Harper City: Day 5: Institutional/Thematic Hearings

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Forum for the Traditional Leaders, Religious Leaders and other interest groups of Maryland County.

Chairman: This is the last day for our Public Hearings in Maryland County so we decided to organize this open forum so that people who never had the time to talk will express themselves to the Commissioners of the TRC. The TRC has a mandate to investigate all the wrongs that went on in this country and in our laws it is banding on the government to carry out our recommendations. Based on this we were able to send statement takers in the field and we sent our people to make inquiry, then at the end of the program we will make recommendation. We even have people who are sending everything on the internet; as such the work is going on at all level, that is why we are here today so that you will all have the opportunity to make your own comments. Because of the recommendations we have to make, that is why we are calling all of you here today so that we can find a solution and you can make your recommendation.

Commissioner Konneh: I want to thank you our brothers and sisters for taking up your time to come for us to discuss the future of our country and our children. It is important for us to discuss not, you may thing that what you have to say is insignificant, but we know all you will say here is valuable. We want you to talk as the actors of the day and the leaders of the people, if you don't talk now, you will be blamed in time to come, for it will not be in the history of Liberia. We want you to feel free and say all that is in your mind.

Alfred T Howard: first thing I will say is that the war came and the incident that took place are many, but what really hurt me is what happen in my town. They open a man stomach and we came to town and we said this and later they sent somebody to IC CT group to buy salt and he died along the way and they came and started beating people and my uncle was among the group and he was on the ground for four days before he did. And my brother wife also died another time while she was giving birth.

He told me that you are the one always carrying our report and he said today you will get your punishment. He had the two children in the sun and in the afternoon before they left us. When we got there the next day the children died. That is what happened to me. For me when I see him it hurts a lot. We had a lot of cattle and they collected it. I had 12 goats and they all died.

Commissioner Konneh: we understand the person who did this is alive?

Alfred T Howard: Yes he is Samie, he is around.

If you see him can you recognize him?

Alfred T Howard: Yes.

What is your recommendation to rebuild our country?

Alfred T Howard: My forest suggestion is because we didn't learn what was right; I am appealing to the TRC to appeal to the government to try hard and educate our children because the children were influence by other people. The second thing is that we were hurt and we have nothing and it is the Ex combatants that are enjoying.

What do you thing should be done in that case?

Alfred T Howard: The government should assist us for we are the ones that they offended and they should not be the only one to be assisted.

So the ex-combatant should be left out?

Alfred T Howard: No if they have interest for them they should have interest for us.

Mr. Gibson a Historian: even though I am a Marylander, but things happened top me from Monrovia, my younger brother was a national police and he was burnt alive and my three grand children died in the war in Monrovia. I was around the border and the rebel met me and said where I yon going and I said I was going to sell and they took my money from me about $90 and during doe campaign I was the NDPL chairman in my area and they told the rebel and in the evening in Barrike they came to my house and I was told if you remain here until the next day they will come for you and carry you to Gbarnga and I had to pack and go to the IC and when the war finish I came home. When I came I was tapping on my rubber and sell it to the CRC and another group Came MODEL and they came and asked me who get this farm I said it is me and they say who give you the order to be here and they said I should leave and I said for what reason and they said oh this old man know law and they took my rubber and sold it. Many things happened but the hurtful part is that the rebels who killed us are been paid by the NGO and to me it is like they are paying the people to come and kill us again.

Commissioner Konneh: what recommendations you think you should make in order for this war not to come again.

Mr. Gibson: I am a historian for the period of 1821 and if I should narrate the whole history of the Grebo tribe we will not go home.

What we want is the history of the origin of the war, what brought about the war.

Mr. Gibson: The war did not start from Maryland County so I really do not know what brought the war.

Games Dennis: if my son and my daughter pass away, nobody can gave it to me, so we must put our hands together and move forward. I did not lose anybody in the war.

Commissioner Coleman: every body here has a story to tell, but we want you to share with us what you think can be done to help our society move forward, which will be advanced to the government of Liberia in our recommendation.

Commissioner Stewart: as Maryland is a part of a whole, what affects that part, affects the whole. We want to know what the root causes of the conflict are and how it can be solved.

We thank god that you are a special among people who did not lost a family member but we know you went through suffering as such we want your opinion on the way forward.

