Fish Town City: Day 4: Karweaken Town Hall Meeting

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According to your culture and tradition, when we receive stranger in our town, we receive the stranger with cola nuts. It is time to eat the cola nut. So the pastor prayed over it. The name of the pastor is Rev. Thomas Walker. (Brief silence for the cola nut ceremony). For the commissioners, soft drinks were given on the table is the water for the cola.

Chairman: Thank you very much on behalf of the commissioners,

Town citizen: Mr. Commissioner, according to our tradition, after the town people cola the strangers, they ask them for the purpose of the visit.

Today is Thursday, thank you very much. We are the TRC people. We have being in River Gee, especially, Fish Town for the past couple of days to do the work of the TRC as to ensure that no war comes to Liberia any more. We have to go to all the counties in Liberia and talk with the people there. So in Fish Town, since Monday, people have being coming to tell us what happened to them in the war. Some people even came from here Kanweaken to tell us what happened to them in the war and made recommendations. The last time I came here, your received me very well and I went back and told the entire commission. So my people felt sorry and said "No", lets go back there and tell them sorry and never mind. So if you see us here today is in recognition of that feeling of what you went through in the war. Part of the works of the TRC is to sit and talk with the people who suffered during the war and tell them something for their hearts to lay down.

So that is why we are here today to represent the entire country to bring the message that war is over and we don't want any more war. We can't develop if we don't have reconciliation. So we will now listen to you as to tell us what you have to tell us in the name of peace. So we will take this time to introduce the commissioners.

Dolopei: Bartee-o-bartee. When the chairman did the introduction, he asked me to do some of his works. When we came here before, he said, he and party would come back. This is in fulfillment of that promise. So now that we have come, he have brought to you people the symbol of the war being finished. On the battle front, when the war is finishing, the people wave white piece of cloth to symbolize the end of the war. So in the light, we brought our own piece of cloth for both men and woman.

Men Town Citizen: your thank you very much. Even when your head was speaking, we saw the huge message of peace and this is what we love to see after the war. This is the time for peace. This chicken is for you and the rice back there on the ground. (Chairman received the chicken on behalf of the party and said the female commissioners will cook it.)

Women - Town Citizen: we are please with you and we hold you whole hearted. We love you all.

Youth - Town Citizen: we want to thank you very much. We carefully listened to your detail information of your fellow commissioners. Now you, the TRC has asked us to come here and explain what others have done to us. Will is not be re-opening the wounds?

Commissioner Konneh: there is some kind of social sickness, we called culture of silence. Somebody do you bad and it is hurting you anytime you see him, you get vexed, whenever his name is called, you vexed. When that thing becomes chronic in you and if he can't pay back as a poor man, he will tell his children that is my enemy forever. So if any of his children become rich, the first place he will show his richness is on his father's enemy. This is why we referred to this war as senseless war. All the old rebel leaders -- Charles Taylor, Kromah, George Borley, and Roosevelt Johnson, all said so. As to the fellow, who raised the question of re-opening wounds, by coming to the TRC is not so it is not opening of old wounds, because if people just sit like with pain in their hearts, the future security is assured.

Youth: so then if I point out my perpetrator, especially if he is in the crowd, will if not bring further tension.

Konneh: the first thing I want to say in answering you question is this. Suppose somebody die from in town here any no body comes to help you bury the relatives. Will you feel bad or good? But if this is not done but we continue to say let by-gone be by-gone. We will be sitting of time bomb. Why did you suffer here for? The Government is all the way in Monrovia...
Why people will come all the way here to kill you. Look you when the presidency they are fighting for is right with them in Monrovia? You are innocent. Now to answer your question directly, the TRC Art asks/mandates us to put you together, but if you claim on some one and the person is around, we put you on conference table. But if the person whom you say something to you in the war does not want to admit even though the truth is clear. The TRC will recommend to Government what to be done to that person.

Commissioner Bull: Sheilkh has talked it all, but if a perpetrator who did you something does not be done to you but to just brag and walk around in the boastfully, this is what we called the culture of impunity. But you who did somebody bad must come calmly and ask for forgiveness.

Women: I who stand here today among you I'm like a mother to you but if you decide to come to us with a message of peace.

Commissioner Steward: The thing I've to say is short. When 2 person live together in the town and engage in a fight some one must come between and part you and what will be the next thing, ehn to ask what happened to cause the fighting that what we here for. But how can someone meet these 2 persons fight and one of them asks him what do I stand to gain if I disengage from the fight. That is wrong. You explain first then you hear what the intervener has to say.

Woman: but how possible is this since the people who did these things to us are since gone and we have not seen them again?

Commissioner Dolopei: the question that woman asked is a very good one. Tell her. Yes different people came by and ran you out of your town and by the time you came back, your cattle and properties all gone then a dead body lying and the people who did it are gone. But let me assure you that if even we don't know the person, we go after their heads/faction. This is the question we have been asking all the witnesses. If we don't know the person, we ask what faction, if we don't know the faction, we ask what month, if we don't know the month, if we don't know month, we ask what year. By answering these questions, we will know exactly who did what or which faction did what and we will pursue them.

