Monrovia: Day 1: Official Opening of the TRC Public Hearings

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Guests and invitees were ushered into the pavilion for the official opening at 9:35 am on Tuesday. Official program commenced with the announcement of the start of the occasion by the Master of Ceremonies Mr. Richmond Anderson, Director of Media and Outreach of the TRC.

The audience received the commissioners as they took their seats for the start of the program and were all introduced to the audience as they walked in the hall. The flag of the TRC and that of the Republic of Liberia were then marched in and hoisted in the hall.

While awaiting the arrival of the president of the Republic of Liberia, Article VII of the TRC Art (Section 26), which explains the Functions and Powers of the TRC, was read by the emcee. The president was welcomed upon arrival at the Hall by Mr. Stephen S. Manley, Program Director, Mr. Nathaniel Kwabo, Executive Secretary, and Mrs. Cecelia Bull, General Statement Taking Coordinator of the TRC. The president then walked in and was received by the host of dignitaries, commissioners, guests and invitees to a standing ovation.

With the arrival of the President of the Republic of Liberia,Her Excellency Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the national anthemof Liberia was sung, followed by a minute of silent meditation and reflection in memory of those who lost their lives during the period of the conflict.

Recognition of dignitaries, invitees and guests of honor was done by the executive secretary and further recognition was carried out by the master of the ceremonies. Amongst the host of dignitaries that were recognized were Deputy SRSG of UNMIL Ambassador Jordan Ryan, Dr. Joseph Boakai, Vice Presidentof the Republic of Liberia, Hon. Isaac Nyanabo, Senate Pro Temproof the House of Senate, Hon Olubanki King Akelere Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon Philip Z. Banks Minister of Justice, Professor Henrietta Joyce Mensa-Bonsu Deputy SRSG UNMIL, Ambassador Jeremy Tunnacliffe, Chair of International Contact Group on Liberia and TRC Working Group, Hon. Brownie Samukai, Minister of Defense, Mrs. Mary Brownnell and host of others government officials and foreign dignitaries. In the audience were also opposition political leaders such as Alhaji G.V. Kromah, Tokpana Tipoteh, Dr. H. Boima Fahnbulleh and others.

The emcee recognized the presence of Maitta Fahnbulleh, Chairperson of the TRC Montserrado County Coordinating Committee, and Sheikh Imam Habib Mohammed. Miatta Fahnbulleh sang a patriotic song, calling on the old and the young to come together for a new Liberia, building a society with respect and unity.

The President of Liberia Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf graced the occasion with a statement. She first cited provisions in the CPA that brought the TRC into being and quoted excerpts from the preamble in the Act that established the TRC. She reminded the audience that the TRC hearings will entail for some the process of grief and for others it would be the process relief. It is a long process, as the nation starts another period of healing not only for truth and forgiveness but also justice. She said that the introspection and public dialogue surrounding the effects and causes of the conflict and will promote peace, justice and reconciliation. She called upon officials of government and Liberians to give the hearings their full support by responding to the TRC when they are called upon to share their experiences and to tell what they know about the conflict. She advised them against allowing the TRC to use their subpoena powers. The president, on behalf of the government of Liberia and other governments around the world, asked Liberians for forgiveness for their actions either by omission or by commission.

After her speech, the emcee thanked the president for her words to the nation and called upon the Chairman of the TRC, Cllr. Jerome Verdier, to open the TRC Public Hearings Process.

The Chairman's speech was as follows:

Fellow Compatriots, Honorable Legislators, members of the Traditional Council Foreign Residents, Ladies and Gentlemen:


JANUARY 8, 2008

Madam President, Members of the Cabinet, Members of the National Legislature, Members of the Judiciary, Partners and Representatives of the International Community, Fellow Compatriots, Foreign Residents, Ladies and Gentlemen:

We as a nation and a people, and with support from the rest of the world, took a giant step towards the path of national recovery following over two decades of conflict by confronting a difficult past characterized by some of the worst macabre bloodletting, violence and institutional breakdown. This momentous step was in determination to chart a peaceful and prosperous future not only for ourselves but also for generations to come.

When the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established about twenty-four months ago and mandated to undertake this difficult but significant enterprise, many gave it little chance - and understandably, too, in view of the numerous challenges that bedeviled it - to come this far. Similarly, many others, from the lowly to the great, have placed their faith in the TRC process as a tenable option in exorcising the ghost of the past, healing our wounds, restoring victims, ensuring justice and reconciling and rebuilding relationships. To both the cynics and those who believe in this national endeavor, we promise a process that will strive to provide succor to everyone, from the unknown villager in Butuo, Karnplay, Maher, Sinje, or Glarro to the lonely refugee in a camp in Buduburam or Danane, who seek answers to why we chose an inexorable descent into a putrid culture of violence, impunity and destruction. The answers to these questions and how to avoid a recurrence of this tortuous past may well be embedded in the truth-seeking process that includes the public hearings we officially open today.

