Liberia: How Col. Larry Borteh Was Killed; Other Atrocities and Perpetrators

A team of investigators from the International Justice Group (IJG) says a former member of Liberia’s erstwhile People’s Redemption Council (PRC) military junta which, in 1980, overthrew the civilian Administration of William R. Tolbert Jr.,was killed in 1990 by forces under the command of former rebel commander and leader of the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia Prince Y. Johnson.

Colonel Larry Borteh - File Photo
Colonel Larry Borteh

According to IJG international investigators citing witnesses and family members who they interviewed in Liberia, Colonel Larry Borteh, just prior to his death, was residing at the once prestigious Hotel African in the western outskirts of the capital Monrovia. General Johnson, upon hearing that Colonel Borteh was at Hotel Africa, requested to see him. The area was under the control of Johnson and his INPFL forces.

Johnson is now a senator representing the northeast political sub-division of Nimba County in Liberia.

Colonel Borteh fell out of favor with coup leader Samuel Doe in 1984 following accusations that he and 2 other former PRC members Nicholas Podier and Jerry Friday were plotting against him, Doe. Borteh remained largely in private life after until the onset of the civil war which started in December, 1989.

The former PRC junta member left the hotel accompanied by several INPFL rebels and traveled to the Cotton Tree-Caldwell junction which is a main thoroughfare that leads to central Monrovia but also branches off to the township of Caldwell where Johnson and his rebel outfit had carved out their military base. Form there, Johnson and his rebels would launch frequent deadly attacks on government forces and the main rebel National Patriotic Front (NPFL) led by now jailed former President Charles Taylor. Johnson and his forces also regularly terrorized and indiscriminately killed unarmed and innocent civilians and some of his own forces. Johnson and his INPFL forces looted food and goods from the main seaport known as the Freeport of Monrovia. The port was situated in territory which he controlled on Bushrod Island, west of Monrovia.

Senator Prince Y. Johnson
Former INPFL Rebel Commander Senator Prince Y. Johnson

When Colonel Borteh arrived at the Cotton Tree- Caldwell junction, he was immediately arrested by INPFL forces under the command of one Anthony Sonkarley. He was ordered tied up and weighted down with stones after which he was taken to the nearby Stockton Creek into which he was thrown. Colonel Borteh died from apparent drowning at the hands of the INPFL forces under the control of Johnson. The incident occurred in August, 1990 just before the arrival in Monrovia of the ECOWAS Peace Monitoring Group known as ECOMOG.

It is unclear why Colonel Borteh was singled out and killed by Johnson forces.

Atrocities and Perpetrators

Several individuals have been identified as alleged war criminals responsible for committing heinous crimes against civilians during the war. Some of those named by IJG sources include Major George Dweh, Lt. Bobby Kpoto, Major Nezee Barway and Lt. Col. Michael Tailey The accused were all part of Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) loyal to slain Liberian President Samuel K. Doe and were fingered by investigators for the killing of Doris Toweh Gballah, Mr. and Mrs. Johnny Nah and family, former government Minister Johnny Kpor and the entire Cassell in Monrovia. Others allegedly killed include Mr. and Ms. Samuel D. Greene, John Bright, student activist Wuo Garbe Tappia, Tonia Richardson, Benedict Garlawulo, Robert Quiah, Robert Phillips and Wewe Debar.

The AFL death squads, comprising the named perpetrators allegedly killed Martha Bernard and her sister. One Naomi Gooding and six other women who were taking refuge in the Sinkor suburb were also killed.The victims were all picked from various parts of Monrovia by by death squads.

According to our source, Lt. Colonel Tailey, loyal to former President Doe, was a notorious death squad commander who led government troops to the Lutheran Church compound in the suburb of Sinkor where hundreds of defenseless civilians from the Gio, Mano and other ethnic groups, fleeing targeted violence were taking refuge.

Lt. Col Michael Taily
Lt Col Michael Tailey

Witnesses and survivors said over 600 men, women and children were killed in that massacre although the government at the time denied any involvement and blamed advancing rebels for the attack on the church compound. According to survivors, forces who carried out the Lutheran Church massacre were from the same Krahn ethnic group as then President Doe.

