurity in the country which resulted from the unexplained deaths, disappearances and murders. In the first of three articles presented below, one of Liberia’s main opposition politicians, the leader of the Alternative National Congress (ANC), Alexander Cummings, criticizes the Weah Administration for the lack of security in the country and its lack of action. The author of the second article wonders whether there exists a death squad in the country, given the series of unexplained deaths. The third and final article reports on an alleged murder attempt for ritualistic purposes as well as the discovery of a dead body in the streets of Monrovia causing panic and fear among the residents of the area.
Warning: some readers may find the following articles disturbing because of their graphic contents (webmaster FVDK).
Reports of rising wave of murders worry Cummings
Published: November 10, 2021 By: The New Dawn, Liberia
The Standard-bearer of the Alternative National Congress (ANC), Alexander B. Cummings says his heart is broken by the rising wave of murders and other acts of lawlessness overtaking the Liberian society.
At least three high profile individuals who have been discovered murdered in their homes in recent times-two are the sons of two former Presidents, Tubman and Tolbert.
Last week the Ministry of Justice ordered post mortem examinations on the remains of John Tubman, Maude Elliot, and William R. Tolbert, III – who were all discovered dead in their homes – as part of a full-scale investigation.
In a podcast over the weekend, why extending his deepest condolences to all the bereaved families, Cummings was irritated that under the George Weah administration, the Liberian Government has continued to fail the nation. Below is his full text.
Cummings: “Under this President, the Liberian Government continues to fail the nation. The security situation in the country is worsening daily. Communities are unsafe, streets are unsafe, and homes are unsafe. One does not require any statistics to know Monrovia, the nation’s Capital, is overcome by fear and rising crimes. And yet, the President’s response was to disdainfully tell Liberians to buy and install close circuit televisions (CCTV) in their homes.
As families are grieving the many mysterious deaths, unsolved gruesome murders and reports of ritualistic killings that are laying siege to the society, an uncaring President Weah is vacationing at his Jamaica Resort irresponsibly disconnected from the daily living and entrapping fears of Liberians. The President is offering no real solutions to the rising wave of crimes and murders, and some of the government’s explanations around the mysterious deaths and murders have left more questions than they have sought to answer.
Protecting lives is the most basic duty of any responsible government. The Liberian President is the constitutional Head of State and Head of Government. As such, this basic duty begins and ends with President George Weah and he has failed at it.
No government can prevent the commission of all crimes. But no government must be repeatedly unresponsive as this Liberian Government to the rising wave of crimes overtaking the society. Also, no President ought to be vacationing while Liberians are being murdered, including in their homes. No President ought to be partying while murderous crimes are sweeping communities leaving Liberians to live in terror and fear.
Every Liberian life is precious. Therefore, I urge all Liberians to be careful. Move about in pairs. Look out for each other in the communities. Check on each other. Setup and enable community watch teams where it does not already exist and help each other when you sense someone is in distress. We can no longer depend on the failed government. Therefore, we must look to depend on each other for mutual security.
Published: November 4, 2021 By: The New Dawn, Liberia
Liberia: The wave of suspicious killings in Monrovia and parts adjacent is both scary and very disappointing, particularly under a civilian administration where security or law and order should be paramount. However, it seems that ghastly killings in homes every other week or month have become common in our society with the authority at the highest level remaining conspicuously silent.
Our attention is drawn to the suspicious death of three high-profile personalities, two of them, officials of government and a highly established private citizen in just over a month.
On Tuesday, November 2, 2021, the Government of Liberia announced the death of Liberia’s Peace Ambassador Rev. William R. Tolbert, III, youngest son of slain President Dr. William R. Tolbert, Jr. According to the Ministry of Information, Rev. Tolbert was discovered dead at his residence in Monrovia on Sunday, October 31, in what the Liberia National Police described as a suspected homicide. The same day, female officer Maude Elliott of the Liberia Immigration Service (LIS) said to be in her 50s, was found brutally murdered at home in Brewerville, outside Monrovia.
Earlier, in September this year, specifically September 22, 76-year-old John Hilary Tubman, a son of another former President, William V.S. Tubman, was reportedly found dead lying face down in a pool of blood with deep cuts to his neck and forehead with a pillow placed over his head at his residence in Fiamah community, Monrovia.
Interestingly, these personalities were alone in their respective homes when they were brutally killed. These are nothing else, but targeted murders that raise a concern about something sinister being perpetrated, and Police investigations should be able to establish.
There were other mysterious deaths in and around the city prior to these three specific cases listed above. And from the trend of events, we can deduce that there is a pattern being unleashed by a probable death squad that is roaming and seeking its next target.
The killings bear similar wounds that were inflicted in specific parts of the body, indicating there is a hired killer or a group of hired killers involved. Who are they working for is yet to be established but their targets may signal something.
Are we returning to the days of the Charles Julu death squad under slain President Samuel Kanyon Doe? God forbid! But the writings on the wall spell bad omen for our beloved country.
