Voinjama City: Day 5: Institutional/Thematic Hearings

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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 morning and welcome to the TRC and we thank you for coming to represent the Marketing Association of Lofa County

Presenter: The marketers in Lofa County really suffer the war in Liberia, in that in 1993, the marketers had their goods in various warehouses in Voinjama City and Rebel attacked Voinjama City and people ran away and they take all the marketers goods.

Again in 2001, marketer's goods were all in various ware houses and LURD rebel attacked Voinjama City and the marketer became the victims again in that all their goods were taken away.

In this light, the marketers of the Lofa County are appealing to the TRC to talk to government so that government can extend loan to the marketers of Lofa County, so that marketers can wake up again and forget about all what happen to them during the war.

The way the war happened in the county it affected us a lot. All of our girls children were taken from here and taken to Nimba county and we have not seen them. Some times people can bring message that they are dead and people can come and tell us that they are in Nimba. This is affecting us a lot; as such we the women here in Lofa are making appeal so that you can help us to find our children.

We loose in the war, but since God make us to live there a lot of things we can do to help ourselves. In this war everybody suffer but we the women we suffer a lot. So we are asking the TRC to make it possible for us to see our children. There is one girl they call Yawalleh she was taken from here and we can't see her. Our children were taken from here and they are making farms for the people over. One of our women they say her daughters was coming back not knowing she is dead.

Questions from the Commissioners:

Chairman: Thank you for coming and we will ask you some questions, when were these children taken from here?

Presenter: This thing happened since 1990.

Commissioner Syllah: besides taking the children can you say what else happen?

Presenter: When they enter the town the soldiers they cant look for their friend soldiers that our daughters they can be taking

Commissioner Stewart: thank you for coming, you said your had goods in the ware house before the war, is it only here?

Presenter: No it is all around in the county and the fighters took everything.

What do you think the TRC can do to help the market women?

Presenter: Let the TRC help us to give us loan because most of them are now making farm so they can help us in making our farms. They can provide us with seeds and tools.

How is the road condition?

Presenter: There is no good roads and in some areas no road can reach there.

What is the other problems that you have here?

Presenter: What happened to us here is the issue of accident when we go buy our loads they can put it in the car and we have to get over the truck and when there is accident we can die. The people can't agree to carry your load; they say you must follow the good. This few days the truck kill most of our people.

Commissioner Coleman: thank you for the presentation, are you all organize here in the county?

Presenter: Yes we are organize here in the county

Do you pay due to the association?

Presenter: Yes

So where are the problems coming from?

Presenter: The money is not enough because we are just coming. Things were better before the war but this time we are facing problems.

Suppose somebody wants to bring seeds here for you people to be buying from them will it be good?

Presenter: Yes we will buy the seeds

Is that the only issue?

Presenter: The next one is the security issue; the security should not allow the people to carry people on the truck with loads.

Chairman: before you can go can you tell us hominy people you have in your association?

Except I put it on the paper and gave it to you.

Institutional/Thematic Hearings Voinjama City, Lofa County
Lofa Ministerial Council Of Churches (LMCC)
Presentation made by: Rev. Saizay Zubah (President LMMC)
(Second Institution)

The presenter of Second 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: I want to understand what kind of organization is this LMCC?

Presenter: It's all the churches put together.

What are the objectives?

Presenter: Our objective is to preach the gospel and to carry on these three main things like health, education and salvation.

Chairman: Thank you very much for coming to help our peace process at the TRC. You made not commence with your presentation.

Presenter: Greedy man will never know who stomach is filled. Leaders should always be patient, kind, loving and concern and open to receive guest, suggestions, cooperate and fully implementing them: And to live in the fear of God according to Psalm 128: 1, which says Happy are those who fear the lord and who follow in his way.

What Brought About the war?
-Discrimination which resulted into marginalization of certain group in society.
-Unfair distribution of wealth, political, power and suppression of human dignity, etc.

What Destruction The War Has Done To Lofa County?
-Destruction of members lives and churches edifices.
-The breakdown of Christian norms.
-The separation of family members.
-The destruction of churches related institutions, health and school facilities, etc.
-Witch-hunting communities' members and church leaders.