We are happy that with the support of Liberians and foreign partners, we have been able to navigate through difficult challenges, weathered the storm, and are on-course with our commitment to execute the task entrusted to us by the people of Liberia.

In 1931, the young Mahatma Gandhi wrote "nothing is or exists in reality except truth". Seventy-six years to the day, we cannot but share in his Satyagraha (truth force) concept that encapsulates the power and efficacy of truth.

Nearly two decades ago, we had descended into anarchy, and have been groping in the dark since then to restore our common patrimony. Today, we have been given the opportunity to come to terms with this bitter past by seeking the truth.

These public hearings, to be conducted throughout Liberia and the diaspora are meant to provide the ultimate forum for victims, witnesses and perpetrators to recount their experiences in the full glare of the public eye. In a society haunted over the years by denial and national amnesia, these hearings will provide the nation an opportunity to acknowledge past sufferings and abuses, as well as the role of institutions, systems and groups in the culture of violence, impunity and abuse. Through these hearings, we hope all Liberians can share in the TRC process and support the effort to reconcile the people and ensure justice.

Development goals will be difficult to achieve and will come to naught, if we continue to allow our national wounds to fester without healing and dwell on falsehoods by denying our past. As we go through these proceedings throughout the country, we ask the public to follow them closely, show compassion, and demonstrate tolerance, patience, understanding and support.

We have observed that five years after war and three years into building a pluralistic culture, our differences still persist and may have increased overtime, which is why the TRC process is key to national renaissance. It is therefore imperative, in the interest of the truth, which will eventually lead to peace, that we give the process our unbridled support.

This conflict was our own undoing and we are all victims. But there are those who suffered the brunt and are living with deep physical and psychological scars for the last twenty years. Their stories must be heard and sufferings acknowledged. Beyond their stories, must come respite and closure. It is our national obligation to restore their dignity and to do it with compassion.

Experience in the field, whether in the slumps of PHP, Clara Town, Red Light, Zinnah Hill, Slipway, West Point, Rock crusher, Watanga or many other dungeons, hideouts and neighborhood ghettos throughout Liberia, underlines one troubling constant?that the youth, those who are expected to take the mantle after us, are in crisis and may not be prepared to do so because they are living daily in ruins and are susceptible to vices - the very seed bed of conflict- that may plunge this nation back into pillage and destruction.

It is our individual and collective responsibility to break the seemingly perennial command structure by providing relief to destitute footmen who took command from those who put them in harm's way. Many of these footmen and women are roaming the streets and have lost hope, without any prospect for future development and enhancement. Many of them have also told their stories, which must be heard by all Liberians.

Finally, we thank all those who have supported the process leading to today, especially the thousands of Liberians (victims, witnesses and perpetrators) here and in the diaspora, as well as foreign residents who have given their testimonies. We also thank political and war actors who have cooperated with the process thus far and pledged their support until the end.

Now Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my honor to declare these hearings officially open.

Thank you and may God save our state.

After his speech, the chairman introduced the commissioners of the TRC and their functions on the commission, after which he declared the hearings process of the TRC of Liberia opened as of today January 8, 2007.

Ambassador Juli Andee was called upon to sing live the TRC song which was sang in the various languages of the Republic of Liberia. This was followed by a five-minute break, which was given to allow for preparation of the first victims to appear and testify before the audience. After the break, the Hearings Officer of the TRC, Pastor John Teayah, called upon the first witness to take the stand and give his testimony.

The Hearings Officer of the TRC made the following plea:

Fellow Liberians, ladies and gentlemen, we are about to call upon our first witness and we ask your moral support to allow the person give their testimony. While in the process we ask that you listen and pay attention to what will be said so as not to distract the victim and cause disruption as the process goes on.

The first victim, David D Saweh, was called upon by the hearings officer.

The first witness was sworn by the hearings officer using the Holy Bible as follows, "I David D. Saweh, do solemnly swear that the testimony that I am about to give to the TRC of Liberia is the truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God."

The chairman of the TRC welcomed the witness and told him to speak the truth and nothing but the truth.

First primary witness of the TRC public hearings
David D. Saweh
(First Primary Witness of day one)

The first primary witness was called to the stand, and she 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.

Chairman: You are welcome to the TRC to give your story. The people of Liberia are here and the Commissioners of the TRC are also listening to you. We want you to say the truth and nothing but the truth.

