Survivors of 1989 Nimba Invasion Reject NPFL Claims of ‘Liberation’

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The grave of Mr. Dwayen at his residence in Tappita

– Saying it was ‘anarchy’

By Joaquin Sendolo in collaboration with New Narratives

Survivors and descendants of those that were affected by the 1989 events are taking advantage of the country-wide push for a war crimes court to reset the narrative they say was incorrectly set by Charles Taylor and Prince Johnson and their followers in the 30 years since.

Derrick Myers is a grandson of D. Gborboe Dwayen, who believes that activities of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) in Nimba did not present a picture of freedom or revolution, but total anarchy, repression, atrocities, division and harassment.

His grandfather Dwayen served as a superintendent and commissioner of the county at different times, and was last seen in private life as a practicing lawyer, and farmer before the war came.  In 1990, NPFL fighters arrested Mr. Dwayen, and beat him severely and died in the process.

“My grandfather was killed, because when the plan for war was disclosed to him, he rejected it and suggested peace instead of war,” Derrick recalled. “The other reason is that his killers accused him of representing their legal interest prior to the war, and he lost the case; these are some reasons we got for the beating of grandpa D. Gborboe Dwayen that led to his death.”

“I don’t call this liberation, but mass suffering and killings mainly done by our own Gio and Mano brothers and sisters,” Derrick added.

After the 1989 Taylor-led invasion, eminent citizens of the county, who worked in government and private areas soon became targets and were eliminated, while others were severely beaten, sometimes by their own sons.  Looting, harassment, rape and burning of villages and towns became widespread. Many said freedom was now turned into suppression.

While the power of the gun was still ruling, no individual living in Liberia, least to say Nimba, could express his or her emotions about the afflictions encountered.

In an attempt to retaliate for the killing of his father, a son of Dwayen, Kerper Dwayen, founded the Nimba Redemption Council (NRC) to counter the NPFL.

This attack, according to Derrick, led the NPFL to place all members of the surviving families under house arrest.  “This situation caused my mum to die, while giving birth in this house, because the NPFL rebels could not let her have access to a medical facility,” he said.

Tarkpor Doe, son of Jackson Fiah Doe

Jackson Fiah Doe, another eminent Nimbaian, was murdered in October, 1991 by the NPFL.  According to a former fighter (name withheld for fear of reprisal), the death of Mr. Doe was orchestrated by Samuel Saye Dokie, who was also murdered in 1997 when Charles Taylor became President after the July 19 special presidential and legislative elections.

Mr. Doe first son, Tarkpor W. Doe in Sanniquellie, Nimba County, said on May 1, 2019, “I don’t consider what was brought here as liberation. My father thought that those rebels were his own sons from Nimba, rejected an offer from the United States Embassy to leave the country despite persistent request made so that he and his family can leave, but in the end, he was arrested by the very sons, and he was killed that today, we do not even know his grave.”

David Toweh, Senator of Nimba prior to the war, was one of the many Nimbaians killed by the fighters hailing from Nimba.  Nora Toweh-Dent, daughter of Mr. Toweh, said her father and Jackson F. Doe were arrested the same time, and jailed in the same area on Harbel Hill, Firestone-Liberia concession area, and were taken to an unknown destination and killed.

“My father had no connection to the war,” Nora said. “He only negotiated with the rebels to cease the war and return to peace, but perhaps the rebels felt that he and others killed could have better positions in the next government, and therefore they decided to get rid of them.”

Nora said that most members of her family were targeted, because of her late father, and one of them, Roland Toweh, was so badly beaten that he fell sick and died in 1994.

“They never brought freedom to us but, they came to kill our people, and make us fatherless,” she said.

Tribal sentiments and personal animosities have deepened in Nimba after the war, because one tribe is perceived to have pursued vendettas against other tribes and vice versa which led to the victimization of innocent people.

George Flomo Weanquio, Coordinator for Academic and Career Counseling at the Nimba County Community College (NCCC), attested to this post-war tension between Manos and Gios.  “In the 1960s when Nimba was still a district, Gio and Mano though having distinct identities, they were united, coexisted well, but now it is only in time of conflict can Nimbaians sometimes come together,” he said.

Nimbaians, like the rest of Liberians, have not had any reconciliatory program since the war ended, and victims and survivors bearing the scars of atrocities and human rights abuses continue to live together with the perpetrators.

Justice advocates have continued to call for accountability for crimes committed during the war, but the government seems not to be paying attention, while some perpetrators and warlords occupying prestigious public positions are instead boasting for their actions.

Christopher Koyea, a history teacher with over 30 years of teaching experience in Nimba said, “the civil war fought neither defines liberation nor revolution, but mass destruction, mayhem, looting, innocent killing and division, and this has set the people of Nimba against one another.”

“If the war was meant for liberation, why then were Jackson Fiah Doe, former Senator David Toweh, David Dwayen, former Superintendent Stephen B. Daniels, and other eminent Nimbaians  killed by those very liberators?” he rhetorically asked.