What can be done after the Conflict?
-The perpetrator should be question to justify why such action before forgiveness.
-To encourage dialogue for peace instead of war.
-The government should set up a committee to monitor our relationship with international
Community through Mano River Union, ECOWAS, etc, so to t avoid outside
intervention or penetration like war or support armed conflict.

The educational curriculum should include religious ethics that will sanitize the youth to know their values and that of the state or society, so that they will not be bought by peanuts for destruction or to be used as killing machine.
That armed should not be used as a means of bring leadership to power.

Questions from the Commissioners:

Commissioner Coleman: We want to thank you for coming to share with us today. At this time, my colleagues will ask you questions and we hope you will be patient with us.

Commissioner Syllah: Thank you for coming and sharing these important facts with us.

Commissioner Steward: you always hear, father of the year, mother of the year, and most of these people who are been honored these days are dishonor people. Why is it so?

Primary Witness: Your question is a doctrinal issue. For us, we believe that there should be a respect. For us honoring, we don't have a specific day to do that. Our ideal is to lift our lord Jesus sake. We only respect people that are to be respected. That why I said, that this is a doctrinal issues because this is always done for fund raising.

Thank you father, there are too many corruption in the church, why is it so?

Chairman: thank you for coming; I think you touch the fact of the TRC issues. But I want you to elaborate on some thing like, the perpetrators, how, they did it, and why and the dialogue for peace building. When does it start?

Primary Witness: Dialogue should only start, when we are prepare. And it begins in God. Once a man has the fear of God in him, there will be no problem. That's why I said that a leader should live in the fear of God.

Suppose they refused to be question, I mean the perpetrators?

Primary Witness: That means we have to forgive and leave it with the lord. He will take his own course at the right time.

Commissioner Coleman: As we are trying to rebuild, should we go ding the same old way, or should there be a change? What is the inter faith doing to provide interaction?

Primary Witness: Under our leadership we have provided some guidance to lead us. That is to say we have a fellowship. Every 3rd Sunday we come together no matter where you come from, or who you are.

Thank you, for that relation between the Christians, but what are you doing about the Muslims?

Primary Witness: We are open and go to meetings, regarding some other things like every day garden that is a program for both Muslim and Christians. Tradition people, believe in Gods but Christian and Muslims believe in the God

Chairman: Thank you father for sharing with us, these important in formations. At this time, is there any thing that you want to say to us, any last word?

Primary Witness: my fellow Liberian citizens, if we don't respect our leaders in the church w are bound to collapse.

Institutional/Thematic Voinjama City, Lofa County
Office of the Superintendent
Presentation made by: Rev. Hon. Kortima (Superintendent)
(Third Institution)

The presenter of third 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.

HON. KORTIMA, SUPERINTENDENT / LOFA COUNTY

We firstly wish to extend thanks and appreciations to the President, Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for the setting up to this important Commission to receive the grievances from the citizens resulting from the 14 years of senseless war that was fought in this country, and to find possible solution to them so that peace and unity can once begins to reign through the length and breath of this Republic as was once in the past. Our appreciation also goes to our partners in progress for the financial and moral support they continue to give to this Commission to enhance its work.

Although the war was fought in all parts of this country but Lofa County suffered the most; not only human lives that were destroyed but the entire infrastructural development. The ugliest aspect of this war was instead of the fighting forces engaging each other; peaceful citizens were arrested and brutally killed in their respective villages and towns. These ugly activities were always climaxed by the violent destruction of properties and the burning down of towns in the various districts in Lofa County.

By nature, everything shall come to an end except by God. We are therefore thankful to the Almighty God for touching the hearts of peace-loving and humanitarian leaders of ECOWAS and the United Nations for coming to our rescue. This has put the ugly civil war under control and we are now beginning to enjoy peace and unity in Lofa County. Total transformation begins with acknowledging wrong, changing behavior and moving towards new and common goals.