Tailey was subsequently killed in mysterious circumstances on orders of AFL commanders after he was detained on the military base of the AFL known as the Barclay Training Center Barracks in central Monrovia.

Another perpetrator is a former police officer Paul Tuazama who was dismissed from the Liberian National Police (LNP) following the failed coup in 1985 led by another former PRC member and army commander General Thomas G. Quiwonkpa. Investigators say Tuazama operated an NPFL death squad which operated on Duport Road in the Paynesville area, north of the capital Monrovia and allegedly carried a massacre of civilians in that area and in Kakata, which is about 34 miles from the capital Monrovia.

Tuazama currently works at the Liberian judiciary at the Temple of Justice, just a stone throw away from the seat of country’s Legislature and the official offices of President George M.Weah on Capitol Hill.

Local and international pressure is mounting on the Weah Administration to establish a war crimes tribunal and bring to book for prosecution all those identified in the country’s TRC Final Report as responsible for the commission alleged war and economic crimes.

In its Final Report and under the heading,“Statute Establishing the Extraordinary of Liberia” General Part, Article 1 Establishment and Competence, the TRC recommends that,

1. In order to implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of the Republic of Liberia (TRC) to establish an “Extraordinary Criminal Court for Liberia”, an internationalized domestic court, to combat a culture of impunity, secure justice for victims and ensure that Liberia adheres too, respects and protects prevailing international human rights and humanitarian law standards, an Extraordinary Criminal Court (hereinafter “Court”) is hereby established.

2. The Court shall have all the necessary power and jurisdiction to prosecute persons referred to it by the TRC for gross violations of human rights (GVHR), serious humanitarian law violations (SVLV) and egregious domestic crimes (EDC) as enumerated by this Statute.

3. The seat of the court shall in Monrovia, Liberia.

i. The Court may establish alternative sites to conduct hearings as it deems necessary.

Article 2

Organs of he Court

The Court shall be composed for the following organs

i. Appeals Division

ii. Trial Division

iii. The Office of the Prosecutor and

iv. The Registry

About 98 notorious perpetrators and heads of rebels factions in Liberia were named in the TRC report and recommendation for prosecution for gross human rights violations and war crimes.

Another 54 individuals and entities were recommended for further investigation.

Individuals named by the TRC Final Report are presumed innocent until guilt has been established beyond a reasonable doubt by the final verdict of the court.

Liberia President George M. Weah
Liberia President George M. Weah

The Weah Administration has refused to publicly state its official position on the establishment of the Court but has signaled through some of its officials that this is not a priority for Government. Local and international rights and advocacy groups and non-governmental organizations say they are prepared to turn up public awareness and pressure on the Liberian government in order to ensure justice is served. A U.S. Republican Representative Mr. Daniel M. Donovan Jr. last week introduced a Congressional resolution which calls for the establishment of a war crimes court in Liberia. The Weah Administration has yet to officially respond to this move.

Diplomatic sources say that additional pressure such as cut in foreign aid to Liberia, a travel ban and sanctions against Liberian government officials will be applied to force the West African nation’s compliance with implementation of recommendations of the TRC.

By Emmanuel Abalo 

West African Journal Magazine

 

New International Human Rights Advocacy Group Established

The global fight for international justice has just intensified with the formation of a new organization known as the International Justice Group (IJG).

Scales of Justice

As part of its programs, the group says, “We as the IJG, research, document, publish and advocate for the appropriate and relevant solution to the commission of the following crimes: drug trafficking, Crimes Against Humanity, Human Trafficking and Economic Crimes and Money Laundering. Led by the venerable former head of Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and human rights lawyer Jerome Verdier, the IJG has as its motto, “Let’s Strive For Peace” 

Programs

“Crimes against humanity (common in times of war) are certain acts that are internationally and knowingly committed as part of a pervasive or organized attack or individual attack directed against any civilian or an identifiable part of a civilian population. Finalized fifty years later in 1996, the United Nations Draft Code defined crimes against humanity as various inhumane acts, i.e ” murder, extermination, torture, enslavement, persecution on political, racial, religious or ethnic grounds, institutional discrimination, arbitrary deportation forcible transfer of population,” the IJG says.

