Liberia constitutes another never ending story as far as ritual killings are concerned. The reported ritual murder case below is shocking but, unfortunately, has a strong ‘seen before’ character.
The killing of Worteh Koffa is another murder in the southeastern part of Liberia, notorious for its ritualistic murders. The article below elaborates on these cases including Liberia’s most notorious ritual murder case which led to the arrest and subsequent conviction and sentencing – ‘death by hanging’ – of seven convicted rituals murderers, among whom two so-called ‘big shots’, the Superintendent of Maryland County, James Daniel Andersen (the personal representative of then Present Tolbert in this part of the country) , and the representative of Maryland County in the House of Representatives, Allen Yancy. (webmaster FVDK)
A man in his late 20s, named Worteh Koffa, has been found dead “with body parts missing” in Grand Kru County.
The deceased, according to a 15-man coroner jury in Grand Kru County died as a result of ritualistic killing. The coroner jury reported that the late Worteh’s eyes, tongue, fingers and toenails, and other body parts were missing upon discovery of his body in early April 2022 on the beach in Grandcess City, Grand Kru County District #1.
Worteh’s death comes just a year after a 23-years old motorcyclist named Mordecail Nyemah for ritualistic purposes in Maryland County, which is a southeastern county like Grand Kru. The deceased was discovered dead with his right eye plugged, and right fingers cut off in Pleebo during the morning hours of March 25, 2021, and it triggered a wave of violent riot both in Pleebo and the Maryland County’s capital, Harper.
Suspect Moses Mlamah said in a video interview that he was sent by a man identified as Daniel Wesseh to get blood for reasons and was paid to do so. He added that he enlisted the help of two others to carry out the act. The issue about ritualistic killings in the southeast is not anything strange with Maryland County seeing a series of ritualistic murders that occurred around Harper, in the 1970s.
Between 1965 and 1977 over 100 murders occurred in Maryland County, many of which were considered ritualistic due to the mutilation and removal of body parts. During the 1970s, Liberians in Maryland County were constantly under the threat of ritual murders. Between November 1976 and July 1977, 14 people had disappeared in the county prompting Liberian president William Tolbert to fire Superintendent of Maryland County, James Daniel Anderson, who failed to report the missing people. Tolbert publicly declared “Anyone who kills deliberately: The law will kill that person.”
These murders went unreported and uninvestigated until the murder of a local fisherman and popular singer, Moses Tweh. Tweh was abducted on June 26, 1977. His body was discovered on July 4, 1977, heavily mutilated with his eyes, ears, nose, tongue and penis removed. Prior to the discovery of Tweh’s body, Wreh Taryonnoh, the girlfriend of Assistant Supervisor of Schools, Francis Nyepan, was allegedly heard by a group searching for Tweh saying that “if they would be so lucky to find him, only his bones they might see”. This sparked the arrest of 12 people, a majority of whom were government officials.
During the first Harper Trial, Joshua Brown and Teah Toby were released and later became state witnesses. The other ten defendants were found guilty and sentenced to public execution by hanging. Tagbedi Wisseh appealed his conviction and was pardoned by Tolbert before execution. Wonplu Boye and Koti Weah both died before execution, it was rumored their own family members poisoned them to avoid shame.
On 16 February 1979, the seven remaining people convicted of Moses Tweh’s murder were publicly hanged at dawn in Harper. The media dubbed them the “Harper Seven” The crimes back then were regarded as “Liberia’s most notorious ritual killing case” due to the number of murders, the involvement of high ranking government officials and their subsequent public executions.
Meanwhile, up to press time, the Liberian National Police Detachment in Grand Kru County is still tightlipped on the investigation of Worteh’s death.
Worteh’s mother has therefore called on the government to probe the mysterious death of her son as “her family remains peaceful and awaits the outcome of any investigation. His death has caused fear among youths in the county and there appears to be a self-imposed curfew among residents of the area, fearing for their own safety.
