Liberia: Pres. Weah “Concerned Over Mysterious Deaths”

 President George Weah.

... Says the information Minister who then disclosed that the President assures Liberians of the government’s commitment to reaching the end of these mysterious deaths.

President George Weah is said to be “very much concerned” about the manner in which Princess Cooper and Melvin Togba died, as it marked the return of the recurring nightmare that continues to bedevil his administration.

The lifeless body of Ms. Cooper was found face-down in a fence behind the FAWAZ Building Construction Company at the ELWA Junction, Paynesville City in a pool of blood that had oozed from her mouth and nose, according to the Liberia National Police. Ms. Cooper, 25, was a resident of the Tweh Farm, Bushrod Island Community. Togba, 36, who lived in Jallah Town, according to the police, was observed lying on his bed with no stab wound or laceration on his body, and there was no breakage into his room.

According to the Minister of Information, Ledgerhood Rennie, the President is more than concerned about the deaths of the two peaceful Liberians and had asked the police to not just investigate but to bring the perpetrators to book.

“What concerns us is the mysterious deaths of our citizens and the President is very much concerned,” Min. Rennie said upon his arrival from the Expo 2020 Dubai, along with the President on March 28. “As a government, the death of any citizen is not taken lightly and the government is committed to ensuring that this matter will be investigated to the fullest.

“The good news is, the Ministry of Justice has commissioned an autopsy to determine the cause of the deaths. The government is doing everything possible to investigate these matters to ensure that family members know exactly what happened to their loved ones," the Minister said.

Expo 2020 was an event that provided opportunities for countries to showcase their unique potential through displays of their cultural heritage, innovation, and business opportunities and was held under the theme, “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future."

In a live video a week ago, the spokesman of the Liberia National Police, Moses Carter, disclosed that preliminary investigations into the mysterious death of Princess Cooper show no foul play. He added that the physical examination conducted established no laceration and bruises on Ms. Cooper’s body. Carter told a news conference that a portion of the fence in which the corpse was found is currently under serious police surveillance, but the investigation so far shows no foul or cause of suspicion.

But after much public outcry, especially against the police’s initial preliminary investigation, the Ministry of Justice has moved, in a bid to calm tension and assure the public that the investigation will be credible, regardless of Carter’s remarks.

Carter later clarified that his statements do not mean the case is closed, instead, it takes the investigation very seriously and will explore every means possible to investigate the circumstances of the death of the late Princess Cooper and Togba. “Carter intimated that, as of yet, no cause of death has been established and that the Coroner's inquest conducted revealed no laceration (cut) or bruises on the body of the deceased, contrary to reports that the body of the late Cooper was bruised and lacerated.

Ms. Cooper, according to the police, died at the John F. Kennedy Medical Center, on March 24, after she had been rushed there by security officers responding to an emergency call in the Fawaz fence.

 The deaths of Princess Cooper and Melvin Togba are just two of a series of mysterious deaths that have bedeviled the administration of President Weah and with some, seeking the assistance of the United States administration to probe the mysterious deaths of at least three government workers in eight days. 

High-profile mysterious deaths include Emmanuel Nyeswua, the Director-General of Liberia's Internal Audit Agency; Albert Peters and Gifty Lamas—with investigation results leaving the most room to answer. Nyeswwa as head of the Internal Audit Agency. His work involves scrutinizing government spending, while Peters and Lamas worked for Liberia Revenue Authority. The latter two were found slumped over, dead in a car parked on a street in the city.

Nyeswa was found dead in his compound on 10 October, around the 72nd community outside Monrovia after he allegedly fell from the first floor of his house that time,  he had just completed a financial audit of nearly all government agencies, including those which were allocated Covid-19 funding.

In most cases, the Weah administration has struggled to bring the perpetrators to justice and with the serious challenge facing the police, particularly in the forensic department, the situation has become difficult for the police.

Min. Rennie has meanwhile slammed Liberians who he claims are using the two deaths-- unfortunate situations to gain political relevance.  The Minister added that everywhere in the world people die mysteriously, even in countries that have all of the resources and sophistication, so he sees no reason why people will politicize it.

“We saw some statements made by political actors and it seems as though the dower of these mysterious deaths in the government. We think it’s unfair to the families,” Rennie cautions political actors.  “When these things happen, the families are hurt and they need time to go through their bereavements. We should not use these kinds of events to gain political relevance because we think it will play on the sympathy of Liberians.”

“In Liberia, we are on record for solving some of these problems and are very open to investigating and getting to the bottom of it. So people should not use these kinds of issues to gain political recognition. They should stop, when one Liberian dies mysteriously, it hurts all of us as Liberians. We should leave the politics out of it,” the Minister said.  

Minister Rennie slamming is being directed at the Alternative National Congress of Alexander Cummings who joined many other Liberians, warning that “the frequency of mysterious deaths, unsolved murders, ritualistic killings and disappearances which have characterized the nearly five-year rule of the CDC-led government under President George Weah, is alarming, worrisome, and frightening.

The ANC further said that the many unsolved deaths have increased fear, insecurity, and heightened panic amongst the general citizenry.

“No responsible government would allow its people to live in a state of fear and rising crimes. President Weah's administration's actions and inactions have shown that they are irresponsible, and they do not care about the Liberian people,” the ANC release added. “The mysterious deaths of Princess Cooper, 25, and Melvin Togba, 36, both of which occurred on March 24, 2022, have joined the long list of unsolved cases over the last few years. Citizens do die in every country. Murders do occur. But governments have a sacred duty to solve it — to catch the murders and punish them.”

Also, joining the fray is, the faction of the Liberty Party loyal to Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence of Grand Bassa County has also said that they are reminded of several other cases of murders counting up to 20, inclusive of four auditors, since the inception of this government. “All promises of investigation to bring the culprits to book, have all hit the rock. To say the least, these incidences and their poor management, are abysmally an indictment on the image of our country, and certainly a disincentive for the building of investors’ confidence,” the Nyonblee Liberty Party said in a statement signed by its secretary-general, Jacob J. Smith.

 It added: “The Police and other national security institutions must therefore realize that a national security philosophy, rather than a narrow inclination to protect individuals over the state, must serve as our guide in the exercise of our respective national duties.” The LP said the deaths and their poor management are abysmally an indictment of the image of our country, and certainly a disincentive for the building of investors’ confidence.