Sadly however, Civil Society, religious leaders and institutions including men and women of moral conscience in our society are silent about the unfolding development. Today, the late John Hilary Tubman, Officer Maude Elliott and Rev. William R. Tolbert, III, are the latest victims of this creeping evil in our country. We don’t who’s next.
Society should speak out now before it becomes too late. It is citizens’ alienable right guaranteed by our Constitution to peacefully assemble, protest and petition their representatives against anything that threatens their peace and happiness. If the current killings must stop, Liberians should rise up now!
Published: September 14, 2021 By: Lincoln G. Peters – The New Dawn, Liberia
Fear has gripped residents in Monrovia after a woman was discovered dead on 17th Street, Sinkor, a suburb of the Liberian capital early Tuesday morning, 14 September 2021, days after another lady claimed to have survived an attempt by her kidnappers to slaughter her for ritualistic purposes.
Residents of the 17th Street, Sinkor community woke up to the horrible news of the discovery of an unidentified woman on the beachside of the community.
Some residents who gathered at the scene have told reporters that the lady was unknown in the community, saying they have never been in the area prior to her death.
They narrated that the deceased appeared to have been sexually harassed and killed in another community by the alleged perpetrators before bringing her corpse to Sinkor and dumping it on the beachside. There were bruises on the lady’s lifeless body and blood was pouring out of it as well.
But James Pewe, a resident of the community, believed that the lack of police patrol in the area was responsible for the lady’s death.
He also said residents of the community are not standing up to take action in helping to protect the community.
Blama Kenneh, a businessman in the area said the young lady’s corpse was the second to have been discovered after a young mad person was also discovered in the nearby vicinity in recent months.
However the spokesman of the Liberia National Police (LNP), Moses Carter said the lady found dead was mentally ill.
The police spokesman told reporters that the deceased was sexually tempered with, and quoted family sources as saying that the lady left her home last week prior to the incident. He noted that police are investigating circumstances leading to her death.
Items found on the scene belonging to the lady included an empty bag, long sticks, and other lady materials.
The social unrest in Liberia continues. Reports of mysterious murders, unexplained disappearances and ritualistic activities continue unabated. Recently, I’ve reported multiple times on this site on the daily fear of ordinary Liberian citizens following the discovery of bodies ‘with some vital parts missing’ – an obvious reference to ritualistic activities – and after the discovery of victims of some of the gruesome murders which shocked Monrovia’s residents. See my posts of September 30, October 1, October 4, October 5, October 7, October 9, October 22 and October 23.
In the article below Joe Teh reflects on the possible causes of the current wave of mystery murders, disappearances and ritual killings which terrorizes Liberians. Interestingly, the first possible explanation he gives focuses on the general and presidential elections slated for 2023. This is not surprising. Liberia has a bad reputation in this respect. Secondly, he mentions Liberia’s open borders and the country’s fragile if not outright failing security system as another possible cause. In this respect, it is illustrative that the National Police Director, Patrick Sudue, has been denying that ritualistic murders are being committed in Liberia – in spite of the overwhelming evidence.
So far, President Weah has remained silent on this sensitive subject. The reasons for his silence are unknown but this only causes the persistence and spread of rumors and speculations. This is not how to rule a country. The government must act.
This is also the plea worded by Joe Teh in the article below. His article is recommended reading (webmaster FVDK).
Police Must Step Up To Stop the Wave of Killings and Disappearances in Liberia
Published: November 9, 2021 By: Guest contributor Joe Teh – Daily Observer, Liberia
For those who are quite older as I’m, I presume memories of sudden disappearances of people and secret killings have been flashing across the psyche of Monrovia residents in the past several weeks or months. The series of secret killings allegedly going on in and around the city are scenes very hard to process.
For impoverished people for whom there is no public policy response to address their poverty and other social woes, living from day to day, going out and hustling to survive is marked by fear and terror. Yet, the ongoing mysterious disappearances of some residents in the city and the unsolved murders in the communities are a brutal reminder of the “boyo” era in the southeastern region of Liberia, especially Maryland County in the 1960s and ‘70s.
In those days, individuals seeking higher positions of influence in government, or wanting to maintain power, were alleged to have paid middlemen to kidnap and murder people for ritualistic purposes. Vital parts and organs were extracted from victims to satisfy “juju” or voodoo doctors’ requirements for a “powerful” desirous outcome.
The wave of ritualistic killings inflicted terror on the people who, for most part, must walk distances by foot to their farms or villages. You never know when a car will stop by you in a quiet alley or highway, especially when you are a lone traveler or two. “Heart men”, as the heartless killers were paradoxically called, would either offer you a ride or simply jump on you and subdue you to whisk you away to where they can murder you and take your heart and other organs.
The local and central governments remained silent and paid deaf ears to the horrific pains and despair impacting the general population. The simple fact is that some of the key government officials were instigators and participants in such barbaric behavior. They had personal connections in high places, which made it impossible for them to be exposed to the public. Those were the heydays of the now decadent True Whig Party.