As part of his global program, the new group of international advocates say their work is, “…to research, investigate, document, expose and hold accountable , through the international justice system, individuals and groups that are responsible , support and aid in the commission of crimes.”

International Human Rights Lawyer and IJG Executive Director Jerome Verdier

 

Leadership

Leadership of the IJG include Luigi Spera, Principal Deputy Executive Director, Ms. Massa Washington, Deputy Executive Director for Justice, Advocacy and Policy and John T. Stewart, Special Adviser and African Programs and Senior Director. Chief Investigator is an international security expert Garretson Al Smith while Koleh Boayue serves as Senior Program Officer and Counsel for War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity.

The group’s Director for European Programs is Amos Kortu while Ms. Adriana Maria Maria Lopez serves as Director of South and Latin Americ Programs. Mr. Mambu James Kpargoi is Director of Media and Public Relations.

Advocacy

The IJG joins a list of credible international human rights and advocacy groups who are dedicated the promotion of international justice and accountability.

Establish recently, the IJG is expected to officially launch shortly.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine

Son of Guinea’s First President Faces Forced Labor Charges in Texas – AFP

The son of Guinea’s first president and his wife face up to 20 years in prison if found guilty in Texas of holding a young woman as a domestic slave.

Denise-Cros-Toure and Mohamed-Toure Courtesy CNN

Denise Cros Toure and Mohammed Toure

The AFP quoting US Justice Department officials say Mohamed Toure, 57, and Denise Cros-Toure, 57, appeared in a federal court in Fort Worth, Texas on Thursday to face a criminal complaint of forced labor.

Toure is the son of Ahmed Sekou Toure, the first president of the west African coastal nation of Guinea. He was Guinea’s leader from 1958 until his death in 1984.

The couple arranged for the unnamed victim, who spoke no English, to travel alone from her village in Guinea to work at their home in Southlake, Texas, in January 2000.

 “The victim’s Guinean passport indicated that she was five years old at the time,” the statement read.

“Throughout the years, until the victim escaped in August 2016, the defendants forced the victim to labor in their home for long hours without pay.”

Salacious allegations

The young woman was required “to cook, clean, do the laundry, perform yardwork, and paint,” as well as care for the couple’s five children.

Even though the victim was close in age to the children, “the defendants denied her access to schooling and the other opportunities afforded to their children.”

The couple allegedly took the victim’s passport “and caused her to remain unlawfully in the United States after her visa expired,” isolated her from her family, “and emotionally and physically abused her.”

The victim eventually with help from some former neighbours in August 2016, the statement reads.

Map of GuineaAn attorney for the couple, Scott Palmer, fiercely denied the allegations in an email to The Washington Post.

“The complaint is riddled with salacious allegations, fabrications, and lies,” Palmer told The Post.

He said the couple were looking forward “to revealing the motivation of this woman to lie, betray, and attempt to destroy the family that took her in at the request of her father.”

AFP

United Cities and Local Governments of Africa Calls For Protection of Women

RABAT, Morocco, March 8, 2018 — In celebration of this year’s International Woman Day, United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG Africa) says, there are issues we should all be ashamed of.

UN Women
UN Women

In a statement issued in the north African country of Morocco, UCLG Africa called on he global community to “Think of your mother, sister, daughter being harassed by someone in the workplace, school, public space, public transport, or simply in the street. Unfortunately, this happens time and again on our continent, and the horrific statistics of women that lose their lives after being beaten by their husbands; women who are badly wounded following a dispute with parents or relatives; not to mention the many migrant women that suffer all kinds of humiliations including rape, human trafficking, and other undignified treatment, UCGL Africa said.

The group says, the theme chosen by the United Nations for the 2018 international woman day is: “Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives”. This theme compels all of us not to turn a blind eye on, and be deaf to such unacceptable situations of violence against women.