Primary Witness: During the year 1994, God so make it possible TRC came in Liberia all of the fighting that took place during the war what we suffering escaping. I am David D. Sayweh. During the 1994 the LPC war came and the NPFL group went in Nimba county they were there for few months at last they decided to come back in grand Bassa through their coming back to grand Bassa the LPC killed many Krahn people, so LPC say the Krahn people were coming to kill us the Bassa Kpelle and the other tribe them. We were not knot not knowing the Krahn were not having any evil mind for us, they came we were in the bush, NPFL was coming. They were having a group called navy division or group. The head of the group one of the head of the group was Chinese japer and also one of the commanders - name was Michael David. They came in our town and when they came in the town and never meet any body which means that you're in favor of LPC then your follow them when they go in the bush and bother with you people then you own finish. So, so they went in the bush to look for us for two weeks. The other one that make it three; they got us in the bush. They carry us in the town?we were plenty, more than 500 human beings. They brought us in the town; they made a group, separate, separate men women. Women had their group; men had their group. And the small-size boys had their group in the women's group, then they made a separate group again. They made another group the girls they the young girls they pack them a side my sister, were living Monrovia, we were living Du Port Road before 1990. My sister and I wor[were] attending world wide Mission of Liberia. That there where we attending my sister was in the 7th grade and I was in the 3rd grade before the 1990 war. The war came we left [for] up in the interior. So my sister, the people that were there they can't explain anything good, the soldiers them was asking them they were trembling. So my sister was the speaker for them anything they say, how many time we spend in the bush, where were you people when LPC came. My sister can answer them I can explain better thing for them to understanding at last one of the commander [for ] the group that took us from in the bush the Michael David group - that they the one hunt for us in the bush - that they the one took us from the bush. The following day they were carry that examination on checking among the people them; they said they were taking the goat among the sheep. The loc people that go in the bush with you people we will take them from here we are checking among the men and also among the women them, say you people the women tem are LPC wives. So my sister luckily, my sister called me I went to her and I was in their group they came they said what you doing here, you woman, I said no, Michael said move from here, he went back to his place in his office, he send for my sister for the first time my sister said no I na going there, they finish parking us aside I na going there at last he send soldiers again one black Jesus his deputy he sent him to call my sister my sister said no I na going there. The 3rd time he send they same guy again, he said go and call Rita -they call Rita - Rita said no I am not coming anywhere, he said ah god - if you na come what I wanted to do to you I send my soldier and they will do it to you' "God in heaven today he sent 25 men power and they raped my sister until-until today she is dead. I went to talk my mother went to my father saying you here what going on you and know your daughter a lot of men on you daughter raping her my pa say what I will do they tie me they beat me what shall I do we in war. My sister was crying a my people your come for me yea my people your come for me year there is no body. If I hear the crying I don't know what to do. I war just around the house going around when the small soldier than when they se they can put slap in my ear. Then I can run away from them again I can go to my ma place my ma will hold me say don't go if you go there, the way your sister coming lost from me that ha you will lost from me too you will die too and god save me from that other one. My sister - they were just on my sister until from that time my people she dead she couldn't make it. The month that thing happen it was on December 3,. I had everything on record the people them. They TRC people came I just gave them my records I na explain any plenty thing just for them to find the truth from me and I just repeat but I just gave them my records because I was able to read and write. So I gave them my records and they just find out form me. My sister na pass that month na end and she died. The man wife he took the women from one certain place they called Zaygbor the same Number 3-C, that there he took the woman the woman name Dawah. He first woman I know his woman he having now. But the first woman now, now the woman she is in Buchanan to Thomas Street. We can call her sis D. when that woman send somebody his friend women them for woods for them to go look for woods if that particular woman refuse the woman will pepper that woman her friend woman and put her under the sun and nothing will na come out of it and nobody will ask.

The thing was going on my sister already dead, my father launch his complain to one Abu - Gen Abu. They heard the news they asked my father you are who them you go launch my complain to the chief for staff. And beat my father mortar pencil the juke it in his stomach they bent him and the war the cease fire came the first cease fire in 1997, my father went to hospital they said he had kidney problem and now he is dead. I never had no body from 1990 up to this time I suppose to e college I who started my school 1990 I na have anybody to support me only my mother living. I the bigger child who am I and I say I bigger child the small brother small sister. I can not support them we up in the interior. I am here for me to go anywhere because if I border with them I can do any bad thing to me. Now I am attending my uncle that brought me that came along with me he is one supporting me. I was serious for school when I go they can put outside for money before my uncle say this my brother son her ready for his education by let me help him and the helping me. He pa he not have, when they put me outside he can beg the teacher them before he self he teaching them they can cut his money from him before I can go back to school that he was helping me, but he pa he na have but now I am in the 7th grade again the place my sister was left on and she died, that the same stage I on again and I have among this public to talk about that same Michael David an gain I have the fear in me. If I step anywhere then he can do the same thing to me and I believe it. When he gives order no adding no subtracting. When he say your do this they will do that thing to you. When you are odd number behind him, he will kill one person. Michael David man who your call Sunday Gar dear body - he na like odd number when you odd he will kill one person when one person was out he will kill that particular person. Hen he check, check, check if the last person was man, woman, or children that person will died also I can say the man that singer now that man popular he can travel he can border with me small body like me who am I in front of him, the man that get title. So I was fear, the people went in the town, I na wanted to give this statement but my sister business was hurting me. And I gave this identical statement and the people then came last night and I told my uncle, daddy I na going no where because the man in the city and that to the man they carrying me and man he somebody. I can just in front of him and talk something the people the say we will protect you go and I came. Even self his cassette to my righteous god to my righteous god let me put my fight hand up I can't even sell - play his cassette. I na like it at all. When he be singing I na want hear it to my righteous god because they say he talking about Bassa people and I am Bassa but he na talking about me when he was talking about me when he was coming to talk about me he na going to kill my sister. My sister that could help me tomorrow. She was in the higher class time like this she was coming be helping me out here is nobody to help me again so may people I commit [submit] myself into your hands. That is my statement. Thank you.