Weare pleased to make the following recommendations; from the report submitted by the County Commissioners of the various Districts, we hereby make the following recommendations for your consideration:

1.That the Government should that citizens are afforded Educational opportunities to reduce illiteracy;

2.That there should be equal opportunities for all the development financial strength through agricultural, business and skills training to avoid extreme poverty which can lead to civil unrest;

3.To provide employment opportunities for citizens to be engaged in productive activities to avoid idle minds (an idle mind is the devil's workshop);

4.To prove gender equality and minimize tribal and class conflict in the case of Liberia, to avoid Congo and Native people discrimination;

5.To promote majority participation in government operations taking into account tribal, gender and youth balance participation;

6.To promote nationalism and Liberia first attitude among all citizens of our Country;

7.To promote the creation of monuments and sacrifices for the war dead as required by custom and create a victim support network in the nation to share victim and perpetrator experience for the healing process to continue;

8.God is a just God and therefore we must exercise justice for both the victim and the perpetrator; and

9.The love of money and ignorance are the most causes of all evil, we must create opportunities for people to earn money and to get educated if we should avoid any re-occurrence of our past ugly senseless war.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is Lofa County's recommendations which I am sure will be common to the entire Liberia.

Thank God.

Questions from the Commissioners:

Chairman: Welcome, as you may beware, the TRC has a diverse function,

Presenter: I am Kortima. I was appointed April 20, 2006. Thanks and I appreciate you for coming. For and on behave of the citizens of Lofa County, for the full participation. Thanks also to all of the citizens of Lofa for their full participation. Sorry because of me not been able to participate fully; I was engaged in a one week workshop on computer literacy program conducted by UNDP and UNICEF.

Commissioner Syllah: Thanks for your presentation and recommendations. How many mass-graves in all?

Presenter: Well, for mass-graves, we calculated 26; Zorzor-3, Balabazu-3, Nekeboz-3, Yeala-3. Vangar group burnt some of the people in one house, while others were thrown in water, used as Death Squad killed the Table Family; Viojaman-3, Tenebo-2, Potoman-1, Quadu Bundi - Barkidu the people were killed around the Mosque, Kolahum-3, Henman, Foyah - three(3) major massacres. But there are about nine (9) major mass-graves.

Is there any reason why there is no respect for the Uniform Officers and others?

Presenter: I think that has an attribute of the war, the war made people not have respect uniform officers; unlike those days when you see a uniform officer, all respects are accorded him/her. Because of that, I wanted to enlist into the National Army after my graduation from the University but my dream did not materialize as a result of the war.

How effective is the Decentralization/ how is relationship between you and the chiefs?

Presenter: I think it is a new phenomenal, it will take our chiefs and other to understand. One point in time, I told them that is just a partial decentralization. As regards the relationship between my office and the local authorities, we are on course. I have advice them to learn to take their own decisions and make report to us.

Is there any way you people can assist TRC in creating this new work? The victim Network Assistance?

Presenter: Yes, we think Government has a plan on what to be done. What we did, we gave those returnees for UNHCR to construct building for each of them and things are going very fine.

Commissioner Stewart: It is interesting to note that at the local level, the leaders are able to come out with recommendations pretty close to what we have; what is the level of funding to the county to address the numerous problems you are faced with? How are they allocated?
Presenter: Unfortunately, only Salayea prison, where those found guilty are sentenced there. Most of the districts are lacking that, except for Voinjama but it was not property constructed by the quick impart project, like in Salayea, there is no detention center, I also suggest to the Government that there should be a justice for the peace since they know where to place magisterial court. Advance idea of every magistrate be at least a law student, the same goes to county Attorney and etc. 2006/2007 budget for the County was at US$66, 666.00 for Lofa; we do have the Zorzor magisterial, the Salayea Commissioner compound, Voinjama Commissioner which was transferred to the next budget because it is too large. However, as time goes bye, our budget will increase, it is a step-by-step business.

How is the Land issue here? Is there any confusion?

Presenter: Yes, there was a problem of land in one of the districts and we have settled it. But I am of the opinion that land will be another issue in the country if nothing is done immediately. I suggest that there be a land reform. Lets take for example, some vast land located in Voinjama here are undeveloped and when we asked the owners to sell some to the County Authorities to enable us build sport stadium, the individuals are charging US$2,000.00 per acre; this is an area they bought from government at US0.50 cent per lot. We think this is unjust especially so when we want to carry out development in the interest of all. If our negotiations are family level fails, I will have options but to involve the National Government.