“There is a wave of anger mounting from all layers of society demanding more justice for women. Shame on all of us, if we cannot relay this huge voice coming from the women and asking to stop this nonsense right away. Stop the violence, rape, harassment, undignified behavior against women. Each time any man is tempted to brutalize a woman, he should always remember that the person in front of him could be his mother, his sister, or his daughter. And if despite this he still wants to proceed, then he should be met by a system that provides a supportive service that encourages women and victims to report, provides adequate punishment for such crimes, and provides the appropriate support for any psychological health problem this perpetrator may have,” UCGL Africa maintained in its press statement.

At UCLG Africa said “we consider gender equality and respect for women as a cardinal exigency. We solemnly condemn all forms of violence against women. And we recommend to our members to champion an education system where boys and girls are brought up as equals.”

Our network of female local elected officials of Africa (REFELA), who represent both rural and urban communities across the continent, are making strides through their contributions to the fight for gender equality, and are working tirelessly in order that a gender sensitive dimension becomes one of the top priorities in the definition of African regional and local governments policies.

The group disclosed that in a few weeks, REFELA will be launching a campaign on “African cities and territories zero tolerant to violence against women”. UCLG Africa encourages its members to subscribe to this campaign, and by so doing, show the resolve of African regional and local government leaders to shy away from these practices that do not honor our societies and communities, the press statement concluded.

Press Release from UCLG Africa

 

 

Liberia: Former Trade Rep Nominated As Ambassador To U.S.

A former Liberia diplomat and Trade Representative at the Liberian Embassy near Washington DC has been nominated to head the country’s diplomatic mission to the United States, Mexico and Canada. She is Ms. Gurly Teta Gibson.

Gurly T. Gibson, Trade Representative, Liberia
Ms. Gurly T. Gibson, Liberia Ambassador Designate To US

News of her appointment was disclosed early on Monday by the Executive Mansion in the Liberian capital Monrovia.

In 2012, as her country’s Trade Representative, Ms Gibson led a delegation of business investors to Liberia and announced that as a result of the successful visit, Liberia stood to reap almost $5 million USD in direct foreign trade investments.

Ms. Gibson at the time disclosed that the trade delegation included representatives from Hilton Group, the Canadian based Reeves Intercontinental Services, Incorporated, Heart of Africa Mission Development Corporation, Philips Consulting Group, Reeves Group.

In 2014, at the height of the Ebola epidemic and plans by the U.S. and other countries to cut off air travel to Liberia to prevent the spread of the deadly pandemic, Ms. Gibson pleaded to keep travel and international medical assistance open to the affected countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

She appeared before the Philadelphia City Council in October, 2014 and told members, “We need airlines to go in to take supplies to those countries; if not, it is going to spread and get worse and people are going to die. We don’t have the capacity. Our health structure is not set up in a way to do the kind of containment that we need to do, and that’s why we are reaching out to other nations…”

Based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the U.S., Gurly has also served on the Mayor’s Commission on African and Caribbean Commission as one of several advisors. From her vantage position as Trade Representative and a member of the African disapora, she was able to constantly seek assistance for Liberian businesses and the Tubman University in the sub-political division of Maryland County in southeastern Liberia.

Ms. Gurly T. Gibson
Ambassador Designate Ms. Gurly T. Gibson

Gurly became the sole and most authoritative source for would be investors seeking information on investments opportunity and. even as a person in the private sector, is still courted today by international investors for reliable information on business opportunities in Liberia.

As a founding member of the Liberia Women Forum (LWF), a non-governmental organization dedicated to the fight in Liberia against domestic violence, rape and justice for female victims, she led advocacy efforts in 2017 in conjunction with the Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia (AFELL) to protect underprivileged women and girls.

At a march staged in Monrovia to protest the treatment of Liberia girls who were trafficked to Lebanon, Ms. Gibson said her organization, the LWF “was here to stay and awaken the consciousness of women and girls, saying women are the backbone of every society, and yet the women of Liberia have been disenfranchised.”

