Cestos City: Day 5: Institutional/Thematic Hearings

Back to List of Transcripts

The presenter of First Institution of the Thematic and Institutional Hearings was called to the stand and was sworn to tell the truth and nothing but the truth by the TRC Hearings Officer Pastor John Teayah.

Chairman: good afternoon and welcome. We want to thank you for coming to make this presentation on behalf of the chiefs and Elders of the County.

Chairman: Good morning Mr. Gbassagee and welcome to the TRC. We are glad that you can come and join us on behave of the Elders and Chiefs of this county to share experiences of the conflict, how the conflict has affected local governance as far as the status of the elders and chiefs that are concern and what ever recommendations our Elders have as an advise to the TRC and the people of Rivercess or the people of Liberia generally. And so in saying welcome, we say welcome to our citizen of Rivercess and other distinguished personalities including all of our citizens of Rivercess, lead by our honorable Superintendent who is here to participate in this forum. And so we say thank you for coming and the commissioners are all here to hear from you.

What is your name again?

Presenter: My name is Samuel Saye Gbassagee my position is Land engineer from Internal Affairs, and also a Senior Elder.

What is your function?

Primary Witness: Function is maintenance of roads.

Where do you live?

Primary Witness: I live in Cestos. I am a citizen of Cestos.

When were you born?

Primary Witness: I was born 1939. Were you here during the crisis? Okay we give Horner and praise to the almighty God. The war that our brother and sisters fought I consider it to be sense less war because of ignorance. All of us were affected. But as I learn that you commissioners will leave Rivercess County today. And I don't think that the chance will be give to us to say all that we want to say here. But we will say the important part of it. When I say that we all were affected from it two, even thou, the soldiers did not killed my children, but two of my children die, daughters. And besides that, my house that I built on the Airfield, soldiers, it was during Noriega time destroyed. They captured Rivercess June 1st, 1990, I was at my village and I hear the gun firing, but I did not know what happened. A relative of mind who is here with us now, Honorable One boy brought him there in my village; I asked him where are you going? He said I am on the run because the people are looking for those who working for Government. That was the time Noriega hide he came there in Rivercess. Then I decide, I was then working in the government as a district commissions. Then I said well, I don't need to go down there again. So my house that was on the Airfield, with all my lit wearing and things, I never foot back here again. They took every thing away. And I went and started and I told my people that I was going Sinoe. But later on, I reached certain place in Ganee, some part of Yamee District, and then I decided since in have food there let me go back to my home. So I came and stayed in the bush for four months behind my town. While I was there, I had forty and some goats in my town. When Noriega came and took away everything including the goat with my house and my two children, two of my girls child.

Chairman: Mr. Gbassagagee, sorry that I have to call you to a point. I think you are here to represent the Elders and the chiefs of this land. What are they interested in is the general thinking of the elders and chiefs. So please we don't want you go into too much details of personal life.

Primary Witness: In representing the elders and the chiefs here in this county, you know the Bible say, that Christ said that he who has seen me has seen the father. As representative of the elders, so long we have seen the TRC, Excellency Madam Ellen Johnson, so I want you to take this message. This message is the reason why the children tell us to sit on the ground is because that they lack of education. No man will come from the university those good man educated will not tell you say elder, sit on the grand. So this war is a since less war and it derived from illiteracy. Because they not know no book. And so if you know no book, So they would do those things. You wouldn't look at a pregnant woman say the baby in your stomach I beat John Brown and say the woman this belly is girl child and they will killed that woman. No kind of educated sine man will do this. So in short, let them bring back compulsory education program for all of the children in all of the counties and in the Republic of Liberia. If a girl is pregnant or not let her go to school. The Minister of education must have consideration on them. Whether, the girl is pregnant or not let her be able to go to school and learn to read and to write. Because if you can read and write you will not be do these things. I think this is the solution to these problems. And then, there is another one again, let us learn to love one another. Be a Bassa man, Kru, man. Gio man Kpelleh man, let us learn to love each other. We the Liberia people let us learn to respect one another. Let us learn how to respect authority. Don't say this man get and I did not get, so for this reason, let us do away with this gossiping. And say that this other president here is not doing the right thing. You know that the president is not importing pusawa rice. He say pusawa rice price gone up, gas price gone up. That the president who carry the price up. It is all because of ignorant. And the Liberian people should put stop to the attayee shop that the place the trouble can come from in your Monrovia there. That attayee shop your must try and put stop to it. When they get there they discuss about government too much. All these thing government need to put stop to it. Let them drive them from. Those who get the atteyee shop let them move them from there. Because if they move them from there, they will not have some where to go and discuss. You say your brothers here, my daughter there it can bring about confession. So this is the thing my elders told me so that your can reveal it to Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. That what I have to say.

Chairman: In short, you said the presentation of the Elders and Chiefs is:

?Because of Lack of education is the root cause of our problem and the sense lees war and the war was very sense less because people had no direction and just went into doing what they wanted to do.
?And have compulsory education in all counties.
?Part of the solution is to do away with ethnicity and love each other as one Liberian.
?The small, small gathering, in Monrovia should be stop.
?People going to discuss things wrongly and should discuss things properly. And you want for government to pay attention to all of those things.

Thanks very much for discussing these with us and for the recommendations you have made. We recognized that the war affected you as an individual and we love some of your relatives, we say have my sympathy for what happen and coming this morning to made your presentation.

Commissioner Konneh: What has been the discussion of some of these formal fighters' and your interaction as chiefs and elders as a motivating factors of fighting this war. You talked about the senseless war, is the war sense lee or those who fought the war senseless?

Presenter: That those who fought the war.

Have any of them come to you to share the reason why they fought this war?

Presenter: But this day our cultural has taken a new term days gone by in the 60's and the 70. But if you even asked any one to when you talked about cultural, the key point is education. Eructation has superseded every thing. Because when you join that Zoa bush to even pass here you have to go down before passing here. And a little boy when you said go and certain sound when you say to them they will look back. But you can do it now. Because they will say you want take my child from school. So our country is not working hard. That is while I am referring to education, because it has superseded our cultural.