Meanwhile, Deputy Speaker and Acting Chairman of the Grand Kru County Legislative Cllr. J. Fonati Koffa, on has condemned the gruesome and ritualistic murder of Worteh Koffa and called on the Minister of Justice to put more resources into the investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators.
On his Facebook page, the Grand Kru County District #2 lawmaker noted that: “We condemn in the strongest terms the gruesome and ritualistic murder of young Worteh Koffa. I have placed a call to the Minister of Justice to put more resources in the investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators.”
Cllr. Koffa added: “The age-old practice of ritualistic killings, for whatever purpose, must end. I call on the peaceful citizens of Grandcess to remain calm and law-abiding and assist in the investigation. No young person should have his promising life taken away by nefarious and heartless creatures. I call for a swift and speedy investigation.”
Previous posts related to the murder of Mordecious Nyemah, who was the victim of a ritual murder on March 25, have been published on April 3, 5 and 22.
Last Saturday, May 15, Maryland County’s Superintendent, George A. Prowd, spoke memorable words at the funeral of the late Mordecious Nyemah. Prowd mentioned Maryland’s bad reputation as ‘Gboyo-business’ is concerned and more specifically he referred to one of his predecessors who was publicly hanged after being found guilty of a ritualistic murder. Superintendent James Anderson was one of seven convicts who were publicly executed at dawn in February 1979, a memorable event which made history as ‘The Hanging of the Harper Seven’. (NB Superintendent Prowd inadvertently called his condemned predecessor Allen Yancy. Yancy was one of the hanged Harper Seven, but was a member of the House of Representatives when he committed his atrocious crime.)
Superintendent Prowd lauded the police for acting swiftly and arresting the suspects of the killing of Mordecious Nyemah. He cautioned the people to remain law-abiding. It may be useful to recall that public protests over the ritualistic murders in the county led to rioting which even caused the government of President Weah to impose a curfew. (webmster FVDK).
Murdered Mordecious Nyemah finally interred
Published: May 18, 2021 By: The New Dawn, Liberia – By Patrick N. Mensah, Maryland County–Editing by Jonathan Browne
The remains of the late commercial motorcyclist Mordecious Nyemah, who was gruesomely murdered on 25th March 2021 in Maryland County have been laid to rest, two months after the killing that sparked violent protests in the county by angry citizens.The deceased was reportedly murdered by suspects Moses Mlarmah and others near Bassiken town between Gand Kru and Maryland. His remains were finally interred on Saturday, May 15, 2021.
The home-going ceremony for the late motorcyclist, also a student, was held at the Maranatha Heritage Assembly of God Church in Pleebo, Maryland County Electoral district#2. Sympathizers included county authorities, representatives of the business community, students and women groups, national security, religious community, Civil Society Organizations, traditional chiefs and elders, among others.
Maryland County Superintendent George A. Prowd applauded citizens for attending the burial of the late Mordecious Nyemah, whose murder he described as worrisome. He assured family of the deceased that justice will be accorded them for the murder of their son.
Superintendent Prowd said the Government of Liberia is committed to protecting lives of citizens and foreign residents, while condemning ritualistic killings across the country. According to him, there have been several death cases since he took office as superintendent, but the case of the late Mordecious Nyemah has drawn attention of both citizens and national government. Superintendent Prowd recalled that in the late 70’s, similar situation occurred in the county that involved former superintendent Allen Yancy and other high profile officials, who were tried, adjudged guilty and hanged.
“When you reflect your minds back to Maryland Gboyo history, you will get to know that most of those people, who were involved into ritualistic killings by then, were mostly government officials. I remember, there was a superintendent in Maryland who was caught for ritualistic killing and was hanged and because of this, many citizens look at us as suspects of these current ritualistic acts that are happening in this county”, Superintendent Prowd lamented. He expressed excitement that suspects have been arrested and placed behind bars, awaiting court trial in connection to the murder of the late Mordecial.