Youth: on behalf of the youth of Kanweaken welcome and thank you so much. When this Charles Taylor war came they used to chase us to join them. The education we the youth were pursuing, the hopes were dashed away. Many things happened to us. You see the big burnt building you see across there, LPC burnt it any. When we came back, we tried roofing it but it has been though. Al the NGOs we've asked to help us with the building when they see the building, they leave it and they don't come back. After the war, our district gained a county status. We came out the bushes to celebrate but the former Senator J. Nathaniel Williams ordered people to come and beat us and chunk us into trucks to take us to Fish Town. This and the administrative building issue are the center of our pain in this county.

Bartee-o-Bartee! this is exactly why we are here. To know what hurts you and for us to see what recommendations the TRC can do to solve the problems. But now I am happy because you the youth have come out to tell use what hurts you. This is what the TRC is hear. The issue burning the town hall is a big one. The other thing that touches our hearts is the person or your own son who's supposed to help you came and did plenty bad to you. But thank God today we know that he Nathaniel J. Williams has done what he did to you. Just see what will happen. But my people your tell us what all the people did to your.

Commissioner Bull: the work the TRC is doing in the entire country is fully supported by the government of Liberia. Let me tell you something, the day we opened the TRC, the President of Liberia - Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, herself went there and told the whole world that even herself if the TRC send for her, she'll come because nobody is bigger than the TRC. She even told all the Legislators and Cabinet Ministers that whenever the TRC want to see any of them, they should not hesitate to go. The TRC even get power to jail people for 6 months. But if you to call somebody's name here but you're scared for reprisal, you can still tell our TRC coordinator and the message will come to us the same way.

Woman: I was born in Fish ton but married here in Kanweaken, but when they saw me there the said I was not their child. Concerning the 2 pastors that died, Fish Town people told the other pastor to lie down face-up and they put plenty cane juice in his month and since that time up to his death he was not alright again.

Commissioner Stewart: I know J. Nathaniel Williams very well. The place I live in Monrovia we live in the same area. Before he used to walk with six bodyguards, but now he looks like a baby bird without hair. But I assure you that J. Nathaniel Williams will still answer for all that he did. But by the way, where is his big papa [Charles Taylor] today. He is in jail and if his chief could go to jail, then what about him? According to the international on war, we all signed document that no one can shoot at a clinics, schools, administrative buildings, etc. If you break that law you have to answer for it. Not only the international law but also the Liberian law for example, you don't have to burn someone's house; you don't have to naked someone, etc. So all the things J. Nathaniel Williams did he will answer to them. Before I sit down I want to ask you one question: Among Fish Town, Kanweaken and Webbo, which one was supposed to have the county capital city?

Town: Kanweaken [in roar] the was that went here we the Karweaken people suffered the most, but when projects come to the county they never reach us. Many of these thatch houses you see here today all were zinc houses including the very hall you are sitting under. What is hurt is most now is the same people who came and spoiled our place are the ones enjoying. So when my brother (Commission Steward) asked which town supposed to be the capital City for River gee County. This is why you heard the answer in the roar. So since you ask the county seat business you are talking about if you go to Fish Town ask this question they jail you.

Woman: This is thing we talking here, LPC killed so many people here, when we ran into the bush sometimes your son will climb a palm tree to get something for your to eat. When they see it, the will order the person to come down and they'll kill the person When MODEL arrived here my mother was so old she couldn't eat by herself. I had to feed her then lated I eat. When they came they looted and killed and even killed that my old ma. The LPC people entered all the churches here-AICA and the AG church. They attended nature on the mattress when they were retreating and they shot all over in the building and spoil the zinc. I want to thank all of you of the TRC for coming. We have many problems here. I am from Feloken, but we don't have even a clinic there. When a woman is in labor pains sometimes the person will even die because of distance. So let TRC help us.

Town man: When the LPC fighters came to our town they ordered all the men to surround and sit down with their cutlass in the open place and he went into people's houses and began to things from the houses. Several things happened then in the end he killed one old man and told the man in the other town men to eat raw the scrotum he castrated. The man sent he could not eat human body and then the killing ordered them to take the dead man away and buried.

A lady came forward and coined that two of her own children were taken away and have not been seen since. Another thing that happened to me was that her ground son (God son) was cut so heavily under the stomach, but he survived the incident and he is presently I school. The three children who were taken away have not returned up till now. They are
1. Thomas Nyenatu
2. Morris Nyenatu
And one Prince

Man speaker: During the Charles Taylor war I saw that many of our things were taken away. My cattle was taken away me and slaughtered right in my presence. But as for MODEL, everything belonging to my wife was looted.

Youth I want to ask a question to Commissioner Stewart. My question is why did you (Stewart) ask you ask us that among Kanweaken, Fish town, and Webbo which of these 3 that should have been the capital city?

Chairman: I will answer the question for him. The work of TRC is also to find out sources of conflict so that even 15 or more years from now we can be sure that there will be no war.

Man: What I have to say to you the TRC is that I feel too fine today that you explained to us that even though the people who burned our town and did bad many other things to us are still moving around and bluffing, but with what you have just explained, many hearts laid down.

My people aging, I want to tell you that we are thankful to you for receiving us. The work we are doing here right now may even seem little, but 10years from now when you begin to see the good you have from this, you will think this was a big meeting. Great development ideas are often brought about a few people. The idea of making River Gee was brought about only by may be 1 or two persons, but look at today, whole 16 counties are benefiting from the idea of the 2 or 1 in 1979, it was between the late Baccus Matthews and the late President Tolbert, and may be 200 persons died. But in the war (1990_ 2003) more then 100, 000 persons died.

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