Koyea said the “Nimba liberators” did not only kill, but burnt several towns and villages, because some spoke against acts that were contrary to the proclaimed ideals of liberation, citing the burning of Mehnla Town in Yarwin Mensonnoh County District, now Electoral District #9 as an example.

He said a son of that town, Yarsuo Wehyee Dorliae, had spoken against atrocities committed by the NPFL; something that led the rebel commander, Tarkpor Gweh to command his men to burn the entire quarter occupied by the Dorliae family.

Philip Toweh, an eminent son of Nimba, describes the so-called theory of “Nimba Liberation” as mere street talk, arguing that Nimba was not under siege, and therefore, cannot give credence to such  wishful thinking, stressing his readiness to debate the issues rather than to indulge those who seek justification for the atrocities they committed.

This new critical thinking which posits the view that individuals of Nimba origin were not just victims but were perpetrators as well and as such need to account, appears to be gaining ground by the day. For instance, the Concerned Citizens against Impunity compromised of victims and former fighters led by Zarwolo Gorgboyee in Ganta, is persistently calling for the establishment of a war crimes court for perpetrators of horrible crimes to account for their actions.

When they crossed the border from the Ivory Coast and attacked Buutuo, Nimba County on December 24, 1989, NPFL fighters under the command of convicted and jailed former President Charles Taylor, presented themselves as “Freedom fighters,” who had come to liberate Nimbaians, and the rest of Liberians from the “repressive” regime of Samuel Kanyon Doe.

The NPFL split along the way, and the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL) emerged with warlord Prince Johnson, now Nimba Senator, serving as a factional head.

The NPFL and its nemesis, the INPFL, were welcomed into Nimba mainly by members of the Gio and Mano tribes with honor and praises which invariably led to thousands young men and women joining the fighting groups.  It is  said that about 75 percent of fighters of the NPFL comprised the Mano and Gio tribes.

However, as the rebels seized control of most parts of the country, they left a bloody trail in the wake of their march to Monrovia thus alienating the people and undermining the very freedom which they freedom’ claimed to have brought to them.

This story was a collaboration with New Narratives as part of the West Africa Justice Reporting Project. Funding was provided by Australian Aid. The funder had no say in the story’s content.  

4 COMMENTS

  1. My pekin, you are not alone in this. Our people will not listen. We killed our own people more more than what Samuel Doe would have done 20 yrs. See what was done to Oldman Bartuah because he associated with NDPL.

    It was purely the thirst for power and greed. Our people were simply manipulated to accomplish the mission of the so-called elites who have always believed Liberia is their farm. They got what they wanted from us: Charles Taylor became President followed by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. See where they left us. The Krahs, Gios, Manos, Mandingos. Here we are still fighting among ourselves.

    The war damaged our reputation destroyed too many of our people for no reason. And our people killed by our own hands. The names are just too many to list on this platform. It brings bad memories. I am happy that a young man from the county can see the light and can be opened about a subject matter even our elders are afraid to talk about. Going back in history, it is clear that the war was never about Doe killing the Nimba people. It was just to put us exactly where we are today. Sad.

    We hurt ourselves and the people around us. Nimba must get internal cleansing or we will always be making kings but can never be king.

    Little brother, thank you for speaking out, my greetings to Princess and Gborboe

  2. Better now to face the reality and act in terms of WAR CRIME COURT rather then living with the falsehood that NPFL was a liberating group and thereby continue to make the same mistakes by putting in power the same people that killed us and destroyed our properties.

    We also need to build a memorial monument for all who died during the 14 years of war and have one day of national mourning, followed by a program to finally lay to rest our fallen brothers, sisters, father and mothers.

    Lastly, arrest the likes of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Prince Johnson, Yekeh Kolubah, Saah Gbollie, Benjamin Yeaten, along with the whole den of rebel generals.

  3. This should have been done when UNMIL was in Liberia but it is too late. Weah is afriad, most likely he made an agreement with Prince Johnson to win and protect him. Just like Charles Taylor and Ellen did with ATU, and maybe UNMIL. To keep her in power and protected. I am sure if weah agree to speak or invite the court that will be his end in power. Think why will he say the court will make the country unstable when these people killed innocent people. Besides, I believe strongly that weah is not the president but Prince Johnson is. Remember Prince Johnson said their mother give birth to 3kids, he, Taylor and Ellen. It was Taylor, then Ellen, now it is like his term. Due to the way he kill Doe is is behind the scene control the country with little boy weah serving as a symbol. Taylor made refrained to the 3 cow before leaving. Until all the 2 are collect and place far behind bars out of Liberia like Taylor, and along with the many others stay in Liberia in power, Liberia may stay be ther same. As long as we keep electing these people to power, we weaken ourselves and new government from making decision on these people. A man is easy to submit when he is not in power then when he is. Now kolubah is along with many others and we are going to put more in power. This is how the country will remain without justice for the war and killings.

    My father was burn alive by prince Johnson and his men Sept 1990. It burn my heart to see him free and eating my taxes cause people elected him base on fear. I will never forget until his is brought to justice. And it shall come to pass very soon by God help. Not by war or fight but by the laws. Just watch. I have not spoken on this before but his days of been free are number.
    Thanks.

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