Commissioner Bull: Mr. Gbarssagee thank you for contributing to your country still as Land Technician, and we also thank you for coming. Gbassagee, are you related to the late representative Francis Gbassagee?

Presenter: Yes. He was my brother

As an elder you brother up some thing about the Poro society those were part of our cultural don't you think it should still be part of our cultural?

Presenter: So because of cultural value no young man will be able to disvalue cultural.

Commissioner Dolopei: Good morning. I just want to say thank you for coming to TRC for making your presentation we hardly appreciation it. And also accept my sympathy for the death of your two daughters. And also sorry for the experiences you had during the war. We could have appreciated it, were you as an elder to make an officer statement to the TRC and for you to be heard during our victims' hearings. Unfortunately we didn't get that story, but we are happy that you were able to carry us to that direction. During our experiences of the hearings especially in the southeastern region, even from here we heard the cultural expect, the traditional expect, where even it was stated heard that somebody disappeared from the car that was put into to be killed, and so these are some of the things we want to know because people claim that it was the elders and the traditional people who give them power. So we want to know what the role of the elders was during the war.

Presenter: The elders were not the cause. Those same boys, the rebels they don't listen to the elders. There usual way of telling the elders to sit on the grand, when ever the elders want to make a move, when they give them 1yard they take 10yards that's how they can behave. You see, so they don't give the elders chance. Now, if our cultural backing is given, then we will be able to force them from our backing. Look, when we tell your to do this, this is what we want your to do so your should not move a step again to do another because ours is a cultural of law. We don't do things disorderly. Everything we do in the Zoa bush, we do it by law. But those children when they come when you tell them to do something they will say no. they will do something they feel like. That's how it happened. So we do things like that.

Dispirits the facts that some of the children did not listen to the elders or traditional people during the war we took part or had something to do with the war, positive or negative. For example, when people came into the community most of the time is the elder who received them. And so elders were doing these things. This is what we are coming in. So, during the war in Rivercess, What were the roles? What did you people do during the war? And after the war what are you doing as elders to bring lasting peace to our communities? What will be your recommendations as elders?

Presenter: Our role to the people is to advise them to stop. We call them under the palaver hut to put them together and see the few that we can lay our hands on and say look my dear, is not good to kill your brother, is not right to rape your mother. All of these things God frown at it so your must stop doing this kind of thing here. We can tell them.

Chairman: Did you give protection to the young boys?

Presenter: such as what?

Gun proof, ballots proof, knife proof and to disappeared?

Presenter: No. if we had given them protection then I could have said nothing about them, I could have backed them. But we did not back them to give them gun proof.

So in Rivercess, there was no defense force organized here for example?

Presenter: No, not at all.

And the elders did not take side with any of the factions?

Presenter: Oh no, the Bassolian, most of us we are Christians. So we don't have time for those things them. We advise our children not to take part in any of these things that those people those who come from Manor, Gio. Because that's the place Taylor landed. Our children did not take part in that kind of thing.

Commissioner Dolopei:
Now that the war is over, what is your role presently? What are you doing?

Presenter: Well, I think we said it again, I said since educations supersede the whole thing. We just have to make appeal through our counties leaders, superintendent our legislative cuscus so that this education program can come about. Because when the children go to school and learn, they will not think of nothing because that child will go home in the evening and sit with there parents and became to study their lessons. And that child would thing about stealing. All they will do is tell their ma, go on the farm and get little cassava and eddoes to help me go to school. That's what the child will be thinking about to go school.

What is the traditional aspect of this, because as a woman we were trained in doing house work, how to take care of your husband, how to take care of your home. And we also see our traditional aspect as been equally important as education. You can have education, but if you don't have common sense, that education makes no difference in your life. You can have education but if you don't respect tradition, which are the law that governing us and the law of the republic these all traditional things that has come from years back even till now. So for the Africans is our tradition. You talked about the Zoe bush; people use to go to the Zo" bush and the pro society to learn how to become men and women to bring success to their communities. Even now we have claim of some leaders that did not know book but able to govern their people in such a way that they brought unity in such a way. So we don't want to get ride of the traditional aspect. So this is where we are coming in. from the traditional aspect, we want this wisdom. What are our traditions, how did it have imparts on our lives?

Presenter: We have somebody who is representing our traditional elders. That's Zaza Carward. He need to re-put us together and tell us then, when we get together that's the only way we can be able t discuss. That's the time we will be able to answer all those questions. , When we meet we will be abele to discuss that.

Commissioner Washington: Good morning Mr. Gbassagee. I want to say thank you for coming again. And also appreciate that you could find time out this Saturday morning to be here with us. I would like to know the role of the traditional elders and chiefs before the conflict.

Presenter: We call the people under the palaver hut. We advise the people through our cultural means and then we settle the little disputes that we have. Some times when it is bite higher then we move to another village and sit under the palaver hut and talked to that individuals and everything become kind. These are the roles that we have been playing.

How can you as traditional people and your traditional values and methods of reconciliation to the National process to enhance National Reconciliation Process. How can you reaffirm traditional, Local reconciliation methods to the over all national pick-up picture?

Presenter: All I said that earlier. I said we need to get together. Don't say the man is Gio man. Let's us love each other I think that's the only solution to these problems. If you love John Brown you will not gossip about him.

What do you mean about your cultural need backing?

Presenter: I mean, the elders are not backed by government. And this backing should be from our head Mr. Coward from the internal affairs. He is the one to put it to the Minister.

Commissioner Syllah: Thank you for coming to the TRC to share your experience.
Did you live in Rivercess through out the conflict?

Presenter: No, no I was here 1990 and I left from here. Because war in Monrovia was better off in the bush.

Commissioner Syllah: So when did you come back to Rivercess?

Presenter: I live in Monrovia for two years.

So you live in Monrovia from 1990-1992?

Presenter: Yes.

You live in Rivercess 1993?

Presenter: Yes.

Since our visit we been hearing about citizens defense force was there any defense force in this county?

Presenter: No.

What do you know about the tie sue defense force?

Presenter: Well, I think that from Sinoe some where. They came from Sinoe.

What was some of its impart on the lives of the elders? Anything happen to the old people, the chiefs, and the elders the Zoa duing the war share with us?