Games Dennis: The only thing we can do is to have a conference in Liberia here, and the situation where every body can be equal and not other people suffering and others enjoying.

Commissioner Konneh: The national government has put in place poverty reduction which we believe will spread through out the country. Is there any problem that you think needs the attention of the TRC, you can speak now so that we can make it a part of our recommendation.

Games Dennis: The problem that we have in our big town is that our houses that we leave behind were spoiled and they carry all the zinc.

During the war our children na go to school and so they are shame to go among the little children so we want the government to open adult illiteracy schools for the people to go to school. And we are suffering because the road condition is bad, there is no way out to help our children especially we the widows.

Margaret Johnson: We the ML we are far off especially the roads condition. We the women we suffer a lot and we are appealing to the government to the women and the children. We said let bad gone be bad gone, the war that fought our families were affected and it is our own children who fought the war. I suggest that you people should be able to talk to them so that there will be no more war. I also want us to pray for them so that there will be peace.

Domenic H. Dennis: Youth Chairman: is is a good thing to have the TRC. Every good thing Maryland County can be the last and bad thing we can be the last. During the beginning the war while we were enjoying others were suffering. We thought it was not going to reach us and at the end of the day it reached us. When MODEL came, we the young people in this country suffer a lot. Those that went to the Ivory Coast and were in the elementary did not benefit from education. Some Gen. came and collected the young people and used them. Now the TRC is coming to heal the wounds. Now before the MODERL could come the NPFL came and we were four and our sister use to sent food to us and our brother was in the military he use to steel the food and take it to his group. I caught him and beat him and called his boys on me. looking at my little brother who I use to teach and wash his cloths ordering those boys to tie me, had it not being for a guy who asked who I was and he said who is this guy he said it is my big brother and he said it was not good and he look into the matter and resolved it. So today the way the TRC is coming it is like we are bringing back what had happened, so we should be careful. We are making statement because we want to justify. I want to recommend one or two problems confronting the warring factions: some people come to make statement and call people who did not harm them. During the Taylor time there was a general who use to come with arms, and when we go there they will be driving us. During those days there were leaders in the military and they were not listening to the county leaders they use to beat them. One of the superintendents was beaten. General Sumo was one of the leading generals of Taylor and Dan Morias was the Superintendent but he did not listed to him and carried out what so ever he wanted. General Sumo who was in connection with Companies around here. We should be careful how to link information with companies. There was the MWPI which use top say the whole country was in their packet, they use to pay teachers and young people around here who benefited from the company and it benefited other communities. So if I may summaries people did thins that were not recognize.

Commissioner Konneh: those people that are been named, the act give them the opportunity to defend themselves. We did not only take statement, we got the statement and we are here to listen to those who give the statements and not only that we will give those who were named the opportunity to be heard. So what is your recommendation?

Domenic H. Dennis: What I want the TRC to do is to assist the young people who were victimize in the war with education, vocational training because the young people in the county we are backward when it come to vocational training. Some NGO will put our job but we can't take it because we can't do it, as such we want to be trained.

Maxwell Togba: Thank you for inviting us in this forum. There were computer brought for the people of Maryland County that are presently locked up in the prison compound. The issue of people coming in the country in the night and after 3 months they are citizen, they might want to be president or leaders, so that this will not bring another problem. The TRC should make sure that the issue of Immigration be looked at so that issue which mainly brought the war will not come back. Secondly those that raped and committed atrocities should not go free, the Boley, Kromah , Taylor and rest should face war crime court, and those that were affected the government should empower them, these are what I want the TRC to make recommendation on. Lastly I want the TRC to make recommendation to the government for they are carrying development to the people, they should not put money in the hands of individuals but should carry on the project themselves and this will bring problem in that people are marginalize for it help in bringing the war.