“We are too happy and thankful to God that one of the suspects, Moses, who was the first to be arrested, without medicine, without threats or torture, he’s started calling names of people who are involved into the death of Mordecial”, Prowd added. He continued that in as much the suspects are behind bars, there’s a strong case, and burial of the late Modecious doesn’t in anyway end the case.
The superintendent cautioned citizens to remain law-abiding and assist government in the ongoing hearing rather than staging protests that would disrupt the county and shut down economic activities. He county authorities, including the Maryland Legislative Caucus have received series of letters from parents and other concerned groups over the release of alleged rioters that are in prison in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County.
Prowd disclosed that those letters were sent to national government, and prayed that as soon as the case is being looked into and suspects are found guilty, it would be easy for President Weah to extended executive clemency. He urged parents of those suspects to remain peaceful as government is working out modality to transport at least three members of the bereaved family to Zwedru for the trial.
On April 5, 2021, police arrested and sent to the Zwedru Correction Palace scores of suspects, including Morris Senneh, President of the Pleebo Motorcyclists union, Thomas Kumah, president of Maryland County youth, Mamadou Diallo, Edward Toe, Sieh Gray, Edwin Lawal, Salu Ali, Lawrence Jarbee, and Wilfred Kuoh.
Also being held for the murder and subsequent rioting are Eugene Koppeh, George Nimely, John Davis, Patrick Wilson, Augustine Navy, Micheal Doblah, Sawo Bedel, Robert Wesseh, Fred Johnny, Peter Bestman, Moses Toe, Mashel Doloson, Thomas Kuma, Joseph Bannie, George Segbeh, Mark Freeman, Michael Tugbeh, Winston Smith, Christopher Dweh Prince Kouh, George Weah, John Collies, Chris Porka and Sham Beyslow.
They are accused of involving in multiple crimes during mass protests in demand of justice that led to the damage of government’s properties, including arson attacks on the home of Speaker Bhofal Chambers in Pleebo Sodoken district, Maryland County. The violence led President George Weah to impose a dusk to dawn curfew in the entire county, which subsequently calm the tension.
One of Liberia’s leading newspapers, the Daily Observer, today pays attention to the gruesome murder of Mordecial Nyemah and subsequent events: the protests of women in Pleebo, the vandalization of the Harper Prison Compound by protesters, the attack on the property of Bhopal Chambers, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the curfew imposed to quell the unrest. Most remarkable however is the elaborated overview of ritualistic murders in the country (without going into details of specific cases), in the aftermath of a visit of the Peace Advocates of the Maryland/Gbenelue Chapter of Dehkontee Artists Theatre, Inc. (DATI). The delegation visited the family of the late Mordecial Nyema on Monday, April 19, 2021 in Pleebo City, Maryland County.
Both the DATI peace advocates and the Daily Observer newspaper editors are to be commended for their frankness and their plea for the rule of law and to end the medieval practices which are human sacrifices. The following article gives a rare insight in the occurrence and background of ritualistic murders and human sacrifices in Liberia. It is highly recommended reading!
Notwithstanding the foregoing, a footnote seems warranted. In the Daily Observer article it is explicitly mentioned that in Liberia ritual killings are mostly if not only occurring in Maryland and Montserrado counties. This, however, is not in line with what has been reported elsewhere. Honesty commands me to say that this has been based on my own research and experience in Liberia.
Nonetheless I agree with the main conclusion and plea of the article which is presented below. Respect for human life is an essential human right. The rule of law is basic to a 21st country. A civilized nation and people respect human life (webmaster FVDK).
RIP Mordecial Nyemah!