Presenter: The children are very dangerous. I say it here. They can tell you to do some things. They call you old man then they tell you sit on the ground that some of the experience. During MODEL war I was one of those who came to welcome them. The late Joshua Johnson from my town, because when ever I hear about war I always run in the bush and they sent for me and say I should come to welcome them. When the people got here, you see some of the fraction is not bad. The man who came here they called him dragon. We welcome dragon in the market hall there. And he ask us our own the law and we give him our own the traditional law. And we said you people you're the Kahn people, we don't see each other blood. So we don't want to see no blood share here again and they did not do it they told him not to share blood here again and there was no blood share at all. But some did not listen to us. A boy went in to my village and took what I had.

You said it was all because of lack of education, and there was no defense force in Rivercess, so since the war been over, has there been any reconciliation from the elders and chiefs in bringing the children back into the community or where are the children?

Presenter: Some did not decide to join but were forced to join.

Commissioners Bull: Am I right to say that the forces that came were welcome by you out of fear? Or was it a traditional way of welcoming people? Or is it that the people felt that if their children went with these forces, they would be protected and be benefited?

Presenter: The honorable Ben who was then the former superintendent he sent for me and when I came I said for what. he said MODEL is here and you have plenty children and all of these children in this county are yours so we need to welcome them so that they will not kill ourselves and the children. So this is the reason why we welcome them and when we welcome them, I give the law told them that you people are Krahn and we are Bassa it means that we don't see each other blood. So the reason while we are welcoming you we want to take your power from you. So you can give your power to us. They say like how, I say we want to find a council and I make Joshua Ben to be the chairman. I say when ever any case that they have with the citizens they are not military people any time they have problem you give it to Joshua Ben but the soldiers must not investigate them, because if soldiers investigate them, they will be killing our people. So he accepted it after it we asked him what is your own the law? The man say, I don't like to see goat, duck, so any time I come and see things in the town I will kill it and the person who get it and we had to send people around to all the village to tell the people my your get sheep, goats, duck if you people get it, your move it from here so they will not kill your. So that how we did it.

Where you aware of the Bassa defense force? And did they come here to recruit people? It was one

Presenter: No. I took oath but I am not award of that.

Are you aware of the Rockcess defense force?

Presenter: Well, I heard about the people coming from the Satu something like that. From Sinoe way

Chairman:
You give the impression that all the children of Rivercess? Who might have participated in the war are today living freely in their original communities is that true?

Presenter: Yes.

Secondly, you said that elders and chiefs were disrespected, now that the war is over, has full respect and authorities been given back to the chiefs?

Presenter: I will say no, and I will say yes. For the fact, these days' children they call them selves the modern day's children when you come across one of them they feel when you talked to them they make you feel happy. When you come across another one again, when he talked to you, you say God. They did not come to stay with Congo man to get that kind of training. Or they did not go in the Zoa bush.

So they get no training? They have not been real by people who had experience?

Presenter: Yes. But that's not all of them.

How about respect from the county authority like the office of the superintendent?

Presenter: The former superintendent is here I thing he will give you answer to that. Oh yes wonderful, the superintendent has respect for the elders. The former superintendent and the present one have respect for the elders.

So it means the elders get backing by the superintendent.

Presenter: Yes. The only problem is some of our leaders make some unilateral. If your daughter is living with some body and can wear better clothes she should be the one to complain to you. I am saying that to say if the superintendent in the county doing wrong to us here, we suppose to take our complain to the minister. Is china of command now. But no other person but now a day I don't know an other person suppose to complain for us. What ever they do they have not wrong us.

Is it true that the elders and chiefs are still supporting sasay-wood in this place?

Presenter: Well, the elders and chiefs can not do any thing with out the government. Any thing that we do it should be pass through the government. That is why we have the county inspector. We have different administration. I soy if this happen than the inspector will tell us that this other rude is not holding. So we don't have sasay-wood here.

What are our chiefs and elders doing to abolish witch craft? Some body wants to make a brief commence here about any thing?

Roosevelt Koviako: I am Roosevelt Koviako, Acting Education officer Rivercess County. I want to make a brief statement on the question on the Defense force. The establishment of the defense force in River County is true. In my district, I am from Moorware county.1990, the war carry me there up There was a defense force in Moore ware, and that defense force is call the living Scorpion. After they found the Grand Bassa defense force in Grand Bassa County, we were there, we saw the whole thing, we started the whole for the Mano and Gio people and we went to Rivercess, the then defense Minister Daniel Chea then came on our side in Moor wear and told us to tell him what was sustaining in Rivercess. So the people there told him say look minister, we came to meet one general Aurther Karnga who was the Zoe bush father. So when we came to put the whole group together Aurthe Karnga say we will not call it Bassa Defense. Because some was trying to find segregation, Rivercess is a county so it is call Rivercess defense force. Then from there they said no. Kuku Dennis came second he said no. we will find our own thing on our side because we have our own power on this side. The living scorpion was a defense force, establish in Moor ware town in Gba-son to be preside. And that living scorpion was established for the protection of the citizens of the Rivercess County. And if even you have heard of operation envelope, the group that left Gbarnga came from Moor wear. The living scorpion they were moving with bare feet they did wear slippers they only wore the county devil clothes. They did not move with guns but they move with cutlass. At time there was different government on the other side and in Moor wear. And even in Moor wear, was where the NPFL had its largest base in Rivercess. The set of two thousand five hundred men was set up in Kanba. My sister son who was known as wicked devil, they grape him and killed him. They force him to eat Paul Bronwyn heart. So the act was just practice there. People children were missing there. So from there, form 1991- if they saw a bright person like you, they will look at you and say you are too sweet o eat. So these things were done here this is while the defense force were going against them. The people carry them in the Zoe bush when we say Zoe bush, the country devil will come out side and carry them. One of the most powerful country devils in this county is call Gba-ga County carry them to empower them. And then when they got in power they turn against them. So at the time there was a split between the living scorpion and the original NPFL. The living scorpion was not again handle by Karnga again but the late general Sagune. (tire with ritten) he was heading the group. The rule of that group was when you loot and when you rape ballot will catch you. Because the don't loot they don't rape. When the NPFL joined them NPFL, is forces that run from Grand Bassa to Rivercess that where they had their base in Moore wear. So in short there was a defense in Rivercess County. All the towns in Moore wear had single barrier unit. Defending their people but they never did it on this side. But people were recruited and taken from here and taken to Gbarnga. And even the group that lifted Gbarnga when it fell, it was the living scorpion and operation envelope. And Christopher Varmoore is presently in Monrovia.