Dowenly Nymah: we the women we are grateful to god first as far as we are, for you to come and look for us that is why we are thankful to god. Our problem here is the road which you yourself have traveled on. From my home which they call Gbarlolu it is damage. For us to come to the conference we have to come by boat. We have talker to the local authority to repair the roads but nothing is done that is why there is no food here for we are the one producing the food. We want you to carry our recommendation of schools and he repair of road, which is our problem. The TRC is really working hard but there is one thing, those of us that lose in the war are not getting anything especially myself. Every thing was damaged from me and my house was set on fire, if you like I can invite you to see it. Thank you for coming, I was able to attend the literacy school was in my area and I can spell my name and the teachers are not getting pay and they are not teaching, even the little generator we were using there have been stolen and nothing can be done there again. I am grateful to god for the free and compulsory primary education for my two children are not there. The area of development could human right is not good, for if you beat your own child they will carry you to the station, our people that brought us up use to beat us that is why we are well mannered. The children are spoiling because of the Human right. If you take them to the station you will have to be taking food their and other constraint. If they are not going to school and you tell them they will take you to the station. We are grateful for your coming and we want you to put it in your recommendation the road issue. We appreciate the part of the human right that the woman should not be carrying load and carrying the children but the issue of the restricting the children is not a good one. The poverty rate is high and we need assistance. We are recommending a center for women. God bless you all.

Commissioner Konneh: we want to thank our mother for the explanation, but there some clarification, human rights did not say you should let your child go astray, but the way people can say it is what is wrong. It would be against the right of the child if you are to advise the child and you beat them, some people beat the children to the extent that they have to carry them to the hospital, some denied their children of going to school and some will marry them out when they are in school. They are not saying that you should not train your children but that you should not beat them or treat them bad. First time when you and your husband traveling you are the one that carry the load and they say no and you like that one, so you should understand the child right and respect it.

Bunis Elliot: I thank the TRC for coming. The road from here to Monrovia and because of that we are paying what we are not suppose to pay. I want to Monrovia and asked for the fare and they said L$3500, and I asked why and they said I will pay the money. I said I was on the road and I know the price and later he said I should pay L$3000 and I said I can pay only L$2500 and he send me to the union and they said L$3000 and I told them I will tell a senator and they said I could even go to the president, as such I am kindly asking you to assist us to fix our road, because if you go to Monrovia and buy you goods you will end up paying money more then you have and your business will not progress. Secondly we are asking the government to give us women centre, highs schools and more teachers. The children will come home some time and say there is no teacher. I went to the school and they even told me that.

Shalor M. Allison: I promise not to come to the TRC sometime and today I am here today. During the MODEL war I lost my children and my property, but however thank god for that. I want to appeal to the TRC that I am here. I am a prayer woman in that county. When the MODEL came I ran away and the people followed me and after my daughter deliver the people went behind us and one the twins she had left in the bush and they beast me and we ran away. The town we went in the people say you who the prayer woman you running and I told the people it is not easy. The thing what the MODEL people do to us is not easy and your say we must explain. We want to help ourselves but no way, so we are here to the TRC tomorrow they are going today they are going how they leaving us. My daughter was in private school but because I no get money to pay that fees she na want to go there. The human right people are helping to make the situation bad for us. So TRC we are here and we are begging your. Your must remember we the people in this county.

Commissioner Konneh: Thank you for all you have said, if you have a problem and you don't tell people it will disturb you. We will not promise quick solution, but as a prayer woman we urged you to look forward to god as anything God say will happen it will happen, because it is God who has the final saying. He is the only person who can solve our problem; we are in sympathy with you and hope things will be fine for us all.

Commissioner Stewart: thank you for your statement; I will encourage you to give your statement to the TRC.

Sophia Apiton: my first time of hearing of the TRC I bitterly cry because of what I had a death trouble when we went there and I left all of my children home when MODEL entered in this town and it was 5 am and up till date I have not seen one of my children. It is a painful thing and I have been running away from it but I am here to day and will not want to go into it because it will hurt me. I want to say thank you for coming and I believe the comforting you will do will help us. Normal day we use to pay L$10 to go to Monrovia but these days you pay a lot of thousand and such the hunger has increased. During our normal days I use to do marketing but I am not doing so. These days the hunger is around because we are not turning around. We are appealing to you to recommend to the government of Liberia for assistance for the Maryland women. Our children are no longer in school due to money; our children have now become street children. This is our problem and we also emphasize a centre for the Maryland women to be gathering. This will help us forget what happened to us. I want to stop this far and say thank you.

Commissioner Konneh: Thank you madam, we are in sympathy with you and we all should try to make sure that these children should be given special training and education.