The chairman thanked the victim for his testimony and said the commissioners will ask him some questions.

Questions from the Commissioners:

Commissioner Bull: did you say that this Michael David was leader of LPC in Bassa County?

The primary witness: No NPFL.

Is he the Musician today?

The primary witness: Yes.

When did your sister died? Was it immediately?

The primary witness: No few weeks passed before she died. Who is the DAWA woman? She is the wife of the Michael David.

What is the name of your father?

The primary witness: Morris Sayweh.

Commissioner Bishop Kulah: we thank you for being brave to testify before us. When your sister was raped were there other people who can agree to the story you told us today?

The primary witness: Yes.

Are they from the same area or different areas?

The primary witness: From the same area and there are a lot of people who know about him for we were more then five hundred there.

Commissioner Syllah: how old were you and your sister then?

The primary witness: My sister was 16, and I was 10.

Commissioner Coleman: during your experience, was there any other thing that you notice when these things were going on to other people?

The witness: Some people were killed in the process who refused to do soldiers work.

Commissioner Dolopie: are there any of these soldiers who raped your sister alive today and can you recognize them?

The primary witness: Yes

Commissioner Konneh: do you know where this sunny guy is today?

The primary witness: He is in the town here, he is singing.

Have your seen him?

The primary witness: No, I only hears him singing.

Commissioner Washington: sorry for what happened to you. You say the person in command when your sister was killed was Michael David Sunny guy. Can you recognize him? I have a disc in my hand with his picture; can you recognize him from here?

The primary witness: This is the man I don't even want to hold this disc.

Chairman: thank you for coming forward, we have asked question and are happy for you to come. Is there any thing last you want to say before you leave?

The primary witness: During the war we suffered and everything that happened is what I am saying. There a lot of people who are aware of what happened to me.

The witness was discharged and other family members who came with him were called forward and took the witness stand to confirm the testimony of the first TRC hearings witness. As they took the witness stand to testify they were made to swear to the Holy Bible before giving additional testimonies.

At this point in time there was a break ion the hearing proceedings for the departure of the President of the Republic of Liberia.

First Secondary Witness: of the TRC Public Hearings Marie Konyan
(First Secondary Witness: of day one)

The first secondary Witness was called to the stand and she 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.

Chairman: Mr. Witness welcome, now that you have taken your time to come, we asked that you say your name and say the truth and nothing but the truth.

First secondary witness: I am Emmanuel P Jonnie from Grand Bassa no.3 C District. The speaker is the son of my brother. Even though we have not stayed in the same town, all he said here is the true about the whole story. When the NPFL brought us back to the town, according to the story that I was told, sunny guy commanded the girl to come to him and she refused on several occasion and he commanded his soldiers to do what they wished to her and they gang raped her and she was treated with country herb but she did not survived. The father decided to call for help to the authority and it was said that he is reporting the soldiers; as such he was beaten and died as a result of the effect of it. This little boy is now helpless and no one to help him but me. Let me tell you about this Dear Boy the story happen in Doue Town and we at the Gabba Town are complete victims of it. I can say this to his face. They had a slogan called gorilla single fire, no bible. I had a nephew who tried to escape from Sunny Guy Boy but he did not make it, they were caught and brought back to the town. He had curly hair; he was murder with sticks and batons. His father and mother are still alive. Michael David is our son and we have been waiting for him to come and apologies but he refused to come that is why we are saying it in this public manner. His boys even raped my daughter who is presently in Harbel. There are a lot to say but time is not on our side, if anybody wants to dispute these they can come forward. Thank you.

Questions from the Commissioners:

Commissioner Bull: you said you want to face the perpetrator and say what he has done?

First secondary witness: Yes.

Where is your daughter that was rapped?

First secondary witness: Harbel.

How old she was when it happened to her?

First secondary witness: 13

The Chairman thanked the witness for coming and saying what happened to the victim.

