Monrovia, February 9, 2009 (TRC): Horatio Dan Morias, the man accused of ordering widespread atrocities in south eastern Liberia has denied the allegations craving to confront his accusers.
Appearing before Liberian's Truth and Reconciliation Commission Monday, Mr. Morais confirmed hearing a lot about atrocities committed by fighters loyal to former President Charles Taylor but denied any knowledge.
"I heard a lot about atrocities in River Gee and other places, but I can't substantiate them. I was not a military man but a superintendent and had no knowledge or participation but I heard about them but the reports were unsubstantiated," a denying former superintendent of Maryland County during the reign of President Taylor told commissioners.
He was testifying at the ongoing TRC Public Hearings at the historic Centennial Memorial Pavilion in Monrovia.
"I made some mistakes but they were too small. Sometimes mistakes are made by people based on character. If you are small, you make small mistakes. If you are big you make big mistakes," Morias said.
Witnesses told the TRC during public hearings in the south east chilling accounts of the massacre in 2003 of hundreds of inhabitants of the town of Glaro, River Gee County.
In 2003, according to witnesses, militiamen loyal to former president Charles Taylor rounded up 369 inhabitants of Glaro and massacred them at various locations in River Gee County.
The killings, witnesses said were ordered by former Maryland County superintendent Morias and General William Sumo.
Samuel B. Chea, Sr., former stipendiary magistrate now revenue judge of River Gee County said the massacre was carried out by fighters of the "Mountain Lions Brigade" of former president Taylor's government.
According to Chea, the massacre was planned and executed by one Captain Paye Suah, Major Nelson Paye and others under the supervision of former superintendent Morias and General William Sumo. He explained that at separate intervals pickup loads of Glaro inhabitants were killed at different locations including River Gbeh junction. He said the bones of the victims can still be found in the area.
At one point in time, Chea said, the fighters executed the assistant stipendiary magistrate of the county, Joseph Watkins and several prominent citizens.
"Mr. Watkins was killed because we belong to the same tribe (Glaro), besides being opposed to using the district as launching pad for attacks against the Ivory Coast," Mr. Chea said.
He said because the people of Glaro refused to cooperate with then government fighters, they (the fighters) began an attack on unarmed inhabitants leading to the murder of 369 of them.
The witness said the massacre in the Glaro villages and towns were made possible by arms shipped into Liberia by road to the county by Lebanese businessman Abbas Fawaz, manager of MWPI, a logging company that operated in River Gee and Maryland Counties.
Martha Watkins, wife of the murdered assistant stipendiary magistrate, revealed that her husband and two others, Amos Chea and Amos Nyenoh were arrested and killed by the government militia after they refused to organize a defense force.
She said following their arrests, Sumo ordered fighters under his command to disembowel her for persistently pleading for her husband. She said her husband and the others were taken to a jail in Fish Town, and days later when Sumo arrived, they were bundled in a pickup and led to their executions.
Martha explained that another militiaman, Zico Dalieh, now deputy station manager for Gee Radio in Fish Town, killed dozens of other Glaro inhabitants including a pregnant woman with three young children. Watkins explained that before Dalieh murdered his victims, he cut off their ears before sending them for execution.
Before one of the executions, she said, Dalieh nailed the legs and palms of one of his victims before killing him.
The widow said most of the killings were sanctioned by former superintendent Morias, "Dan Morias was commander for South Eastern Liberia. Dan Morias sent defense force in the bush to arrest people and they were killed."
She said following the detention of her husband in Fish Town, she pleaded with Morias to release him but he refused. Morias now serves as ambassador-at-large in the Government of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
But in his testimony Monday, Maias thanked the TRC for creating an opportunity to purge his mind, body and soul of allegations levied against him by his alleged victims but said he was anxious for an opportunity to face his accusers.
The former transitional internal affairs minister who filed a lawsuit against his accusers said that only when this opportunity is created he may drop his legal action.
He however apologized for whatever wrongs he committed against "people" saying,
"in my youthful exuberance, I may have offended people and in this event I must apologize. I take full responsibilities for that."
Liberia is recovering from years of conflict that was characterized by horrific human rights violations, including arbitrary killings, use of child combatants, rape and sexual violence, separation of families, and looting and destruction of properties. Out of a population of 3 million, an estimated 300,000 Liberians were killed, with as many as 1.5 million displaced.
Under the theme: "Understanding the Conflict Through its Principal Events and Actors," the ongoing hearings are addressing the root causes of the conflict, including its military and political dimensions.
The hearings are focused on events between 1979 and 2003 and the national and external actors that helped to shape those events.
The TRC was agreed upon in the August 2003 peace agreement and created by the TRC Act of 2005. The TRC was established to "promote national peace, security, unity and reconciliation," and at the same time make it possible to hold perpetrators accountable for gross human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law that occurred in Liberia between January 1979 and October 2003.
Mambu James Kpargoi, Jr.
Media & Information Officer