Editorial: ‘We Are Tired of Telling Our Stories’

Flashback: The recession of the memorial service commemorating the 32nd anniversary of the Lutheran  church massacre.

“We are tired telling our stories,” said young Cyrus Yormie, a survivor of the Lutheran Church Massacre who was just 5 years old at the time of the massacre of over 400 Liberians, mostly ethnic Nimbaians in the Lutheran Church on Tubman Boulevard Sinkor, on July 29, 1990.

Various accounts have been given of the massacre and those believed to have been perpetrators of that gruesome act. Some survivors told TRC investigators that they saw President Doe with other top officials, one of who was identified as Moses Thomas, then commander of the Special Anti-Terrorist Unit (SATU), all of who were reported to be physically present at the Lutheran Church on the night of the massacre.

Others however disagree with some of those details. One such individual, a Captain (name withheld) in the Special Security Service at the time has told this newspaper that at that time, President Doe was not really in charge of things, else, his personal assistant and Assistant Minister for Special Services, Johnny Kpor, an ethnic Nimbaian as well as Doris Toweh, acclaimed wife of Bai Gbala and mother of his children, would not have been killed.

The former Captain said at the time, the lives of non-Krahn soldiers and security personnel who remained loyal were always under threat. He cited the name of Nyonblu Tailey whose men he claims was directly responsible for the summary execution of many soldiers and civilians including senior citizen Georgia Coleman, Archie Greene, John Bright and others, all residents of Sinkor. 

Many other security officers and soldiers were summarily executed on suspicion of links to rebel forces. According to him, this caused a large number of security officers and soldiers to defect to the rebel INPFL forces of Prince Johnson.  Further, he said, by then Doe was a virtual prisoner hardly venturing away from his protected Executive Mansion enclave.

Initially, officials and supporters of the Doe government, especially the Krahn dominated AFL high command, had denied involvement, claiming that attacking rebel forces had sneaked behind their lines to commit the massacre. 

However a ranking officer of the AFL Major Boi Bloju Boi (deceased) when appearing before the TRC, admitted that the Lutheran Church was behind their lines of control. 

According to him their area of control at the time stretched from the James Spriggs Payne Airport to Benson Street including the Capitol Bypass area and Rock Spring Valley and it was under the command and control of Major Jackson E. Doe a very close relative of President Doe.

Doe who, according to informed sources was a member of the Death Squad, is said to have strongly resembled his cousin Samuel K. Doe. They sported similar hair styles and, according to the former security captain, he could have easily been mistaken for Doe. 

Whatever the case, no one has yet been brought to trial for the massacre. Although attempts were made in the United States, according to sources, to bring such charges against former SATU commander, Moses Thomas, he left the US, according to sources, and is now back in Liberia.

But the Lutheran Church massacre was just one of several massacres committed in Liberia during the course of the Liberian civil war for which there has been no accountability. 

The Barkedu, Kpolokpala, Sinje, Bloh Town, Wrobone Town and the Maher Bridge massacres, are but a few called to mind.

It is indeed sad that an entire generation of our children have little or no idea of the horrors occupants of the Lutheran Church experienced on that fateful night of July 29, 1990. 

Their burial ground by all accounts should more befittingly be a hallowed spot where Liberian children can be reminded of the horrors of the past. And the very idea that kids romp about the place daily, unaware that beneath their feet lie the remains of hundreds whose lives were brutally cut short by evil men while seeking refuge in a house of worship to God, is unsettling.

It is even sadder that since then no government, including that of NOBEL prize winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has tendered an apology of any kind to the Liberian people for having failed to respect, protect, uphold and defend the human rights of the Liberian people. The failure to have individuals account for their past actions has only served to further deepen the culture of impunity. 

Thus it was by no means surprising that members of the CDC-CoP launched a violent, brutal and bloody attack on a peaceful assembly of UL student protesters right across the street from the front entrance of the United States Embassy. 

The CDC-COP act was an intimidation intended to send a message to the political opposition that the armed might of CDC militants is prepared to go to the wire in order to stamp out any form of political opposition to the CDC as the country heads to the polls in 2023. 

It is as if the country is slowly being dragged into conflict once again by individuals who apparently have not been informed by the experience of history. As massacre survivor Cyrus Yormie aptly put it, they are tired of telling their stories.

As direct victims, they bear and carry the scars of the civil war and lasting but bitter memories in their hearts of the pain, suffering and sense of loss and abandonment they feel. 

They were ignored by the previous government led by an individual who played a key and leading role in organizing and unleashing what turned out to be a 14-year bloody civil war. Whatever hopes victims may have held or placed in the succeeding government of President George Weah for redress have apparently fizzled out. 

But lest we forget, those who forget the past are bound to repeat it with devastating consequences. Those that have ears to hear, let them hear this: They/We Are Tired of Telling Our Stories!