Mr. Gbarssagee, we want to say thank you very much for coming and sharing your time with us. We appreciate and we look forward to the time where positive values will be restore and institutional of vacancy will be strengthen and there will be correct backing from the government and people of Liberia.

Presenter: Before I leave, I thank God the man who spoke about Moore wear did not say I was the commander there. For the fact that when I say I don't know, I don't know it. I don't know about Moware and I wouldn't lie because I use to live here and not here. So my final word here today is about education. The children, I am seen a little girl she is pregnant now .for one little boy too. They are so, so crew they are saying let the girl leave the school is not right. So let those who healing this education business that the girl continues her school so that she will become some body in the future. So I want to thank your for coming to speak to me.

So thank you very much.


Institutional/Thematic Hearings Cestos City, Sinoe County
Office of the Superintendent
Presentation made by: Wallace D. Joe (County inspector)
(Second Institution)

The presenter of First Institution of the Thematic and Institutional Hearings was called to the stand and was sworn to tell the truth and nothing but the truth by the TRC Hearings Officer Pastor John Teayah.

Chairman: good afternoon and welcome. We want to thank you for coming to make this presentation on behalf of the chiefs and Elders of the County.

What is your name again?

Presenter: I am Wallace D. Joe

What is your position?

Presenter: I am the County inspector / served in capacity for one year three months
Where do you live?

Presenter: Cestos City

When were you born?

Presenter: January 7, 1950

Presenter: Dear Hon. Chairman and Commissioners: It behooves us to praise Divinity for the opportunity that you afforded the people of this great county as part-takers into the hearing ceremony under the auspices of your noble commission, the TRC. As we have heard before from other counties, we are more honored by your commission's total presence and have drawn the attention of the entire county, Rivercess including our national legislators, government officials and our entire citizenry that now is the time freely given to them to tell their stories, an opportunity we've long been yearning for.

Notwithstanding, we crave your indulgence to make the following recommendations for on-ward transmission to the government of Liberia. We ardently believe that this will help the continuity of this peace process and thereby make our nation - Liberia to again begin to play her role as peace champion across the globe.

Recommendations:

1.We strongly believe that the task still ahead and the responsibility associated in achieving our national goal, the TRC should be afforded time extension.

2.The primary reason for the establishment of the TRC it to convincingly cause victims and their allege perpetrators to reconcile and make them erase those dehumanizing memories from their minds. We therefore recommend that the government of Liberia (GOL) put a relevant mechanism into place to help those victims in some ways. I.e. messages of peace, memorials, enough education on the responsibility of a good citizen etc.
3.That the children of victims benefit from special scholarship scheme beginning from the elementary to college level.
4.that ex-combatants who were recruited and didn't benefit from the DDRR program should be given consideration upon proper identification in a way of acquiring knowledge that will make them play a role of nation building instead of nation destroyer. Let us rally with our partners because their lack of knowledge or training to make them find a living, our peace and security will still be hanging in he balance
5.Being aware that sport is a powerful unifying force, that they sporting capacity of your commission be more broaden both at the local and national levels.
6.That government explores more business ventures so as to provide job opportunities for our citizens especially our youth so that they will never develop any spirit of never thinking, because they are the forces and wheels to execute war, thereby damaging human resources that is needed for nation building.

Conclusion:
We join hands with other citizens, counties, countries and our partners in progress that we suppose as this will help improve the living standards of our people want maintain peace and security, education for all, it is our hope that our recommendations will be given kind consideration by our national government.

Questions from the Commissioners

Chairman: Is Rivercess having problem with ex-combatants and if so what is the status of the ex-combatants of this county?

Presenter: From my own understanding I stay here form 1990 to 1992 what happen here wit our children while it is true they were fore some did it on their own and we as a people of Rivercess will join government to see that peace be into this community we have forgiven our children where you did it on their own or you did it by yourself. But some other children of the community did not benefit from the DDRR program so this why we try to mention so that the government though your intervention can look at it.

Commissioner Konneh: As county authorities what mechanism have you put together since the ex-combatants did not benefit from the program and what mechanism have you put in place to disarm their minds for them to know that even thought that you have forgiven them and to rehabilitate them?

Presenter: What we have done is that we have tried in our weak ways for some of them to find job to do but there is no organization where we can bring them together for formal reintegration this is something that we have not done.

What is your office thinking in respect to why special attention are paid to people who fought the war and compare to those who did not fight? What is your perception about this?

Presenter: We too have been thinking the same way because those who fought way are being taken care of but we who did not fight, the victims have not been attended to so what we do in our office we give attention to the young people who did not take part take in the war that is if you have job in the community we give it to they young people who did not fight in the war.

How could the superintendent be answerable to the people some feel that he should be elected?

Presenter: Yes thank you, you know just in Gbarnga last week there was a workshop which talked on this and our superintendent was in attendance to that workshop. What we feel is that if you can elect the president we think that we need to elect the superintendent so that when we don't have confidence in the superintendent we can remove him and not only that but the commissioners as well.

Is the principle of gender equity visible in the office of the superintendent?

Presenter: Yes even along the line in the county we believe that women can do more that what men can do something. You know my parents used to tell me that long time ago if there was a war and it became difficult to be resolved they used to send their girl child with message to the opponent and when the opponent received the message that would soften the tension.

How many women in the office of the superintendent and what are their positions?

Presenter: We have a receptionist, a secretary and we have up to nine other women there.

What is your observation with the relationship with the elders?

Presenter: The elders receive maximum respect for the office of the superintendent because our chiefs are important to us.

Do the chief also have similar respect for the office of the superintendent?

