The Unlawful and Wrongful Killing of Unspecified Liberians

By John F. Josiah, Esq.


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
March 24, 2005


The extent, nature, and the protracted period of human rights violation in Liberia, make it difficult to identify where in the history of Liberia; the violation of human rights should gravely be considered than other period in the history of Liberia. It is equally difficult to identify any group of Liberians to whom we owe apologies for the violation of human rights and to whom we owe no apologies. As I read through my friend Mohammedu F. Jones’s article entitled “The Unlawful and Wrongful Killing of 13 Liberians”, The memory of that fateful day in Liberia began to regenerate the shame I personally was faced with. The national scars of the wound caused by that unfortunate event of our history on April 22,1980 was also deeply cut into by Mr. Jones’s Article. I personally began to bleed once more upon the completion of the article. No caring and constitutionally minded Liberian will ever take pride in that event. While I fully agreed with Mr. Jones that some apology must be made to the relatives and friends of the 13 Liberians executed on April 22, 1980, I am equally and deeply concerned about the number of heinous human rights violations against Liberians since the political founding of our nation that he does not mention in his article.

Certainly, Mr. Jones in his article recognized the loss of other lives on account of human rights abuses. However, by focusing solely on the 13 government officials and leaving out other Liberians, he wrongly attempted to exclude other human rights violations. He indicated that the April 22, 1980 execution was sanctioned by the military government of the People Redemption Council of Liberia, and therefore an act of government, therefore he suggests that Mr. Gyude Bryant in his capacity as Chairman of the Transitional government, declare the execution on April 22, 1980 unlawful and formally extend a national apology to the victims or family members of the victims.

What Mr. Jones, perhaps, does not know or what he knows but wishes not to factor in his argument is that most if not all of the killings in Liberia were done by acts of the government. To single out 13 government officials from the rest of all other victims of human rights abuses could be tantamount to a deliberate act of discrimination. Be it overt acts based on orders and instructions from the government, or inaction by the government for acts committed by agents of the government against Liberians, these were government sanctioned killing.

I will attempt to emulate Mr. Jones in his citation of number of provisions from both the International laws and Liberia’s own law by citing some areas of the international laws which Liberia was signatory to, and yet deliberately violated the very laws in the process of violating the rights of the Liberia People. This is necessary in order to refresh our memories as well as to give credence to my allegation that governments long before April 22, 1980, were prime perpetrators of human rights abuses, and hence the violation of human rights of unspecified number of Liberians far beyond 13, who were also cold bloodedly killed in the process.

Obviously the history of Liberia did not begin in 1980 for which we are to begin the discussions of human rights in Liberia from April 1980:

1. In 1936, President Edwin Barclay signed into law the compulsory portage law. This law was enacted to have certain Liberians to forcibly carry on their shoulders any government official wishing to travel at any distance and without compensation. This act of carrying government officials on human back and shoulders caused unspecified number of deaths. A law that was in complete contravention of the Liberian Constitution and basic human rights.

2. In 1955, President William V. S. Tubman ordered his security forces to invade the private home of S. David Coleman. Mr. Coleman and his son John Coleman were tortured and killed at the Barclay Training Center (BTC) by government Security Forces.

3. On August 31, 1961, the Portuguese government filed a complaint against the Liberian government at the International Labor Organization (ILO) for the violation of Article 26 of the Constitution of the International Labor Organization. Liberia signed and ratified the International Labor Organization on May 1, 1931. Article 26 of the International Labor Organization prohibits any member state to the ILO from using forced labor and trading in slavery.

4. On June 15, 1965, the Liberian government ordered the flogging if possible the shooting on sight any Firestone worker refusing to return to work. An unspecified number of people were reported killed. This came after many Liberians were forced out of their ancestral lands to make ways for Firestone Plantation. How many Liberians lost their lives in the process is still mystery but their descendants are still alive.

5. On April 14, 1979, well over one hundred people were reported killed from the ordered of the Ministry of Justice and carried out by the Police force resulting from the rice riot of 1979

6. In 1980, shortly after the Military coup that brought Sergeant Samuel K. Doe in Power, Representative A. B. Tolbert and former Police Director Varney Dempster were brutally murdered by agents of the People Redemption Council.

7. On August 22, 1984 Chairman Doe ordered the Military to move on the University of Liberia, and an unspecified number of Students were killed in the Process.

8. On November 12, 1985, an unspecified number of Liberian People were killed at the hands of the military and security forces of Liberia following the aborted coup of general Quiwonkpa.

9. On November 3, 1997, a month after President Taylor was elected President of Liberia, and no more a Rebel leader, a prominent opposition leader, Samuel Dokie and four of his relatives were arrested by government security forces and subsequently murdered.

10. On January 9, 1998, the government anti-robbery task force went to the home of Mr. Mannah Zekay, a Liberian with equal civil rights, was arrested and killed on the spot. His bullet-riddled body in the street was displayed in the streets.

11. On February 8, 1998 the same anti-robbery task force went to a displaced camp in Brewerville, outside Monrovia and arrested John Nimely, a Liberian and took him to the Police Station. The next morning John Nimely was killed and his body also displayed in the street. The only reason the police offered for his death was that Mr. Nimely was killed because “he was trying to escape.”

12. On June 28, 1998, another Liberian, Madam Nowai Flomo was brutally murdered in her residence by nine members of the government security forces.

13. On March 21, 2001, President Taylor ordered his Security Forces to move on the University of Liberia Campus. Just as President Doe did on August 22, 1984. Again, an unspecified number of students were reported killed.

14. On June 19, 2002 an ATU officer and Presidential Guard opened fire on a Tax Cab in Monrovia and instantly killed a six year old Liberian

15. On July 3, 2002 a police officer shot and killed Kennedy Kesselly, thought to be a robber. There was no investigation whatsoever.

16. In September 2002, Mr. Issac Gono, a driver attached to Mr. Charles Taylor Jr. was beaten and killed by ATU Security forces on the ordered of Mr. Charles Taylor jr. (CHUCKIE). The only reason for killing Mr. Issac Gono was for denting Mr. Taylor’s Vehicle by hitting a dog with the vehicle.

Well, Mr. Jones, here is the case before you.

I am sure all of these cases meet your standard for an apology to the victims and their relatives. While I do agree with you that some apology is needed for the death of innocent Liberians at the hands of government, I think the issue should be dealt with in a setting far greater than the confines of an interim leadership making a pronouncement. Liberians as a whole need to talk about these issues, who died, when and how and who killed whom so that we can, as a people, decide how we will apologize to whom, for what and how far back in our history. Bryant making apologies now would only be a masquerade, because he does not have a mandate from the people of Liberia to apologize to one group of people on behalf of the rest of the nation.

Liberia has lost many valuable sons and daughters throughout her history. People who acted under the disguise of government carried out many of those heinous actions. How we deal with that and move forward should be matter of national debate, not a photo-op for the transitional government. We should not be doing things for expediency sake. The new Liberia must be built on strong principles that take into account the value of every life.

It would unfair and perhaps a total disregard to the hundred of thousands of Liberians and other nationals who legally resided in our country and were killed mostly by apologizing to the 13 Liberians who were tied to the poles and executed. I know very well that my friend has no discriminatory intent when he published his article, but we must put things in the proper perspective when deciding on national issues of this magnitude.