Second secondary witness: Paul Flomo

My people when we explained all that havened to us during the war, we will take a long time. When I went home thinking that I will be safe at home I met one commander called Chinese japer and Sunny Guy who were causing a lot of problem to our people. When we left for the LPC camp and went home, we taught they would help us but they were the ones who caused us a lot of problems. My father was even killed by them.

Questions from the Commissioners:

Commissioner Bull: the name of your father?

Second secondary witness: Alfred Flomo

Chairman: what year did it happened?

Second secondary witness: 1994.

Were you in the town?

Second secondary witness: No. I was in Nimba.

How did you know this?

Second secondary witness: I was told when I came home by my friends and the town people.

Commissioner Bull: how old was your father:

Second secondary witness: about 50 plus

Commissioner Syllah: You were not there when they killed your father, how did you Know?

Second Witness: I was told by the people in the town and my friends who are alive now.

Commissioner Bull: before the death of your father, did he get to tell you that he was beaten by Sunny Guy?

Second Witness: Yes he told me.

Commissioner Washington: tell the people of Liberia how the happening affected the people of your town.

Second secondary witness: There are a lot of people managing live in the town. After burning the town, we now have a lot of tash houses in the town and the people there are suffering.

Commissioner Dolopei: did your father died from the beating?
Second secondary Witness: Yes.

The Chairman thanked the witness for coming.


The Chairman welcomed the victim and asked him to say what he has to say:

We are happy that we can live to see this day, for we use to hear that if you do not behave your self, you will not life to tell the story as such we are happy to be alive to say our story. I am a former President of the Council of Churches, Inter-Religious Council of Liberia and Liberia Baptist Church.

I am saying we were here I never left the country this country during the crisis from 1979 to 2003. I was always here. I only went to America in 2000 when my wife died fro six months, but I have been in Liberia from the Rice Riot to 2003. So I can confirm the chronology of events that happened during the days of violence in our country. We know that the rice riot started in April 14, 1979, I was here we know what happened April 12 1980 I was here, April 27 1980 we know what happened I was here, November 12, 1985 I was here elections I was here and all I was here. So just want to confirm that those things did happen in our country that there was no need to act as though they did not happen.

In particular I am the superintendent of the Lott Carey Mission, we have been involved in a peace plan going to African countries meeting groups but we still we still feel that there is hope for Liberia and as bishop Kula book says "Liberia will rise again'. I did move from Lott Cary Mission to Hotel Africa in 2003. Along the way it seems as though everybody had to take Monrovia while Lott Carey was in front line. In 1990 the dormitories, school buildings, classroom all destroyed, looted and vandalized. In 2003 we had the same experience. Lott Carey was founded in 1908 we will be observing our 100 anniversary this year. We have provided quality education cross the years to our nations and church. But what bothers us the destructions of that school over the year form 1990 to 2003. I have a newspaper with a letter I wrote the leader of the LURD group and the picture on the war that destroyed one of the administrative building on this side of the St. Paul river, Which cost us something around $125,000.00. In here you will see the picture of the "mother blessing in action" this was written on the wall. And I took the on the paper so that everyone could see to come to our help because Lott Carry needs to be reconstructed. We want to say that this kind of destruction has done a great blow to Lott Carey because it has sent us year and year backward. The convention is a small convention; our people mostly from the rural America who continued to work with the school and the amount of destruction and looting that were done. We forgive, we forgive the root in terms of reconciliation but we are asking some of those people when we have our rally to come if you want to reconcile with us come and put some money to where you destroyed.

I think that as fair enough. And I have some photos here that are so graphic that I won't like to show to my children but I like the commissioners to view them. These are pictures that show you how Liberians decided to be the worst to each other. These are some of the things that happened to us. And we are begging our people if you decide to reconcile and see those photos that so graphic you won't want to forgive, but the only way we can forgive we must forget the past in order for our country to go back to normal. Ethnicity and that stuff of things and hatred can't carry us anywhere so we must reconcile genuine forgiveness. Some people when you forgive them they will be acting big and bad as tough ?when you play with me I will do it again.' We don't want those kinds of people we want people who will forget the past with justice and peace and is natural, when I forgive you must also respond then that is forgiveness. I am the superintendent for Lott Carey and I mentioned specifically about Lott Carey. I know all those conflicts because I have been involve with the inter-religious council, council of churches and this issue has been down to the council. I thank you!

Questions from the Commissioners:

Chairman: the essence of your testimony is the institutions of the nations, and the photos you share are graphic. We thank you.

Commissioner Konneh: in your written statement to the Commission, you may mention how your brother was killed, if you can record and know how he was killed, can you briefly tell the Commission?

Victim: Well my brother was killed in Kakata, Morris farm area; I was not there but was told. After the cease fire we went there but did not see his body. Albert also was killed on BWI's campus.