Presenter: Yes there is a saying that he who wants respect must also be respected. Yes

Commissioner Washington: what is the relation between your office and the UNMIL like on the rule of law and others issues?

Presenter: It is cordial we are receiving cooperation from UNMIL in this county.

Like on the rights issues, women rights, child rights and so forth and our own traditional way of dealing with our children. How these are to coming to play and what you guys are doing about this so that one can not supersede the other?

Presenter: Yes our people are yet to understand and we have more to do with the rights that you just talked but our people consider it as a problem for them because in our home our children have not been taught we fail to understand that children rights does not mean that the child can not respect the family. We have a case like one James and Mamie Gibson tried to discipline the their child and the child ran to the police and the daughter on the spot insulted the parents and the parents say they were not going to take but to discipline the child and the police and the parents joint into face fight.

What are those very important challenges that you hamper your progress?

Presenter: One of the many challenges was that we did not have office space for our worker before the war we had office for all the government representative for now the UNDP through MIA have constructed a administrative building and one is logistic we have one car for the sup but there is no vehicle for operation it means that if we want to travel we have to beg commercial vehicles.

How are your offices utilizing your local network to insure that your local NGO benefit from them?

Presenter: We have problem with some it is that these NGO sometime because of office space they are pace here and they are operating from grand Bassa county when you talk to them they talk about office space and two these NGO are given contract to do some work of the country and something the office of the sup do have knowledge of their coming here and they can sign the contracts with the donors and they can end their contracts so we would like the donors to come and make sure that they county superintendent to know.

Commissioner Syllah: Are the citizens involved with the implementation of these projects by NGO?

Presenter: Some of those people draw their project in Monrovia and just come to do what they had to do and the some can actually come to do assessment

Is the any development superintendent here?

Presenter: Yes one John Kawee Zokar.

How many persons are employed with the county office?

Presenter: 9 persons now in the superintendent office but with the county in general I don't know.

How many are women?

Presenter: 9 women

How did the war affect the operation of the county government?

Presenter: Well the county is greatly affected in the sense that those positions that we have before and those who occupied those positions like the skilled people most of them left from and have decided not to come back so we have to employ skilled person we some time import them from Monrovia. Though they can be from Rivercess here.

Does the county leader hold regular meeting with the citizens?

Presenter: Yes we do that and we have something we called the CST which is the County Support Team meeting where the line ministries representative including commissioners and the DDC and the UNMIL Civil Affairs on a monthly basis beside that they county superintendent can call elders and hold meeting not in the superintendent office alone but the district as well.

When last was the last meeting?

Presenter: Some time last month

Where was that?

Presenter: Jappas Town.

Is the superintendent office in control of revenue generation?

Presenter: No

So the revenue agents what do they do?

Presenter: They can send their report to Monrovia.

Remarks from the superintendent:

Superintendent: Thanks for your full representation in my county there are two questions together with some comments. With the process of recruiting women you know there are these issues of concerns. One is the issues of qualification one thing that people don't understand is that the job is there but who does the job if you come and asked how did this person get this job but you will want to satisfy policy in my office the high office that procurement officer. The second point is revenue generation, I am inviting the line ministries but because there was no unit to house them this has been the reason we have been receive report on the revenue funds. For record sake there was news that Rivercess was not generating revenue but we did our work on that and I can tell you that Rivercess is making the highest revenue about the three counties around here we have gold and diamond here.

Questions from Superintendent:

1.Will the commission have time for contingency if their time is not enough to complete their job?

2.What is the commission own impression as it regards this tying down of lack for fund or time on the part of those of our citizens that are out in the Diasporas.

Chairman Response: The commission is doing what it can do to meet up with the time as slated for the end of December to complete our job but the act also provide that an extension is possible if we can justify it. It will be given in 3 months extensions in three folds depending on our justification so if by December if we can not complete our job we will make a request to the national legislature for extension.

We have established the diasporas program in June the TRC will leave and go in Ghana and the USA to get testimonies. With from those people have taken over 5,000 testimonies from those areas and I must say the Rivercess community have met with the TRC in the USA.


Thirty-Seventh Primary Witnesses of the TRC Public Hearings in
Cestos City Rivercess County
Bob Kofi Zar
(Fifth Primary Witness of day four)


The Fifth Primary Witness of the day was called to the stand and he was accompanied by the psychosocial officer and the protections officer of the TRC. The Primary Witness was then sworn to tell the truth and nothing but the truth by the TRC Hearings Officer. She was accompanied by an interpreter.

Primary Witness: So, your ready for me now?

Chairman: yes Sir, good afternoon and welcome to the public hearings of the TRC. We have invited you to come and address the commission on its thematic consideration and review on the military and political history of the conflict and the fact that sine the commission got here, and even doing its assessment, your name was mentioned prominently as somebody who could assist the commission in its work. And so what we though it fit to ask you to come and join us and address yourself, to your experience during the conflict from 1979 up to 2003. What you saw, what all you went through, what ever you did, and every thing just to explain to assist the commission in doing its work.

The TRC was established as a forum, for all Liberians to talk the truth and all that transpired so that the history of our conflict can be written by our selves base upon what we know, based on what we did, based upon what we saw. You know, so that at the end, we will have a book and say this is the history of the conflict in Liberia and by getting all the parties involved. We will understand the conflict, and once we understand, we will k now how to advance recommendations as to how to move our country forward. So we are all Liberians, commissioners, we are all citizens of this country. There is no fear, there is no threat.

So we say welcome, can you kindly state your full name for the record?

Primary Witness: I am Bob Koffi Zah.

Can you tell us what you are doing for living presently?


Primary Witness: I am a farmer.

What are you farming?

Primary Witness: I am trying to grow rice and Rubber.

Where do you live?

Primary Witness: I live Bolazah town.

Which districts?

Primary Witness: Central Cee.

Can you tell us your date of birth?

Primary Witness: I was born 1957 August 3rd.

Primary Witness: Okay your thank you very much, your thank you for me coming in front of your afternoon. I am very happy, only one question I want to ask your is, any one brought my complaint?

Chairman: you want to ask the commissioner, or you want to ask every one here?