Mr. Victor N.B. Walker Sr. all the problems are similar so I don't want to waist your time. In my own way of saying what brought the war in the country, I am responsible and I want to say that God's anger in on Liberia for the assassination of President William R. Tolbert, as we all know he is a religious leader. In the bible God said don't do bad to my prophet ands we did bad to him as such there is the name for a clemency to the Tolbert family and until we can do that conscientiously we are wasting our time for bringing foreign troops in this country. If we do not do that, there will be a problem. There should also be national cleansing, traditionally and western. During the old days, after the war the worriers will be taken some where for a ritual and the two tribes will come back together. Again there is also a need of civic education. Lack of this caused a lot of the problems in this country for if you know this you will know the right of the other person. Finally there is the need of a community radio for it is from this that you will be able to hear the program of the TRC and others. I stop this far and I hope my recommendation will be accepted and we can give it a try.

Commissioner Konneh: Thank you for the recommendation, the TRC shall forward them all to the government of Liberia through our recommendation.

Amara Konneh: I am not a Marylander but the war brought me here. During the was my brother live in Saniquellie and my father build house in Monrovia and during the war my brother came to me and say what we will do and I say take the children and go to Ivory Coat and I will go Guinea and the next day I hear say they killed my brother and the family and they close all the place and the gate near my area they call it God bless you and they are looking for the Mandingo people and no way for me to go. My car there my store, all was there and my people all of them die. So in the night my friend who was helping me, they help me and they put me in the canoe and they cross me and I went to Guinea and in Guinea too things were not alright and I left and went to Mail and it was not good and I went to Ivory Coast and I meet my mother and I say let go Liberia and she say I will not go there, I will die here. I left and I came for job and I was working and MODEL came and they take the job from me. I am here I am a Muslim and we don't have anything, no school and even in our mosque there is nothing there, no good toilet and bathroom. I have all the children and nothing to help. If I look at my condition today and yesterday I can cry because I was living good life and today o am suffering. Everything is bad for us, so we want help from the TRC.

Commissioner Konneh: Thank you very much for you comment and sorry for what happen. what I will say that in Islam you can cry for your lost people but for lost of hope so you should not give up, God is there and he know why he kept you alive.

B. Widmond Wilson: for the past four days there is a question asked about one of the counselor which is the conflict among the tribe people and they have all dogged it. The people don't want to talk about it and we the children are suffering from it. I don't know about it so I will not go into it but the old people should be asked so that they can talk about it. I believe that the war came from the government because of they had colleges in the various counties we the children were not going to be fool to fight. Before I went to the Ivory Coast the called us to the city house and they said if you have old booths you should help them so the soldiers can fight and some children were joining. If we were going to school and we are getting AA and other degree we were not going to fight. So I want the TRC to appeal to the Government to build our TC so that we can go there when we graduate.

What I will recommend to the TRC is that justice should prevailed and those that did these things should be brought to book so that the youth that are coming up will know what happened. Our aim is that war itself is not the way it should, people betting over the child in the stomach of a pregnant woman. So we will recommend that the people who brought the war should pay for it. If there are companies and I am working and my father is working I will not go to my father to feed me. The building materials should also go down and the road network should be repair.

George H. Collins: the war met me at Zwedru when they met me there they took all my properties, they took my document and my US$1500. My second recommendation is the Administrative building should be repair and all the offices should be brought back. The road should also be repair. That is my recommendation.

Rev. George M. Doah: what I want to mention has to do with the entire process, from our understanding of reconciliation, is that the TRC is on track to bring peace and to reconcile people, but looking all over the same things happened to all and infrastructure were damaged. But one particular question that was asked is the root cause of the conflict. One thing I remember is let Taylor come, by that time Liberian did not know the meaning of war. Another one I can retrospect is that native woman born soldier and soldier kill Tolbert. Another thing is illiteracy, the government at the time only educated the elite and the common people were down the line struggling on their own, as such it destroyed the fabric of the society. Another that that was destroyed was the family structure. Because of illiteracy the family structures destroyed. Those that were educated and were managing the nation could not give proper report for what they were handling. They bible say you should not entrust anything with a novice. My recommendation in that direction is in support of our mother for education. There should me emergency education at all levels. There should be increase incentives for teachers.

Commissioner Konneh: thank you reverend. I think you have spoken well.