Dire Need to Respect the Sanctity of Human Life in Liberia:
Peace Advocates Visit Family of Mordecial Nyemah in Pleebo
Published: April 22, 2021 By: Daily Observer, Liberia
Peace Advocates of the Maryland/Gbenelue Chapter of Dehkontee Artists Theatre, Inc. (DATI) visited the family of Mordecial Nyema on Monday, April 19th, 2021 in Pleebo City, Maryland County. The high-powered DATI delegation was led by its Maryland County Director Meshach Sieh Elliott. During the solemn ceremony, the youths of Dehkontee Artists Theatre’s Maryland Chapter expressed their deepest condolences to Ms. Mary Nyemah, the surrogate mother of slain youth and commercial motor cyclist Mordecial Neyma and his family, for their irreparable loss. Mordecial Nyemah was a twelfth-grade student of Pleebo High School.
DATI also presented a humble consolation package to Ms. Nyema and her family to help defray some of the funeral expenses for their son. During the ceremony, libation was poured to acknowledge the presence of the spirits of our forefathers so they would bless the gathering. Mr. Thomas Kuwait Nyemah expressed gratitude on behalf of the family. He stated that what DATI did to reach out to his family was heartwarming. He thanked Dr. Gbaba and the DATI team for a job well done. Ms. Mary Nemah, aunt of the deceased also thanked DATI for their general support.
What Really Happened in Maryland?
Recently, Mordecial Nyema was gruesomely murdered in Pleebo, Maryland County by twenty-eight-year-old suspect named Roland Appleton and three other individuals identified as Moses Malmah, Francis Clarke, and Daniel Wesseh—all youths. According to the April 9, 2021 edition of “The Bush Chicken” online magazine, Mordecial Nyemah was murdered along the Maryland-Grand Kru Highway in Gbolobo-Bessiken, Pleebo Sodoken Statutory District. As a result, concerned citizens, including mothers, youths, and students organized a peaceful protest and marched from Pleebo to Harper City to seek timely justice and redress from County authorities regarding the death of their slain son and colleague.
However, observers reported that the crowd turned angry when the Acting Superintendent informed peaceful protesters Mordecial Nyemah’s murder would be addressed during the August court term while the protesters had hoped their grievances would be addressed by carrying out a speedy investigation and trial. Consequently, angry protestors burned down and vandalized several private and public properties including but not limited to the home of Borfur Chambers, Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Republic of Liberia, the Harper Central Prison Compound, and vehicles, while expressing their frustrations for the continual ritualistic killings that occur in Maryland with impunity.
In response, the government of Liberia imposed a dusk to dawn curfew and arrested several individuals and youths, including students from Tubman University. They were incarcerated at the Zwedru Palace of Corrections. Those arrested have not been arraigned and/or no fixed court dates have been set for their trial. In addition, the Liberia National Police confirmed that the
The Sanctity of Human Life
Human life is very sacred. It cannot be manufactured in a scientific laboratory, neither does man have the power to create a human being, except Almighty God. Though man plays a role through sexual intercourse during the procreation process, yet, that process of itself is a divine plan which can only occur when a male sperm mates with a female egg. Therefore, to emphasize the essence of human life God included “Thou shall not kill” as part of his Ten Commandments he gave to the Children of Israel.
Furthermore, to make himself very clear regarding the issue about the sanctity of human life, God rescued Isaac’s when God tested Abraham and asked him to sacrifice his only child. When Abraham raised the dagger to sacrifice Isaac, God miraculously intervened and changed what would have been a human sacrifice to one with an unblemished lamb. God performed this miracle because he wanted to teach mankind that we do not need human sacrifice to please him and/or to get or retain big government jobs. Ever since then, it became customary and the acceptable norm of every civilized society to slaughter an animal if one desires to make a sacrifice, whether to appease the dead, or to seek greater fortune in life.
The slaughtering of human beings is a barbaric act. It dates to barbaric eras when there was no rule of law. During those dark eras, man naively believed that offering another human being as an ultimate sacrifice would bring them fame, wealth, and success in life. However, when man became civilized and began to conglomerate there was a need to put an end to ritualistic killing because there is no scientific proof that killing another man makes you to become successful in life. In most instances success in life derives from hard work, steadfastness, and a firm determination to make ends meet. Therefore, ritualist killing and/or snatching another man’s life away in the darkness of the night is wrong and should be discouraged at all levels of society.