Primary Witness: No, the commissioners.

Chairman: No complains against you.

Primary Witness: Okay, you know I was informed, I am very happy to be in front of the TRC. If you take part in the war, you got to come and make things clear to your people them as good citizens. Standing before your, I am Bob Kofi Zah right now the traditional speaker of Rivercess County. Thank you. We are going to start far off. But your hold your peace and don't worry about leaving. Because we want to know how Kofi got into the war. How Kofi managed to be a soldier.

It was before 1990, I was having my friends. Kofi was not soldier man before the whole thing. Before 1990 war could come, I was an elephant in this country. I hunted for so many years and catch elephant babies in different different counties. I haul all over this country Liberia. But through my hunting, my friends them and my self use to hunt for elephant they were soldier men. So these men when they and my self go in the bush hurting, the part that I play, they went to Doe and say a man in Rivercess that will really help you to fight this war so my friend left so we were in a town call Tingo town. Actually let me be bold to you, I use to use all the live in the bush. I love the bush more than my self so while we were in the bush hunting, after the guys left, they say war has entered Liberia; they go to the war front. I was with my friend hunting in the bush. So one afternoon, I saw a tactically jeep wit four soldiers. They came and when they were playing cards and they jeep entered in the town. They started asking about me, so when I go look, my friend who they call Raphael Rally, he say Koffi, I came here for you. I been looking for you all the way in your town, but they say you were in the bush. That why I came here for. But we want for you to go and join the army. The president wants to see you. I myself, I was afraid because they never say they came to me to join the army but because war enter Botuo, that you come for me to join the army? I was too afraid.

That was how, they took me and carry me to Monrovia, and they carry me to the mansion. After they carry me to the mansion, from there, I went to meet with the president Doe. He asked me some question, what so ever, then I answer it. He say right now, you na going to the front, but you assign here on the mansion ground. That was how they assign me to the mansion ground. We were there, when we go look, they say the rebels have cross the river and are in Botuo, but they are advance to Kamplay way.

So I say the people asked me. The people asked me. That why Doe set up that troop. If anyone can remember, there was certain special squad that Do had in Monrovia eleven men squad and those eleven men were so, so elephant hunters were special squad. They went and promote me to first sergeant. After they had captured Kahnplay, the people advanced in Zorgowee, Doe called special squad to get Karnplay back, that how they took me from here. That was my first time going on the war front, but before you go, before you get to the junction, they got one junction they call Kpehn junction. We got here and you look in the rubber bushes you will just see all the camouflage, every body laying down, the camouflage with puff off dead bodies them. So I said to myself "what kind that kind of thing we came to?" we passed we reached Ganta from Ganta we moved up, before we got to a town call Zorgowee, a town before you get to Kahnplay, we butt up with the rebel there, it was fighting. The fighting lasted for two days we took Zorgowee back from the rebels. They retreated back into Kahnplay, but before getting into Karnplayit was not easy, we fought in Karnplayfor one week, we took Karnplay back. When you hear say the rebels ran away they went in some kind of mountain, up the mountain that where they were. We were in that town, but before we could get the re the rebel had killed all the Mandingo people there that was having businesses, stores, everything. They had killed them so any where you go the houses burn. I never knew Prince Johnson, but they found one picture, they say here the man who brought the rebels O! by that time they aint called him called him Prince Johnson, they called him Prince Tonic. so we started looking at the picture from there, there was Thomas Gobbah, that was major Freeman, John Y. Kriku O! Philip Kamah O!!! David Nimley. That was the them was leaders for us. But special squad was somebody different from the solders. We are eleven men , we can accomplish any mission. After we had taken karnplay back, Doe sent for special men to come back to Monrovia. We got back to Monrovia, they ok promoted me to the rank of 1st lieutenant and my friends an my self they call Baybor, Thomas Baybor was captain. So from there we were there, so they say well, the rebels had come back again. But they were all advancing, they passed Ganta, they were advancing to Bellela. That where I saw 106, they was having it at the mansion. Doe gave John Y Kriku the 106. if any one of you can recover that if Charles Julu get over air he say he and the rebel going to meet in Bellela and it was going to be the last meeting and they were not going to meet no more. That why we carry the 106, where 20 some more rounds were used in Nimba County. From there they left us special squad to Bellela and they the gun back to Monrovia. We were in Bellela for two days, they tell us special squad say we should come to Bellela from Bellela you come to Palala. Some soldiers remain in Bellela. Before in the evening those soldiers that left in Bellela started running coming in Palala they say but the rebels na cross they around here. Special squad should get ready. We all we take it to be fun as for me, I ready take it to be fun. In the morning my friend and my self it was some minutes to 6, I say my man I want to go in the toilet man, when we went into the rubber bush not knowing those guys were in the rubber bush. I look in the rubber bush long time, I say no, need, the place too dark, lets go let me go in the toilet house. I came back from th rubber bush, I went in the toilet house, I to the toilet house, before I got through toileting, the only thing I hear that the launching sound. The fighting open. We fought for two hours, the one that make it 3, the guys them drove us from Bellela. Not knowing all those top, top generals were not generals. John Y Kriku was not a general he was a colonel, Thomas Gowah was a major, they all were in Gbarnga. So we decided to come back Gbarnga. We walked from Palala to Gbarnga. When we came we told John Y Kriku that the people ha taken over Bellela, he got vex, he said why your must sit down for the people take Bellela from us? Not knowing when we left they carry issues for us like those camouflage and new, new arms. When those guys attacked us there was no way for us to retreat with the arms. We left those things in the house so those guys them, quick, quick they dress them self with those camouflage, all the M16s were in their hands, all new, new arms. So when tell Kriku, if you hear John Kriku die, that how he die. Kriku got vex, we passed he and Philip Kamah pick up their tactically jeep, leave their whole troop back, they were the first persons to leave. So the army track they were using, when it here, you way on the mission, you will hear the sound. So we start going, we were force to go back to capture Palala back. Before w could get there, the guys na take over Palala, they na deploy their man them all on the roads. When we went somewhere, we butt up with the 3 colonels, they say your come pas in front, when we passes, the truck passed in front of them, we saw one woman with 3 children stopping the truck. So the driver stopped he say the people them are in the town, right away, John Kriku, them came straight and passed by us. When we go look Kriku enter Palala straight, the only thing you could hear that the launching sound, they launch Philip Kamah, they launch Kriku then he came from the car the boy gave him courtesy. He say chief we are here, he say where the rebels? He say we just now capture the place back from them. But hey run away. He say your come to get supply, not knowing that so, so the boys. As soon as he turn his back to pick up the ammunitions, they waste it straight on his back. Before Philip Kamah could get in the town, the driver they burst his head straight. The car turn around, Philip Kamah jump in the bush. We could not make it again, before the truck could come there, they na put the jeep on fire. We and them started changing fire, we couldn't make it, every body all the ranking officers na run away. Then what we will do? I say buy then gentle men the commander that carry us they call him US Karpah. Karpah say but then your lets go back, we came back, we got there, that time we were special squad we were assign with Charles Julu. Charles Julu say but then we going back to Monrovia. He put us d in the car, we came, when we got in the mansion, the president say, Charles Julu, you will not leave Kriku body over there, yu got to bring Kriku's body. That how they sent us back there again for us to bring Kriku's body. But before we could come no body could not reach Palala again for Kriku's body so what we did, we pick up one man's body that they killed and dressed him fine just like John Y Kriku with the camouflage we brought him and we say we are bring Kriku's body. It was not easy that time there, we buy good casket, whether that poor man die that day we na know, but good casket And Kriku was burry good. So from there, they say the rebel has enter Bassa. They say we who were in the mansion yard, those Kahn, those Borho got together if you Bassa man they will kill you, if you kru man they will kill you in the night. So they started speaking they tribe, so they say, from there, when we go look, so they say where all the Bassa boys that here, they got to go to Bassa to fight. That how they collect all the Bassa boys they say we must go and fight in Bassa. Charles Julu brought us, they just stop us to the St. John. They put us down. When we come to St. John, we crossed we entered nobody fire until we and one Hamilton, he was captain Hamilton. If any body knows him, he was the captain that day. As soon as we got there, he say your deploy men. They sent my friends and I to LAC high way. I never knew Elmet Glay Johnson. But we saw the red pick up coming from Lac way and went in to the town. We never arm bushed the pickup. While the pick up was coming back, one boy we had they call him T. he arm bushed the car. When he arm bushed the car, that was Elmet Glay Johnson, other people who don't know the story, they say the people brought, Elmet Johnson and they kill him, that so, so lie. That was not Taylor soldiers that killed Elmet Johnson, but it was government force. From there, we decided to go back because Bassa was so big and we they sent in Bassa, we were not plenty. We were 20 some more. We could not cover the whole off Bassa. So we can go hit and come back. And before we go to the bridge, not knowing that those guys them na cross, they set one long arm bush. We all who were in the car, before we could get there, we were in the center of the arm bush, they launch the car, we were about 24 in the car, only three men survived that was Bob Koffi Zah, there was one but from number 3 and one other boy again. I just forget their names. But only three survived the whole pick up burn every body died. When we went, those boys them, we were near the St. John river, those boys them know water, and me, I na know water so they decided to jump in the water to cross.

