Kpolokpala, a village of over 500 residents in Kokoya District, Bong County, is one area that was gravely affected during the Liberian civil war. Residents who experienced the 1994 massacre allegedly committed by the Liberia Peace Council (LPC), led by then warlord and now Grand Gedeh County Representative, George Boley, in this village, may only forget the psychosocial agony through the power of death.
“Many people were slaughtered in this village, but the skulls we counted and put in this mass grave are 800,” said an elder.
In this village, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) recorded one of the worst massacres committed during the Liberian civil war with over 800 persons slaughtered on a flat rock by a creek. The creek, according to the massacre survivors, turned bloody on the day of the massacre for which it is now called “Blood Creek.”
“I am surprised and frustrated seeing George Boley working in government in this country. In 1994, soldiers of LPC came to this village and killed our people, and some of us became sex slaves while others were in the cold bush. We could not make any sound, and when our babies attempt to cry, we take water and put in their mouths to keep quiet because the rebel soldiers of George Boley were chasing us all over,” said a survivor (name withheld).
“We were girls at the time when LPC came here during the war. We ran in the bush, but they chased us and grabbed some of us. I told them I was sick with gonorrhea, but they forced me to have something with me and many others and we walked with them to Grand Bassa where they were based. It was not small beating we got, and when I see George Boley in Government today, I can get angry. They left their county to come and kill our people and abuse us, but they are enjoying this country today while we who were affected by what they did continue to suffer,” said another survivor.
Electing war players and people of tainted public records is becoming customary in Liberia. Nimba and Grand Gedeh Counties are known for this electoral decision since the end of the war. The people of Nimba in 2005 elected Prince Johnson, leader of the defunct Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL) and captor and killer of former President Samuel Doe, and he has since maintained this position to the extent that he has become the political godfather of the county. The people of District #2 in Grand Gedeh County elected George Boley in 2017, making him the second infamous warlord occupying a vital elected position.
Since the war ended and the TRC hearing completed, not much has been done to address some of the recommendations in the report. Two of the recommendations, the establishment of an extraordinary court to prosecute those bearing the greatest responsibilities of crimes during the war, and reparations for victims and survivors of war crimes and crimes against humanity, are yet to be addressed.
Victims and survivors in Kpolokpala, like others across the country, have been living with psychosocial pains of different violations they encountered without any redress since 17 years now. “Since LPC killed our people and raped some of us, no group has come to us with help to get us recover. We have talked this one story to people over and over, and we hope that you who have come to us here today will make a difference to stand for us,” a victim of sexual abuse told the Independent Human Rights Investigators.
Some war players in the Liberian civil crisis have been prosecuted in other countries with some already convicted. For instance, Mohammed Jabateh (alias Jungle Jabbah), is now sentenced in the United States for 30 years for lying under oath to the US Immigration that he did not have any involvement with the Liberian war. Alieu Kosiah is undergoing prosecution in Switzerland while the Sierra Leonean rebel commander, Gibril Massaquoi, is now tried in Finland with part of the hearing currently taking place in Monrovia. Despite these efforts by other countries to prosecute alleged war criminals for crimes committed in Liberia, the Government has not exerted any effort to prosecute alleged war criminals recorded in the TRC, but offering some of them jobs while others are elected on the basis of their war records.
The IHRI is implementing a project under the Justice and Accountability Project with funding from the African Transitional Justice Legacy Fund. The group goes around Liberia to identify war victims and educate them on the Reparations component of the TRC Recommendations. Like those of other places that the group had visited, people of Kpolokpala have no knowledge about the recommendations of the TRC, least to speak of reparation that sounds strange in many ears across the country.
Adama K. Dempster, head of the Independent Human Rights Investigators, told the victims and survivors on March 20 that his group was visiting them to provide education on the reparations and to hear their stories to forward the views solicited to human rights stakeholders. Mr. Dempster also disclosed that they are in the business of forming victim groups and have now established such groups in Grand Bassa and Grand Gedeh counties, and they are to establish another group in Nimba County soon.
Meanwhile, Kpolokpala is among several areas in Liberia where massacre sites are recorded. They include Lofa County, 32, Rivercess, 30; Grand Cape Mount, 24; Gbarpolu, 18, Maryland, 11; and Grand Gedeh 12.