She later appeared before lawmakers and told them “We are saying enough of the trafficking of our Liberian girls, enough of the sexual violence against women and girls, enough of the discrimination, enough of the intimidation…”

Liberia-Guinea Map
Liberia

Gurly, as she is popularly called, is well connected in the Liberian Diaspora, the City governments in Washington DC and Philadelphia and foreign business communities in the United States.

She holds a Masters degree from Springfield College in Massachusetts and is a Trade and Investment expert.

If confirmed by the Liberian Senate, Ms. Gibson will replace Ambassador Lois Lewis Brutus who presented her Letters of Credence to U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House last December.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine

Liberia: Women’s NGO Launches TVET Sunday

An international Women’s Day Celebration organized by the non-governmental Design It and Training Institute (DITTI) gets underway on next Sunday, March 11th in the Liberian capital, Monrovia.

Road Map of Liberia
Road Map of Liberia

Founded by two Liberian female executives with extensive international work experience around women’s issues, DITTI says its primary goal is celebrate female trailblazers in the areas of the Economy, Arts and Culture, Education, Politics and Entrepreneurship under the theme, ” An Ode To Women Who Keep Pressing On Despite The Odds.”

In last December, DITTI says it sponsored a technical visit to Liberia where 5 males and 15 women were trained in bead making and jewelry design. The organization told the West African Journal Magazine that they have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with another organization – Design and Technical Institute (DTI) to train locals in metal art and carpentry for the production of metal work for home and garden and furniture.

DITTI says it has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding for graphic design, food processing, stem and special needs education for the benefit of the local population in Liberia.

Beads
Beads

According to DITTI, its initiatives will improve the capacity of vocational and after-school teachers to address special needs opportunities. “We are requesting support from individuals, the Government of Liberia and international partners to realize this important goal,” the organization said.

At its upcoming women’s celebration program, DITTI says it will also launch its Training and Vocational Education Center at which locals will learn and develop skills for employment.

In support raising funds for its students scholarship program, women’s handicraft will also be auctioned.

West African Journal Magazine

 

Amnesty International (AI) 2018 Report Cites West African Countries

AI 2017-2018 Report

The international London based non-governmental organization dedicated to human rights advocacy worldwide has released its 2017-2018 State of the World’s Human Rights Report. Amnesty International (AI), in releasing its report, noted that, ” over the past year, leaders have pushed hate, fought against rights, ignored crimes against humanity, and blithely let inequality and suffering spin out of control. This provoked mass protests, showing that while our challenges may never be greater, the will to fight back is just as strong.”

West Africa Regional Map
West Africa Regional Map

Globally, AI affirmed that world leaders abandoned human rights but that although their report is shocking, people across the world have come together to stand and make their voices heard. Among the 159 countries covered in the report were countries in West African which include Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire and the Gambia.

Sierra Leone:

According to AI, “Restrictions were imposed on the rights to freedom of expression, of peaceful assembly and of association. Hundreds of people died and thousands were left homeless following a mud-slide. Prison conditions fell far below international standards. Pregnant girls were excluded from school.”

Sierra Leone President Mr. Ernest Bai Koroma
Sierra Leone President Mr. Ernest Bai Koroma

A human rights campaigner Abdul Fatoma and several local journalists were either arrested or summoned for criticism of the Ernest Bai Koroma Government. Prison conditions in the West African country are below international standards and over-crowded. Pregnant girls are unable to return to mainstream, education and civil society groups have asked the government to resume access for them.

The death penalty continues to be handed down with the conviction of six police officers who were “…sentenced to death by firing squad for conspiracy and robbery with aggravation..”

A mud-slide disaster in the capital Freetown in August, 2017 killed over 400 people. There has been no formal investigation or report on the cause of the disaster and survivors are struggling to make ends meet.

The Sierra Leone government, during the reporting period, rejected over 100 recommendations of the Constitutional Review Commission which included the abolition of the death penalty. President Koroma is stepping down in March after two terms as President. The opposition led by a former military officer is hoping to succeed him while the President and the ruling party have hand picked a staunch ally of President Koroma to succeed him.

The international community has warned against campaign violence in the country in the lead up the elections in March.