So when every one finished jumping, only my one was standing there, when I look at the distance I was standing, I couldn't cross with my arm. So I say what I will do, I will go back on the road any body challenge me, I will challenge them. Luckily, I got on the road no body fire me, I walk on the bridge and got on the other side, no body fire me. When I go look, I see my friend them where jump in the water, we went and say, they arm bush the car and all the people died. Not knowing they finished killing Hamilton, where he was in the radio room, they finished killing him. They say the captain left there, your got to go for the captain. Then I say but is an arm bush but before we could get there again, Charles Julu cam and took the pick up, his jeep and come back to Monrovia. So I say for me, I am a special squad, I can't be here, so I got to go back to Monrovia. So luckily, your get to say I the man body guard. So they put me in the car and sent me to Monrovia. When we got to Monrovia, then we go hear say in the evening, captain Hamilton die, that rebel kill him. So those who was assign on his part, they all ride on a boat and we all went to Monrovia. From there, they say who all went on the mission we got to jail them. That how they grab all the bassa boys they put us in jail. They say in the night they will free us in the night. They will call you for free in the night, they will kill you. They will call you as soon as you come out side, they will kill you. So that night it was some minutes after one, so my heart say, I must not come out side. They call, call, call, I want answer. So the officer guy say aint they calling you, so I answer. They say come out side, I say I na coming out side. They wanted to force me to come outside among the people, that was how we started fighting and they cut my two veins here. They cut my two veins.

So I started bleeding, so when I show, my hand, the blood started wasting on them, they were scary, my friend that carry me in the army they call him raffie, I heard raffie was talking out side, so I decided to call him. Then I started yelling his name. He answered and said, but what happened and I explained. He said you put him outside, and when we went, they say your sent him home and take treatments. So I went home on the Ashum street, I was living up there, in was having two radios in my hands. These guys that were assign to with me, they were four, we all were living Ashum Street and we all came home. We were in the house in the house, I say but gentlemen, they say yes, I say but thing is getting rampant now oh, because the Krahn man can be cooking for the Bassa man when we were in the army, but as for me, I na going back to that mansion ground again. When I go look, they say Charles Julu run away last night O. but then I say, that how it looking, the boys them say that how it looking, we all will force pour way to join different faction. Not knowing when those guys were in Rivercess, I had one best friend was with them, they `call him Sam Gogo. He was power saw operator that time I was forest director for Gaway.