Chairman: Has the creation of Quadu-Budu as a District in any way contributed to conflict resolution in Lofa County?

Presenter: No, the creation came about when the citizens themselves decided that they wanted a district status, what ever the case was, their petition went through the National Legislature and was passed but I personally had problem with a Clause in the Act creating the district which has to do with boundary. The boundary of the new district extended into another district. After some assessment, a Committee was set up to look at the original boundaries and as we speak, the Committee has to a larger extent completed its findings and 95% of the Committee members has signed the document constituting the actual boundaries but only 3 persons on the Committee say they have problem with it.

Has Boundaries problem been finalized?

Presenter: No, not yet, as I told you earlier that 3 persons on the Committee set up to investigate the boundaries say they have problem despite the vast majority approval, but for the sake of peace, we are looking into their qualms.

What's about Gender Equity?

Presenter: Yes, I started within my office; from the unset, when the President appointed me, I denounced the position because of the kind of orientation we have. I felt that it was important that she appoints a Female. However, I have more women in my staff, I think there is gender balance in my office.

To what extent is your office involve in the Revenue Collection in your county?

Presenter: Some of the Line Ministries feels that they are not accountable to us but when they get in problems, that's the time can run to our office fore support. In fact, we concluded in one of our Superintendents' meetings that each Line Ministry give us a copy of their revenue collected on a monthly basis and just few of them are responding. We have also advance the idea that any NGO that chose to work in the county should pay their tax to the county instead of in Monrovia; most time when they come and we asked for their document, they say we must check the Ministry of Finance. Nevertheless, I have mandated the Development Superintendent to close any NGO which refuses to submit a copy of their clearance.

Commissioner Coleman: Lofa used to be very rich in cultural activities, presently, what is the condition with cultural practices and the government working?

Presenter: For me, I am a Traditionalist, so, I always advice all citizens of Lofa to up-hole and respect our individual traditions. In fact, I have proposed that we establish a Heritage Center in Lofa and luckily for us, I came in contact with an organization that is engaged in developing these kinds of sites around the world and they have invited me to attend a seminar in the United States of America in not long distance future.

Does Voinjama City make a million dollars annually?

Presenter: No, I do not think so; if they were generating such an amount, they were not going to depend on government; almost all the employees here are on government payroll.

What plans are there to make sure that Lofa County regains its position as a Bread Basket of Liberia as it was widely known in the past?

Presenter: When we took over, lots of NGOs were here training our farmers but we told them that our farmers do not need kinds of training now, all they need presently is someone who will Pre-Finance them, and some of them started to positively respond. Moreover, we were fortunate for the Government of Liberia to have chosen Lofa County as the site to start the merchandise farming and we are making headways.

Is there anything on your mind that you wish to share with us before you leave?

Presenter: Yes, I just want to tell you all thank very much the work you are doing in Liberia in search of peace and reconciliation. As I said here from the beginning, I asked all Lofa citizens to speak out their mind or forever should they hold their peace. Right now, peace is the only way forward and not war. Thank you very much and we think that you are doing a great job. Thanks.
Institutional/Thematic Voinjama City, Lofa County
Lofa Educational Sector
Presentation made by: B. Smallwood Davis
(Fourth Institution)

The presenter of third 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.

Statement To The TRC Institutional Hearings

Causes:

The causes of the fifteen year old crisis in Liberia were due to so many reason which can only be expressed by individuals, institutions or communities. The crisis initially started before 1980 when late Samuel K. Doe over-threw the Tolbert Government officials who were working in the Tolbert Government which was followed by the execution of thirteen (13) government officials who were who were working in the Tolbert Government. We should also take into account as one of the cause of the crisis, the treatment received by the indigenous Liberians from the political power of the Americo-Liberians.

Wealth, education and power of the state could only circulate amongst the Americo-Liberians. Poverty remains to increase amongst the indigenous Liberians and have the welfare of soldiers as state security was down sided.
These amounted to the school children, teachers, farmers, marketers, soldiers, the middle class citizens, to form oppositions such as MOJA, progressive Alliance of Liberia (PAL), etc. which resulted into series of riots in 1978 and 1979.

