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Journalist Testifies at TRC Public Hearings

January 22, 2008

MONROVIA (TRC)?Hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia continued Tuesday with the first journalist testifying since the beginning of the process.

James Paul, who worked for the National Patriotic Front of Liberia-run Radio Four in Voinjamin, Lofa County during the heyday of the civil crisis, said the defunct NPFL executed former defense minister, Gray D. Allison, in 1990, following his release from the Belle Yella maximum prison. Allison had been serving a life-term after he was tried and convicted by a military tribunal for plotting to overthrow the government of late President Samuel Kanyon Doe.

Paul said the former Defense Minister was executed in Voinjama, Lofa County, where he was moved for what the NPFL said was protective custody in late July or early August, 1990.

During his long testimony, Paul said the April 14, 1979 political demonstration, known as "The Rice Riot," shifted the destiny of Liberian politics. He said the "progressives," mainly Gabriel Baccus Matthews, Oscar Quiah, Marcus Dahn, Commany Wesseh, Samuel Jackson and others, should be held responsible.

"Furthermore, after the April 12, 1980 coup d'?tat, ethnic Krahns considered themselves warriors, which was another factor that exacerbated events," the journalist continued.

Paul wants former NPFL stalwarts Cyril Allen, Benoni Urey and Gabriel Doe to be charged with economic crimes for plundering the country's wealth.

Another witness, William Kortie, said that in 1990 fighters of the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL) amputated his two hands after they accused him of being an NPFL fighter. "They said they would mark me, and so they cut my two hands and my fingers with a bayonet," Kortie explained.

He said that before the incident his brother disappeared mysteriously when they traveled one day from New Kru Town to the Freeport of Monrovia in search of food.

He said when the INPFL ordered the route to Gardnerville closed for fear of NPFL infiltration, they both moved to Logan Town and later Lynch Street, to their uncle's house. But when President Samuel Doe was captured and killed on September 9, 1990 by the INPFL, loyalist AFL soldiers went on a rampage, indiscriminately killing and burning of houses.

Samuel Karnley, another witness, said he and others fled Monrovia to Kakata when the October 15, 1992 "Operations Octopus" was launched by the NPFL. He was shot in the left leg by a rebel solider named Aaron who accused him of being a ULIMO spy.

Karnley, 36, the now -handicapped pastor who wants planners and sponsors of the rebellion to be prosecuted, said his left foot was amputated by former health minister, Dr. Peter Coleman, when Kamley was told by doctors at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital in 1993 that it was their only option.

Witness Romeo Trokon Coker claimed that NPFL General Noriega Gowon beheaded his father, Thomas W. Coker, in his presence in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County. Coker said he presently suffers trauma from the incident.

Coker, 34, said the incident occurred in 1993, when group of NPFL fighters commanded by General Noriega went to their residence in Buchanan, arrested and flogged his father to the point of death before beheading him.

He said that though the war has ended, he is convinced there could be another outbreak if the planners and sponsors do not face justice.

Also testifying at Tuesday's hearing, Juotee Duogba blamed the regime of the late President William R. Tolbert for the April 14, 1979 political demonstration called the "Rice Riot" for failing to handle the situation properly.

Duogba, 56, who said he was part of the demonstration, recalled when the late Albert Porte told demonstrators on Gurley Street that the riot was not a good idea and that because the Tolbert government wanted to stay in power, agitation was the only option.

He said the police must be blamed for shooting to death three students, an incident which exacerbated the day's event.

Duogba wants war planners and sponsors to reconstruct the country. Otherwise, he foresees more future conflicts.

The day's last witness, Sekou Mohammed Fofana, recounted how the defunct National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) executed three of his junior brothers.

Fofana, 46, said Jibba Fofana, 25; Laryee Fofana, 20; Bangalee Fofana, 15; and a nephew, Ibrahim Kannah were executed at 15-Gate while en route to Kakata to seek refuge.

He said they had taken refuge at the St. Kizito Catholic Church, but because NPFL fighters were hunting Mandingos and Krahns during frequent visits to the church's compound, they embarked on the journey for Kakata.

Fofana said it was during the journey at the "God Blessed You Gate," when his brothers and nephew were removed from the queue and executed in his presence.

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