I use to carry them in the bush to fell these logs them. It was the first logging company to come to Rivercess; they call Gaway, so those boys them call me. I saw him dress up that morning, not knowing the guy them sent me on mission for him to come for me. So he started asking in the area where I was living. So the people show him where I saw living, so I saw the young man came there, so I saw him, I said, Sam, he say I na know what I on O. my children them are all gone, and they missed me last night. They almost kill me, the people wanted to kill me, some they say you in the army that why i come for you. So I say come, if that the case you will not die, stay here with me,

So he came, I carry him inside, he changed his uniform, right now, I will give you uniform, you soldiers now, let me hold the guns. When he came I took the arm and took on camouflage and put it on him. I gave him one M16; he was the body guard behind me.
We went on the road to drink, while we were drinking lecturing, I started telling him when I go to the mansion yard he must be afraid, he say he will not be afraid. Not knowing that man I playing with that the real man that can really fight for prince Johnson, but he was on a mission in the town. So we went some where to drink, the money was not correct, so we were acting like soldier men now, we say we now get money, so he carry me in the bathroom he said, Bob, you cant do this these them. The man haul one $ 50.00 note, hmm, we were just looking at him, not knowing that the money that was no that man, was more then $ 10,000 USD. We started looking at him, he say well, your go and change it.

We changed it, and we drank some more liquor, pay the woman and we left. He and my self went home, they cook, and we ate. After eating, it stay, he say let walk. We walked, and on the big rock we sat down he say Kofi you brave? I say you asking me if I brave. I am a soldier man, he say if I tell you some thing, you will do it? I say yes. He say I am a rebel.

When that boy tell me say I am a rebel my whole feature go from me. I say what? He say but what happen, you remember you went Karnplay? You gave us hard time in Karnplay, I came tom my self. He said, you fought us in Karnplay and in Zorgoweah, you remember? So Prince Johnson says I should come for you. I say the man you talking about, I don't know him, but you know you will come for me. You know I was too embarrassed I don't know what to do, but I know what to do, but when I go back to the mansion ground, these guys na after nobody, they after the Bassa boys, James Dorbor who was the FO, he him self, scary na O, so I went to work, I said no men? They say what we will do, I will find a way to cross the bridge. I say t go where? He say let cross the bridge and go to Caldwell Junction. I say but the thing is common to me, right away, I pick up, the radio, I call Thomas Gowah. I say Thomas Gowah? He say yes, I say tell Taylor, that I am going. I want to know the people location. I want to know where these people are. He say that is okay.

He said that true, how many men you carrying? I say, I only get my body guard with me ready here. But if I get to free port, I will get the others to join me. He says okay. At free port, I got to the guard post, any man I see, they will walk away from me. I say, you come, they walk away. I say lets go and find their locations that what I will do. They used the 40 barrel missile to blast that area. When I got to the Freeport junction, Tailay then was in the fence, and then I passed. When we got to Barnesville Junction, I passed, but before we could get to Caldwell junction, so, so, of those gays then o everybody tied their head with rd cloths, some of them with false face and all kinds of dressings.

They halted the tactical jeep. When they halted the jeep, myself was very afraid, and Sam Gogo responded, "Commandos, and they too answer and said" Brave, strong and Intelligent". Everybody came to the jeep and saluted then their boss man and said, yes sir, yes sir chief, and he said my mission has been accomplished. Then, we tool Caldwell road and Prince Johnson was on Caldwell. So when we t in Caldwell, we saw the Late Samuel Varney and Prince Johnson , they sitting in front of a shop; he called Sam Gogo, he said that's the man you went for, he said yes; then he said bring him here, I stood up, pepe jammed me right away; then I said, I want go pepe, then he said you are scared but I am not going to kill you; then I said but let me pepe first; all the children that were with me were very scared and started crying. Then, prince said, your take the children to the base, and he said, from today, you are no more AFL soldier, that's how I joined INPFL. I was with prince Johnson until we captured Duala, we moved, if somebody tell you say that Prince Johnson brought heavy weapon like 106, 50 caliber, then they are lying. Prince Johnson entered this place with so, so light weapons; the only heavy weapon they were having was captured from us (AFL) in Bong County. Like the 106 and thing then. The 100 caliber Prince Johnson was using was captured from the Free Port.

One hot sun day, Prince Johnson called me for us to go attack the port. Hat hot sun attack we went for it; 150 soldiers/men, some people passed to towards Duala way and entered the boat and other people passed towards Gardnerville. When the whole troops entered the Port, the AFL soldiers started running away and some of them jumped the fence and an away. AFL never fought ant war at the Port. The man who was taking of the 100 Caliber ran away and we captured the 100 caliber; then the whole Sea Port was captured by us.

So from there, we started breaking into the warehouses. The first warehouse we broke into was the Firestone warehouse because that it had all the rice. We started using the four-door pick-ups, trailers, and other cars to transport all the goods to Caldwell base. Going to Gray D. Allyson house yard, there is an area called Taylor's Compound that was the house Prince Johnson as his house. We carried all the things. All those houses in Caldwell was used as warehouses, we had warehouse #1, warehouse #2; we took all the thing from Freeport; things like trailers, jeeps, cars, and plenty other things. But the law of the people is that they if you do no come with them from Buutuo, they do not have respect for you, even they will finish sharing their materials before giving to the other soldiers that surrendered, but I had one friend called Sam Gogo who use to make things easy for me, he used to bring all my own of the supplies on time. If you hear 106 calling from the mansion, that gay they called him Papee, I put him in the army; he was also with Prince Johnson, that's how we took over Caldwell; we starting fighting

Larry Borteh and Prince Johnson got together, now he was the Middle -Man between Doe and Prince Johnson. If you know one Larry Borteh who Prince Johnson killed; I was there when he killed Larry Borteh. Larry Borteh used to , because Prince Johnson used to love so much, time come now, he never used to considered any soldier, when ever prince Johnson sent him to the mansion, he will take the materials, the fuel oil, gasoline the people were suffering, Larry just used to take it for himself. One day, somebody called prince Johnson and said that Larry Borted was with Samuel Doe and Prince asked if the person was telling the truth and the person said yes. Rih away, Prince asked us to go to town, while we were going, we met up with Larry Borted right before Stockon bridge, Prince said where are you coming from? Before the man could open his mouth, he shut the man right in the head and the man dropped. From there, he asked us to move to Ducor. They say one Fred Blay there, he is communicating with Doe; he say your go for Fred Blay, one Papay with big head, when we got there, we opened the door with force and saw Fred Blay with two communication equipment in his hands, I think he was Minister for Commerce, something like that, when we went, the Papay was having two sets, two sets, he had jus
Back to List of Transcripts