Destruction:

This crisis brought about destructions of in fractures, human resources, cultural and traditional institutions. During the crisis, schools were only conduct n Monrovia and its environs on and off while in the rural areas, school going aged children were engaged in war fare. Under aged girls were raped and forced to get marry to the so-called commandos which resulted in the early marriages and the contracting of sexually transmitted diseases. (STDs) by the said girls or men. Forced labor was the other of the day and human right violations grew to the highest peak during the crisis while laws and orders were completely absent. Tribal conflicts also existed and individual tribes that felt in secure with the others. The nation's wealth's only controlled by the war lords and educations for our youths were not thought of. But they were all used to purchase arms and ammunitions while the rest were pocketed.


The way forward:

Now that the war is over and we have legitimate elected government, it is now time to reconcile to help us bring development and quality education to our nation. And forget about the past. And in so doing, we need reconciliation amongst the citizens of the nation.

Rehabilitations and development of our in fracture.

Recommendations:

As key objectives, we need to advance the challenges and recommendations as stated below.
Education- education is a gigantic challenge for the whole nation.

In other to fight against illiteracy, government needs to improve the educational standard of the nation by providing free and compulsory education for not only primary but also t offer scholarship for higher education.

We should respect the cultural values of each other;
Avoiding Tribalism
Punity measures should be taken against those who are engaged into corruption.

Each county should anticulate its vision of what and where the country should proceed by the next five (5) years.

And above al, we are recommending an economic vibrant nation which will harness the specific advantages offered by its diverse human and natural resource that could provide the natural resource that could provide the necessary condition which will ensure equal opportunities for social development and improve the general livelihood of its general citizens.

I thank you.

Questions from the Commissioners:

Commissioner Syllah: Thank you for your presentation. In terms of the educational system before the war, can you compare what happen with now.

Presenter: Yes, before the war, the educational system was better. I will say the war brought so many destruction.

Can you tell us the number of schools in Lofa?

Presenter: We have about 250 schools. Before the war we had 360 schools.

What can you say about the teachers, are they collage graduates?

Presenter: We have about 81, 000 schools around Lofa. And we have about 6 high schools in the whole Lofa. We also have about 600 paid government teachers and 900 volunteer teachers.

Who is supporting them?

Presenter: It is the PTA, the parents and Teachers Associations. Most it's the parents that take care of these teachers. And then we talk about the gender issues, before the war, women we 25% in schools, now it is about 45%.

Commissioner Steward: What will you say about the text books problems in Lofa.
We must extent thanks to the ministry of education, but we are in dying needs of text books in Lofa. Some part of last years, books were given, to the schools in Lofa. But upon the arrival of the president to this county, we were promise some text books. What will you say is the percentage of the qualify teachers in the schools.

Presenter: I said earlier there is a brain drain in the county. The percentages are very low. If you count in the county you will not get up to 15 BA holders in the county.

What will be the percentage of those who will be completing the high and junior high school?

Presenter: The percentage is high in the schools, because the people know the value of education now. And presently for those who are in the 6 grades, is about 40%, the 9 and 12 graders, it will be about 25% high as compare to the ratio in the past.

How does that compare to the males counterpart. How many girls graduated from high school last year?

Presenter: I will forward you that when I get to my office.

What is the general ratio of the student per class rooms in Lofa, in the public schools?

Presenter: In the public schools, we have about 50 students per class rooms.

Chairman: thank you for coming to the TRC. I want to know about the ex combatants, you said 40%, did you mean that 40% ex combatants are in the school. And if you check the classes, the normal ratio is about 35% in the class room,

What will you say about the educational system in Lofa, is Lofa improving, or is it been left behind?

Presenter: Lofa is doing well, we are not leaving behind. But as I said, I said, we need some more qualify teachers.

What is the ratio?

Commissioner Coleman: you give us the estimate about 81,000 students in school, what will you say is the
So you are saying, that most of those who should be in school, in Lofa, are in schools, but only few are left out?

Presenter: Yes.

That means you have a large body of people out there?

Presenter: Yes.
Thank you for making us to understand. Do you have any last word you want to share with us?

Presenter: Yes, we want to thank the TRC for coming. But we want to ask that there will be qualify teachers in the county. Presently, we were mobile but we need transportations in the county.

End of the Institutional/Thematic Hearings Lofa County



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