Pastor Edward W. Right: the question posed is what did we thing led to the war, I have few things that I believe brought the war. The first thing is tribalism, ands where it exist there will always be trouble. 1990 I was in Sinkor and I heard that the rebels were coming for the government and people said let Taylor and not knowing he was coming for all. When they came we all rejoice. There was also sectionalism, when there was problem in a clan the other fold their hand until it covers the whole nation. Another thing is greed, and the last thing is we lack Liberianization, that is when we are suppose to support our nation we leave it to the government. The Marylander situation is all about sectionalism. Few weeks ago I was surprise to hear that people were around the water chapping on another. I will recommend to the TRC that reconciliation should not only be at the level of the victim and perpetrators but that there should be a national conference on reconciliation so that there will not be a problem at the end of the day. We need to go down tribe to tribe and family to family so that our nation can come together.

Commissioner Konneh: Thank you a lot for you the religious leaders have actually spoken from the religious perspective and this we are very grateful.

Elijah B Kopeh Jr.: I want to give thanks and appreciation to Jerome Verdier and his group for their work. I will recommend that those that carry out the killings should be brought to justice.

Godfrie Dweh: as an independent nation, before we thing about what has happened in our nation, I will like to say that in the 90s our people complain about the rice price. We have the ministry of agriculture, what are they doing by not decentralizing the ministry, for if this is done it will open up the means of agriculture in the country. We do not have to depend on imported rice in this country. I will recommend that the TRC talk to the government to decentralize the ministry of Agriculture.

Joseph W. Weah: I came to recommend that during the war I lost my wife and my three children and also I ran away from the soldiers and they were going to cut me to pieces but I was so smart and they did not catch me. The woman born after two weeks and the No bible soldiers came and the woman could not run with the two children, so she born and another little girl and her self making it four. So that is what happened to me.

Commissioner Konneh: no that we have concluded, we want to thank for you coming here to tell us your problems. We want you to serve as good will ambassador for the TRC. And we want you to take what the children said here, that there is confusion between two chiefdoms which you have to solve for the children are the ones to suffer from this in the future. You have religious leaders and they can help you resolve this matter. You don't have to keep this for it is a big problem.

Commissioner Coleman: as I listen to everybody, there are three key areas which we need to look at. One is to make right those things that are wrong. We know of certain problem and we say it will take care of it self; we have to solve it today and not allow it to take care of itself that is what they called today justice. Another thing I notice is when the old man said I was smart one person said that God did it then how about man that got chop up. This is not because of God but because we are not keeping together and helping each other. Another is selfishness. If you are a leader and you use your power to the detriment of the people around you, you pose a problem. You can give anybody power but how they used the power is what matter. The last one is broken relationship should be amended to form a good relationship. If you keep them they will continue to bring more problems, this is what is called reconciliation. We have to find a way to resolve these relationships.

Commissioner Stewart: thank you for making this exercise meaningful. Let me tell you that the road ahead is difficult but we have to have hoped so that we can put the broken pieces back together. Other people have done it and we can also do it. The road conditions you talk about we know it. We came deliberately so that we can put it in our recommendation. Thank you for coming so that we can put ideas together to solve our problem. We are all equal in this country despite our size, as such we should come together to make a better country.
Chairman: fellow participant and citizens of Maryland County we want to tell you thank you for coming. Not because we are small, but we could do more with our size. The peace keeping here started with three nations, the United Nations started with three nations but today it is the biggest organization in the world. This country have done a lot of good things, it started in forming the United national when it was the league of nation that is why they people say we should help Liberia because they have helped others. In our final reports all that you have said will be there and your names will be there for participating. I want to thank my colleagues and all Marylanders for coming forth and for the work of the county coordinator and his assistance, we want to thank the house of freedom for recording all that is been done so that our children will be able to know what happened during the war in this country so that when they are leaders they will know how to respect their leaders and their chiefs and their societies. Those people that are doing it for us are the House of freedom. We also want to thank the entire journalist for coming here and everything that is been said here is going all around the world because of what these people are doing. The people in America and all parts of the world are hearing all that you are saying here today. We want to thank the Police for what they are doing here because they are always there for us. The people behind the machines that is the computer, first we wanted to bring people from other country, but they said no we will do it and we tested them and they are qualify in doing the work, the white man you see there behind the machine is even a son of Maryland and he is writing everything you said without mistake he is very qualify. Our brother from FINE and other NGOs are also recognized in all they have done and they have encourage women to come to the TRC, we also want to recognize our Hearings Officer who is a reverend and believes in the truth that is why you are been given the oath. When you say anything here no body can hold you for it. We want to welcome you once again.

The county coordinator then informed the audience that there is little food for them to eat after the program.

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