Do you now who killed these people and the group they belonged to.

The second witness: Yes I have names, but I am not sure of the name as such I can not say this. Why did you mention this in you note? To show that I am a victim.

Commissioner Bull: you told us about Lott Carry but did not say where it is?

The second witnesss: It is located in Brewersville and has a sub-station in Tubmanburg.

You talked about the LURD group who headed it?

Second witness: Sekou Damateh Konneh.

I see the letter you wrote to Sekou Damateh Konneh there are some things I would like for you to read that are highlighted to give us an understanding of what is written in there. The letter was read by the victim.

You passed some pictures that you do not want your children to see, we are about to write a book and they will be published. Where were these pictures taken?

The second witness: The one with the bones was on Duport road. And other places in Monrovia.

Commissioner Coleman: you mentioned about the destruction of the infrastructure, is there any other human casualty you want to mention?

The second witness: We say some bodies on campus at some point in time but did not know who did the killings and we had to burry them.

Chairman: Mr. Witness, you displayed some photos for the Commissioners and said your campus was used a military base was any of these pictures taken on your campus?

The second witness: No, some was at the carter camp and Duport road

There is no further question and will hope that the time will come for you to provide more insight.

Last word from the second witness of the day: we should put the past behind us and move forward for unity.


The Victim was sworn by the Hearings Officer using The Holy Bible as follows; I Mr. Michael T. Biddle do solemnly swear that the testimony that I am about to give to the TRC of Liberia is the truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.

The Witness was admonished by the chairman of the Commission to speak nothing but the truth and feel as free as possible and could either choose to stand or sit while he gives his statements.

Witness: "Mr. Commissioner I accept your invitation with great humidity. But before I proceed, I will like to first of all recognize my family members, all members of the Biddle Family at the back there please stand up, my wife, my brothers and sisters, I think they come forward"....Family members walk to the podium.

Fellow Liberians, like I said on October 2006 at the Commission Head Officer, I want to repeat, I have come this day not of hatred but of love, not of conflict but of peace. I want to thank god for giving us the strength and courage to go through the difficulties over these years. They had been painful and very excruciating for us but once your hope rests in Jesus all is assured.

In 1990 when rebel forces were advancing on Monrovia, things became to scatter, hopelessness and mayhem and so forth. Our father, Cllr. J. Patrick K. Biddle Sr., sought refuge at the St. Joseph Catholic Hospital, upon my advice since indeed all outlets of Monrovia were being seized by belligerent forces. There was no means of getting out; he left from his Congo Town residence in June at which time forces of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia seized the Camp Schflling Military Barrack. I was in constant touch with him at the St. Josheph Hospital hoping that the individuals of the Liberian government would be given medical attention. My last contact with him was after the Lutheran Chuch Massacre. Upon hearing that such massacre has taken place, I brave the storm perhaps through the shadow of death from Congo town to the St. Joseph Catholic Hospital to see my father. When he saw me was very excited, he asked me, Michael how are you managing, why did you come here? Do you know the danger along the way? So I said yes pa, I know but we need to know that you are safe. Because my father along with other prominent Nimbian citizens were blacklisted in rebel training camps. I left and went back home because it was my cousin Emmanuel and I who remain remained in the house. Not until August 7 to 11, when the NPFL overran the Congo Town area up to the then Guinean Embassy opposite the former Sophie Ice cream center. It was about 11:00 in the morning when my cousin and I decided to spend the night because everybody has gone indoor in the community. The next morning we left the house joining the multitude displace heading for rebel lines thinking that all was going to be ok perhaps on the rumors that behind the rebel lines people were eating cream crackers and cheese. When we got at the ELWA junction, my first time to hear the word single file, and we did, our baggage and belonging were searched, and we past. We got to Du Port road junction, we were told to take a short cut through Soul Clinic community getting towards Coca Cola factory. And that morning it has rained heavily, we walk and when we got to a creek people were passing but amazingly I saw scores of dead bodies floating on top of the water. Just before we could crossed, a friend, a big brother whom I have had an association with from the late 70s up to that period 1990, I saw him and I called him, audience please forgive me for the sake of my security and that of my family, I will not in this public manner want to comprise that because not much work is done on the ground to ensure our security protection. However, I will be prepared to take part in a camera hearing. I called him he turned around, he was wearing brown leather jacket, hoping that he would have provided me with comfort he came forward to me with a frowned face, he asked me ?where is your father?'. And I told him I don't know, the next statement was when I see your father, I will kill him. The friend and brother whom I saw to be a rescuer telling me, I became dispirited. I started walking without hope. But before then he told me, I will kill your father because he deceived the people of Nimba County. And it has to do with an interview my father granted with Julius Marshall of the BBC sometime 1990, I must be blond, I must be honest. In that interview, held in his office on 16th street, at the National Democratic Party of Liberia Head Quarters, the question was posed to him, ?do you know that the army of President Doe is killing the people of Nimba County? The response of my father was if that was happening I am not aware, but if it was happening I am from Nimba County, I sitting here, I would have been the first person to be killed. My father further went on to say in 1986 a peace summit was held in Sanniquelle between the people of Grand Gedeh and the people of Nimba County to settle scores that occurred as the result of the 1985 coup. So there is no reason why the elders of those two counties should not co-exist peacefully that they will come again to be at one another's throat. That was the interview.

