-In Liberia

By: Christine B. Sajery

A cross-section of Survivors from the Massacre Kpolokpala-Bong County, this town, along with several others in rural Liberia, is still scarred from a 1994 massacre that claimed the lives of over 600 innocent people.

The locals welcomed the War and Economic Crimes Court and see it as a blessing in their lengthy search for redress for the atrocities committed against them during the war.

“The War and Economic Crimes court should not be seen as showy, but rather executed to enable perpetrators to give account of the hideous crimes they committed against humanity,” Michael Biddle.

Biddle is an investigative journalist and a resident of GbarngaCity who also survived the Massacre. In 1998, he was privileged to join other human rights organizations in Kpolokplala, Jorqulleh district, Bong County to conduct a fact-finding of the massacre in that town.

The Liberian Peace Council (LPC), a rebel organization led by Geroge Bolay, a former Grand Gedeh representative, is said to have attacked the town in September 1994, killing over 600 residents and wounding a large number of people who had sought shelter in the town, during the height of the civil war. Nearly three decades later, Liberia President Joseph N.Boakaimustered the political will to set up the court through an executive order to bring relief to many Liberians who have the curve for the court to seek justice for atrocities committed against their families.  

“Psychologically, these people have been and are going through a lot, and can respond to situations differently considering what they experienced during the civil war” Biddle added.

Biddle believes justice should not be swept under the carpet, those that are involved with committing these crimes against humanity and the international law should be called to justice to be able to account for their actions. He said it is not in the range of citizens to decide as to whether a perpetrator should be investigated or set free.

Biddle further went on to say, that it is not the right of citizens or any community to give freedom or forgive people who have committed hideous crimes. Mr. Biddle said it is incumbent on national leaders to ensure that accountability is considered from the period the war started in Liberia.

Biddle is not the only local who believes that the court’s establishment promotes justice and reconciliation. During this atrocity, Korto Kerkulah, who was in her late 60s, lost every member of her family. She now endures daily agony from her regrets as she fights for justice.

“I lost my husband and four sons that day. She said in a teary mood “Now I have no one to look after me in my old age. I have to beg people to survive.” Ma Korto averred how life has not been easy since she lost her family during the massacre decrying the lack of basic social services.

Rev. John Kennedy who witnessed the entire Massacre explains to FeJAL (Sitting on the memorial grave) Rev. John Kenndyfurther elaborated on the physiological trauma he faced alongside the community as a result of the massacre over the decades.

As a survivor of the Massacre, he has managed to live with the wounds all through his life and has now concluded forgiving the perpetrators. Speaking to a team of female reporters, Mr. Kenndy said their forgiveness comes as a result of fear.

He said they see The War and Economic Crimes Court as a means of opening old wounds. The prelate wants humanitarians, the United Nations and other organizations to help the Government achieve its promise to establish the Court to bring an end to impunity.

Rev. Kennedy mentioned that ever since the massacre; the town has never been the same. They live every day with the scar of the horrible seen of that day. Most importantly, the town remains in ruin as absolutely nothing is working for the generation after one another. “A town mostly affected by war and still sees the pitiful condition of the people and no hope for development is like people living dead.”

The locals of Kpolokpala recall a time before the war when the community thrived in terms of agriculture. Neighboring counties, including those from Grand Bassa, Lofa, and Nimbaused to visit for agriculture purposes. The citizens want civil servant actors, journalists, and the International Community not to relent in pursuing justice for the victims of the civil war in Liberia especially those who were affected by the massacre.

This story was produced under the Female Journalists Association of Liberia (FeJAL) Women in Newsroom Leadership program. Funding was provided by USAID through Internews, as part of Year III of its Media Activity Program. The funder did not influence the contents of this story.

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