And the lesson from history is the biblical precept: Make sure your sin will find you out. And like we say in Liberia, “99 days for rogue, one day for master.”
So came the time when heart men could not get protection from high places. The killing of a poor fisherman—Moses Tweh–in Harper, Maryland, exposed the likes of James D. Anderson, Superintendent of Maryland; Allen Yancy, member of the House of Representatives from Maryland County and son of disgraced Vice President Allen Yancy; Moses Seton, Wleh Taryonnoh and all other middlemen involved in the disappearance and murder of Moses Tweh. After they were tried and found guilty, they were put to death by hanging.
At the end of the 1980s, disappearances again resurfaced. This time, the victims were professional men. Each victim murdered was suspected of being either a political opponent of the government or perceived to be a supporter of opposition. No ritual purpose was suspected here.
Fast forward to the war and beyond. People were killed either because of their ethnicity or because they had been government employees.
During the time of the Interim Government of National Unity (IGNU), rebels’ killing of civilians and dissenting fighters became common in the streets and neighborhoods of IGNU controlled areas.
The police, under the command of Brownie Samukai, set up a special unit called Rapid Response UNIT. This was an elite unit which helped crack down criminals and stopped the wave of killings and burglaries in the town.
Few other mysterious deaths plagued the nation during the Ellen Johnson and the current George Weah administrations. The suspicious deaths of Michael Allison and Harry Greaves during the Ellen era as well as those of the four auditors from the Liberia Revenue Authority stand out. Why and how those well-meaning compatriots died remain mindboggling. Their killers have not been identified, or are efforts actually being made to apprehend the perpetrators of those dastardly acts?
But the trauma of such murders lives in the minds of the public. Added to that are the sightings of corpses in different communities in and around Monrovia in recent weeks with parts allegedly missing. A girl peddling a small market was found with feet and hands tied in an unfinished building in Monrovia. Her mouth also choked with clothes. Another man allegedly said he escaped from his captors and that he witnessed the murder of a boy who was in captivity with him.
To the contrary, the senior brass of the Liberia National Police have characteristically downplayed these reports and blamed the opposition political parties of instilling fears in the public to besmear the image of the government.
Really? It’s scary. If nothing else, the police authority’s response is further undermining the peoples’ trust in the security apparatus for protection. It is a flagrant disregard for history.
The police further said the corpses found around the city were dumped by relatives who could not afford to bury their dead family members. Isn’t that an insane assertion? The police’s continuous denial of ritual killings may encourage more deaths, because those murderous knuckleheads might perceive such irrational denials as a license to further kill. It may only exacerbate public panic as to where their country is headed.
There are two interesting facts why ritual killing is possible currently in Liberia. The first is the looming elections in 2023. Government positions are the most lucrative in terms of pay and perks, both official and unofficial. Most offices, without initiating programs in their sectors, bring zero balance forward at the end of the fiscal year. What have they done? There is no accountability.
The second is the unrestricted borders and weak security system. You can pass with anything, good or bad at the ports of entry/exit without problem. Just have your bribes in U.S. dollars ready and then literally anything is possible. With demand for human parts such as kidneys, surging in different parts of the world, including some neighboring countries, human parts marketers could be paying people to kidnap, kill and harvest parts for the buyers.
Like the man who escaped from his kidnappers at night, he said he overheard captors receiving US$12,000 as pay from the person who ordered them to seek and kill humans for their parts, like buying old, scrapped materials.
The third simply makes no sense. For example, why would people kill an immigration officer? Why would a man who is peacefully living pursuing happiness and serving God be murder; such as William R. Tolbert,III, son of assassinated President of Liberia? What has the son of former Liberian President Tubman be killed in cold blood? And the government is silent.
Our security system is fragile. Anything is possible.
This is why the police need to step up to investigate every piece of information about missing person and suspicious death. To merely brush aside reports of mysterious deaths does not help to boost confidence in the integrity of the security sector. Its net effect is to drive potential investors away. People planning to attend the bi-centennial celebrations in Monrovia, will also be scared away by these sad events.
In times like these, as in the late seventies, police need to act on every lead to find perpetrators of ritual killing in order to stamp out this evil act, so that people are safe to live in peace and go about their normal business. On the contrary, Police Director Patrick Sudue, sitting stone-faced in denial and then threatening a few law-abiding citizens, who are currently mustering the courage to divulge pieces of information about such heinous crimes, instead of encouraging people to convey more tips to the police, reeks of the obnoxious ineptitude and do-nothing syndrome that are spiraling Liberia into developmental doldrums.
Joe Teh, author of this article is Chief Content Officer of a U.S.-based online Magazine “lib-variety.org. He was also former News editor of the New Democrat, and Chief News editor of Star radio up to its closure by the Charles Taylor government on March 15, 2001. He now lives in Springfield, Mass. Joe Teh, can be reached at email@example.com.