When I got to Coca Cola factory, closer to the road leading to the SDA office, there was a check point. We were told that it was Gen. Isaac Musa's check point. I was arrested formally this time, the one who arrested me was a brother of a prominent NPFL hierarchy who himself felt prey of somebody who is member of their own organization. After going through physical and psychological torture, many women who knew my family, who brought there to cook on a daily basis for the front line fighters rushed on the scene amongst them were my late aunty Tuazama, may her soul rest in peace and another aunty who is now in the States, rushed on the scene to plead on my behalf. After several hours of pleading, I was turned over to them, I remain with them up to 7:00 that evening when a bus that was being managed by the Monrovia Transit Authority came from Red Light end and my cousin Emmanuel and I boarded the bus through the help of one bodyguard to a general, he told another fellow to take me strict on Brights farm because if they were to make any stop at Fendell I would have been a dead person. We were taken to Bright's farm in Kakata in August, we didn't come back until august 24 1990. The day I was on a journey of difficulty I didn't know. We left Bright farm on a bus when we got to Gbarnga, thinking that I was going to a very save haven, my mother's home, when we got to Ganta about 4:00 in the afternoon, I was identified by an old classmate because I was the only displaced person traveling without an official NPFL pass, and to travel during those days without NPFL pass was nothing but a risk. I was arrested at the police sub station in Ganta after I was identified immediately and tabay (tied) and beaten and locked up in conferment. That night I couldn't sleep because anything could happen. The next morning I was brought out and I was asked where is your father's safe key, I could not answer anything. How will be traveling at that time with a safe key so after several hours, the first high ranking officer of the NPFL , this commander posed the question to him - what should we do to former government official relatives? Then he asked who is this relative, he was about to call my name but it appears that heaven just shut his mouth. And that first official left, the second came the same question was posed to him and this time my name was revealed he disembarked from his jeep and told me - you are in your hands now that's why we caught your father at Catholic hospital. He told the commander don't allow this fellow to leave. Keep him under surveillance, I must admit the commander was kind to me latter on, he even took me home to live with him and I did some domestic work just because of the situation. Before leaving from the police station, the third commander came and the question was posed to him again and he said no, your do no harm to him and he even took money from his pocket and give it to the commander. He took me to his house, I was in Ganta from August to December 1990 at which time my biological mother discovered that I was in Ganta. She sent my mother to search for me I was brought to Gbarnga. I remained in Gbarnga for about two weeks. My mother managed to obtain the pass from one of the Special Forces with a change of name. I left Gbarnga in December 4 1990 for Mahdiaplay, my mother home town in Nimba County very closer to the Ivorian border. After we have travel passed Ganta and we got to Sanniquelle, I was riding the back of this pick-up out of excitement and happiness I saw an old friend and classmate I decided to wave to him. To be very frank he and I were all school mates. He waved to me and we passed. We passed the first gate but before we could pass the second gate up St. Mary's hill in Sanniquelle, I saw this [same] friend riding on an Izusuki Motorcycle with speed and out of once I knew that he was after me. He went ahead cross passed by the pick-up and told the gate keeper not to allow the pick-up to pass. He turned around and came back to Sanniquelle. So after the hauling pulling this and that we were compared to come back to Sanniquelle. When we got to the S2 office, he was passing up and down saying nothing. My brother never knew, my mother never knew and even the driver never knew until I broke the ice I told my mother and others that it is for my sake that this car is here and of course he said he wants to see my body lying on the main streets on Sanniquelle. Grab me and locked me up in a small room in the Coleman's house, the Coleman's family house was being used as S2 head quarters. I spent the night and my mother was in the state of disperse. Again other prominent family members in Sanniquelle had to come to plead after they paid some and I was released. My mother and myself boarded another vehicle immediately. And we headed for her home town. We got to her home town; there I remain until 1991 when my aunty saw the need that I should be taken because I was being kept in the forest to live with her in Yekepa. Moved over to Yekepa there I was somewhere until February to June when the Nimba Redemption Council strike NPFL position somewhere in upper Nimba and the spokes person for the NRC happens to be the son of another prominent Nimba citizen who felt victim to the NPFL also from Nimba after an interview with Robbin White of the BBC I was called by some friends and family members that since indeed Karpea Duway has come up to say that one of the reason they were attacking NPFL position was to retaliate or revenge or avenge or whatever we called it the death of prominent Nimba county citizens most of whom hailed from lower Nimba county Tappita to be precise I was advised to leave. Until June 1993, I manage to cross to an Ivorian town called Dannea not Danane because I couldn't go through the main border line or else I would have been standing her today. There we remain until 1998.