Guinea:

In Guinea, “The security forces continued to use excessive force against demonstrators.Journalists, human rights defenders and others expressing dissent were arbitrarily arrested. Impunity was widespread. The right to adequate housing was not fulfilled,” AI says.

Guinean Pres Alpha Condé
Guinean Pres Alpha Condé

Freedom of Assembly and right to freedom of speech were curtailed by the government. 18 deaths were reported and dozens others injured by crackdown against demonstrations by the Alpha Conde government.Long delayed local elections were recently held and the government won a majority of the seats with the opposition crying foul.The country’s National Assembly adopted legislation which could effectively abolish the death penalty when it becomes law.

Security members accused of rights abuses were not held accountable, according to the report.

Liberia:

In Liberia, AI reports that, “Domestic violence, and sexual violence against women and girls remained widespread. Impunity for human rights violations persisted. Prison conditions did not meet international standards and individuals were frequently held in prolonged pre-trial detention.” The report cited Liberia for failing to implement the recommendations of the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) which was set up as part of the Accra Peace Conference to review human rights abuses and war crimes committed during the country’s civil war. To date, there has been no movement towards the setting up of a war crimes commission to criminally prosecute those identified as bearing the most responsibility for atrocities committed.

Liberia President George M. Weah
Liberia President George M. Weah

On Freedom of Expression, the report mentions the introduction of a bill in the National Legislature to de-criminalize libel offences by journalists. Women and girls continue to be subjected to sexual and domestic violence, genital mutilation practices, rape and childhood marraiges. Gay people in Liberia, the report said, continue to experience discrimination, harassment and threats.

The new Weah Administration which was inaugurated in January is under local and international pressure to address the implementation of the TRC recommendations, a declining economy, provision jobs for young people and basic amenities.

Cote d’Ivoire

AI says, “Around 200 detainees, loyal to former President Laurent Gbagbo, awaited trial in connection with post-electoral violence in 2010 and 2011. Killings in the context of mutinies and clashes between demobilized soldiers and security forces were un-investigated. The rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly were restricted; some protests were prohibited. Simone Gbagbo, wife of former President Gbagbo, was acquitted of crimes against humanity and war crimes.The ICC tried Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé.”

Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara
Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara

Legislation to clamp down on free and critical expression which offended President Alassane Ouattarra and promoted ” fake news” was introduced and adopted. The government arrested and tried supporters of former President Laurent Gbagbo. They were accused of human rights violations while supporters of the current President faced no account for rights abuses.

Mutinees by security forces including demobilized soldiers led to the deaths of over 10 persons and scores of others were wounded during AI’S reporting period.

Gambia:

In the Gambia, which saw the democratic removal of long time dictator Yahya Jammeh, AI reports that, ” The new government committed to reforming several repressive laws and reforming the security forces. Steps were taken to begin a transitional justice process.” The Barrow Administration cancelled plans by the Jammeh government to withdrawn from the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Gambia President Adama Barrow
Gambia President Adama Barrow

Prisons in Gambia did not meet international standards, but the new administration has released scores of political prisoners held by the former government. Progress at loosening restrictive freedom of assembly laws lagged. Same sex marraige is still banned in the conservative West African nation and gay people are discriminated against.

Although Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) laws have been passed, the practice remains wide-spread in the Gambia.

Universal Human Rights Declaration

In citing the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, AI stated in its latest global report that, “… the year in which the Universal Declaration of Human Rights turns 70, it is abundantly clear that none of us can take any of our human rights for granted. We certainly cannot take for granted that we will be free to gather together in protest or to criticize our governments. Neither can we take for granted that social security will be available when we are old or incapacitated; that our babies can grow up in cities with clean, breathable air; or that as young people we will leave school to find jobs that enable us to buy a home.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The battle for human rights is never decisively won in any place or at any point in time. The frontiers shift continually, so there can never be room for complacency.”

Although democratic changes are happening across Africa, the pace of keeping up with with the protection of the rights of ordinary citizens by government remains slow or declining instead.

By Emmanuel Abalo 

West African Journal Magazine