Ritualistic Killing Is Not Kwa or Grebo Culture and Not Liberian Culture Either!
Ritualistic killing is not Kwa or Grebo culture or Liberian culture either. It is mainly prevalently carried out in two specific regions of Liberia—Maryland and Montserrado Counties. This does not mean that ritualistic killings do not occur in other parts of Liberia. Nevertheless, when it comes to the frequency with which ritualistic killings occur in Liberia, these two regions rank top on the list. Hence, in my view and observation ritualistic killing as a foreign cult or custom was imposed on the Liberian people through the introduction of foreign cults or secret ‘societies’ in Liberia. Below, I submit some reasons for my assertion and observation as a cultural researcher.
Throughout the narratives that were told by our Kwa ancestors I have not heard any mention made of people being brutally killed outside of tribal wars like the way ritualistic killings have taken place in Maryland and Montserrado Counties over the past century. Centuries back, the Krahns were referred to by their Grebo, Kru, Bassa brothers and sisters as “Pineyoun” (Rich People). As descendants of biological brothers, members of these Kwa ethnic groups travelled to one another’s countries (territories) frequently. The Krus, Grebos, Bassas came on pilgrimage to Mount Gedeh to see the Oracle at Putu and the Krahns or Pineyoun travelled by foot to go to Gbenelue (Cape Palmas) or Zinonqlee (Krus call it Siloklee) in Sinoe County, just to see the Atlantic Ocean or to purchase salt, tobacco and other foreign goods that were not produced in the hinterland of Liberia.
Due to their fraternal relationships, those days a Krahn man traveling to Maryland or Sinoe or Grand Kru or Bassa could stop for days or weeks in any family house along his journey trail without any questions asked. They would accommodate themselves when the hosts were on the farm and when the hosts arrived, they would warmly greet their guests and accommodate them until it was time for them to leave. Not once did I hear the old folks say anyone got ‘mysteriously missing’ or was ritualistically murdered while traveling through Grebo, Bassa, or Kru land. In addition, it is also safe to say that even in the Mel and Mande territories of Liberia (western, northern, central Liberia) people roamed about freely without any incidents of ritualistic killings in Nimba, Bong, Lofa, Bomi, Barpolu, Grand Cape Mount, except for Montserrado where such diabolical act is also rampant!
Therefore, individuals who are members of the “Gboyo Cult” in Maryland must stop tarnishing the reputation of the Grebo people. Ritualistic killings are not an inherent attribute of Grebo or Kwa culture. It is a custom derived from the imposition of a foreign cult that is mainly prevalent in Maryland and Montserrado Counties.
Conclusion of DATI Peace Advocates Visit with the Nyemah Family in Pleebo
During DATI Peace Advocates’ visit with Mordecial Nyemah’s family, Ms. Mary Neymah, aunt and surrogate mother of the deceased, bitterly wept for the loss of her son and nephew. She said Mordicial’s biological parents passed when he was a child and she reared him. She lamented that he would not be graduating from high school when his colleagues successfully complete their secondary education.
However, despite the pain she and her family are going through, the Nyemah family is appealing to the Liberian government to please release those that are imprisoned as a result of their involvement in the peaceful protest that turned violent. Ms. Nyeman was speaking on behalf of her family on whose behalf thousands of citizens (mothers, fathers, students) took to the streets to protest and to march many miles from Pleebo to Harper City to present their grievances to the authorities. She says the Nyemah family regrets that what was intended to be a peaceful march turned into vandalism. However, she is also appealing to His Excellency George Manning Weah, to please release Tubman University students who are incarcerated so they can return to school. Dehkontee Artists Theatre, Inc. also condemns the violent act perpetrated by individuals to derail the good intent of the peaceful march by the women of Pleebo and pray that our farsighted leader will ensure justice is served and that those who paid teenagers to perpetrate such violent ritualistic act will have their day in court.
Published by Dehkontee Artists Theatre, Inc. Public Relations Section