I have explained this story because at the time my baby brother, Edward stand up he was 4 years old, Hawa stand she was 6 years old at the time this even took place. And it is very very great for us because our father was the pillar of the family today we continue to experience lots of disadvantages even as I speak commissioner Verdier, a brother of ours just called me from Tappitta that local authorities are refusing for us to resurvey our farm land which was deeded since 1976. We were there few weeks ago; we met up with all the requirements but just lease than thirty minutes ago he called me. Are we not entitled to our inheritance? We seek peace at least what belong to us must be given to us there are lots we encounter but we can't say all. So this is our plight, this day we long wished for and we are here to be part of this historic event of rewriting our history so that tomorrow posterity can not judge us wrong thanks you.

Questions from the Commissioners

Chairman: thanks for your statement. You have chosen not to mentioned the names of the individuals who affected you inn public for safety sake but are you sure that they are the ones?

The third witness: Yes I do

Commissioner Kullah: we are sorry for what happened: why did they target old people and people from lower Nimba?

The third witness: Lower Nimba County had permanent people who were old people and their own people also who had children. And if these prominent sons are still alive there will be allegiance paid to them, as such they wanted to eliminate them.

You met an old friend and others who would have save you but decided to kill you, why?

The third witness: Maybe he did not try to advance himself, but seeing my progress in life, wants to eliminate me. This is all envy.

Commissioner Bull: you said it is a sad day for you to say the name of your father but you say you want to be a part of rewriting the history. We want to thank you for that. Is he the same person who served on the committee who wrote the constitution?

The third witness: Yes he is the same Patrick Biddle. Did he serve as Associate Justice? Yes let me read his profile for you. A brief profile was given of his father.

You mentioned about your cousin what is his full name and is he still around?

The third witness: He is Emmanuel Biddle and he is still around.

Commissioner Konneh: You said you will not give the name of the perpetrators in public for security reasons, are you still holding to this?

The third witness: Yes

Commissioner Syllah: do you know the time your father was taken from the catholic hospital?

The third witness: I don't know the pr?cised time.

From the information gathered was he the only person adapted from the Catholic hospital?

The third witness: Yes.

Commissioner Dolopie: your age at the time?

The third witness: 23

Chairman: did you say at one time the NDC attacked the NPFL?

The third witness: Yes it was in early 1992 when they an anti Taylor group hit the NPFL and hours later on the BBC the spokesman for NDC Copper Dwoyan announce that they had hit the NPFL, but as to whether they had arms I don't know.

Commissioner Coleman: any other difficult experiences that you would share with us?

The third witness: Yes, there are a lot of problems we are faced with, our incapacity to give our children good education, inability to repair our damaged home in Saniqualie and the inability to get back our farmland. One thing I left out was the death of our father's wife in 2002 in Sackilpea Nimba County. Our story is one, but there are other much devastating then ours.

Commissioner Washington: you told us how you suffered for your name; I am carious to know as to whether other families of yours are affected.

The third witness: This is my sister she can tell you.

Sister of the Victims
1990 when the war happened, we were told to go to Duport road and I was spotted by a rebel when I went there he said where are you going I said I dint know and he asked for my family and I told him I don't know and he promised to killed them all if they are seen and this was done on many occasions.

Chairman: Mr. Biddle, how has this issue of your family affected Nimba and what can TRC do to assist the County in this light. In my view, feel that the people of Nimba County are divided for those that were targeted and killed were done by others as such people are divided. The Commission can help be having a special peace conference for the people of Nimba for there are a lot of problems.

Chairman: reference your land issue, are you been prevented from accessing your land.

Witness: Mr. Chairman the people feels that the documents of the land I missing but we have them and when they were put forward, the deed, they want us to provide certificate from 1952, which we dint have. He also forgot our uncle who died in the Lutheren Masacre Nuah Biddle.

Commissioner Bull: Commissioner Sheikh Konneh is on a committee set up by the president on the Nimba land issue and I am sure he can assist you in this light.

Commissioner Kulah: Mr. Biddle and members of the family, we want to extend our sympathy for the lost is for all Liberians and not you alone and to say all Liberians should follow suite and do the same. You suggested a special peace conference in Nimba county which we thanked you for and asked God to bless you.

Chairman: with that, fellow Liberians we want to say the Hearings have been adjoined today and will resume tomorrow at 10. We want you all to come forward and give your statements so as to have reconciliation. The Commissioners may now retire.

End of Day One of the TRC Public Hearings

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