Grand Gedeh Association Welcomes Release of Prisoners

The Perspective
Chicago, Illinois

March 15, 2002

Editor's Note: Grand Gedeans have endured sufferings, despised, hounded, massacred and have suffered ethnic cleansing at the hands of Taylor's rebels, National Patriot Front of Liberia, and his current "democratically" elected government. They have unfairly carried the burden of collective guilt because of their ethnic (Krahn) affiliation with dictator Samuel Kenyon Doe, a former Head of State of Liberia. On Sept 18, 1998, a group of heavily armed men commanded by Charles Taylor’s son, Chuckie Taylor, raided Camp Johnson Road, killing hundreds of innocent people including women, children and the elderly. The effort was geared towards slaughtering former warlord Roosevelt Johnson and prominent members of the Krahn ethnic group. The government initially said that the raid was intended to evict people who were illegally occupying private properties on Camp Johnson Road (government later changed its story). Roosevelt Johnson and few of his men sought refuge at the American Embassy. Two of his supporters were killed at the U.S. embassy's gate. Though hundreds of people were massacred, the government claimed only fifty-two people died. Following the raid, a host of Grand Gedeans were arrested, charged and imprisoned. Three of the prisoners were released last July, and the remaining Grand Gedeh Citizens were released from prison on Tuesday, March 12. Below is the statement issued by the Grand Gedeh Association in the Americas in reaction to the release of the prisoners:

On Tuesday, March 12, 2002, the Grand Gedeh Association in the Americas learned, with delight, that the government of Liberia released from further detention the remaining Grand Gedeans who were imprisoned following the 1998 Camp Johnson Road incident. As a result of that incident, more than 300 Krahn women and children were killed by government security. Early last year, the government released from further detention three other Grand Gedeans who were also imprisoned as a result of the Camp Johnson Road incident.

The Grand Gedeh Association in the Americas, Inc. welcomes this recent act of the Government of Liberia and acknowledges it as an important development that has the potential to promote genuine reconciliation. We have always held the view that the release of all political prisoners was indispensable to genuine reconciliation and peace-building, in a country afflicted by deep wounds created by more than ten years of a brutal, senseless war. This view is shared by many other Liberians and the entire international community, as evidenced by the recent statement by the US Embassy in Monrovia and the unrelenting calls by student groups and civil society, among others. By taking this recent decision to release all political prisoners, especially this coming on the eve of the Abuja reconciliation conference, we believe that the Government of Liberia is beginning to create a positive environment for a serious dialogue about the future of our country.

In our earlier statement welcoming the release of Hon. Bai Gbala, Counselor David Gbala and Senator James Chelley, the three Grand Gedeans who were released early 2001, we encouraged the Liberian Government to seize the opportunity presented then to boldly face up to the many issues that stood in the way of genuine peace. Unfortunately, that momentum was not seized. This recent decision to release all political prisoners, which in our view is long overdue, presents yet another opportunity for healing and restoring our country to its rightful place among the civilized nations of the world.

President Taylor has indicated that releasing the political prisoners was a demonstration of his commitment to the reconciliation process, and we welcome this spirit. We are now calling on the President to comprehensively deal with the other issues that still stand in the way of a serious dialogue about the future of our country. Restructuring the security forces, as called-for by the Abuja Accord, reconstituting the Elections Commission, restoring Star Radio’s license to broadcast, ensuring the freedom of the press, including the freedom to publish newspapers and other materials at independent printing facilities, and ending the culture of impunity are clearly issues that stand out as impediments to a serious national dialogue.

As we celebrate along with Professor Gaye Breeze and the other Grand Gedeans whose freedoms have been restored, we do so with cautious optimism, prayerfully hoping that their release would be a milestone in the quest for lasting peace and healing in Liberia.

We thank the international community, particularly the United States of America and the European Union, the various Liberian organizations, both here in these United States and back home in Liberia, students of the University of Liberia, and all other individuals and institutions whose actions contributed to the release of our countrymen.

Signed: Jackson N. Wonde

General Secretary

Approved: William G. Nyanue
National President

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