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Special Feature

Investigate Ziggida Violence in Lofa County

About a fortnight ago, we received news that the Lorma and Mandingo ethnic groups were fighting in Ziggida, Lofa County. We initially got some information from some of our relatives back in Lofa County but what prompted us to write this reaction is the Thursday, March 28, 2013 edition of the IN Profile Daily Newspaper or online news captioned, “Accounts of Ziggida violence”.

In this story, the In Profile Daily reported the following accounts: The Firsthand account as reported by the In Profile Daily revealed that the Lormas were conducting feast for the death of a zoe in Ziggida and declared that those who are not part of their “Country Devil” society, mainly the Mandingoes, go indoor. The Mandingoes, according to the report, refused to go indoor because they were offering prayer at the time, thereby angering the Lormas to force them (Mandingoes) indoor, thus degenerating into violence.

The second hand account also revealed something very close to the firsthand account. According to the Spokesperson of the Lorma people in Ziggida Lofa County, Mr. James Tarnue who is also the principal of a school in Ziggida, on Monday, March 18, 2013, four persons (said to be of the Lorma tribe), were traditionally summoned to appear in the “Devil Bush” or “Devil Fence” for allegedly violating some traditional rules. The men, whose names were not revealed, reportedly refused, defying the “Devil,” came to town. He said to the refusal of the men, the “Country Devil” declared a closed door in order to arrest the men and the Mandingoes refused to go inside. He alleged that the Mandingoes prevented the Lormas from arresting the men in question. At this point, the Lorma youth were mandated to arrest the men, thus leading violence between the Lormas and the Mandingoes.

This is the narration of Mr. James Tarnue, on behalf of the Lormas of Ziggida and he wants the world to believe that the Mandingoes are wrong!!! When I read this, I asked myself if it really happened. Is this a joke or it is serious?You know, the problem with Liberia is corruption and when I say corruption I am not only referring to the thievery of public funds. It also applies to the disrespect of the laws of the land, misapplication of powers and taking advantage of others or the minority. Until we can fix these problems with sincerity, Liberia will continue to be counted amongst the most miserable places in the world as recently reported in the CIA world’s facts book. In what kind of civilized, democratic and advanced world where the rule of law is upheld today will certain group of people feel that others are forced to believe in their tradition and if they do not, they the believers in that tradition are right to force them to adhere to everything they have in said tradition?

What kinds of people are we? Do we believe that Liberia is “A home of Glorious Liberty by God’s Command?” Where is the Liberty before it becomes glorious by God’s command when we want to force others to go our way? What is Liberty? When I Looked up the definition of the word “Liberty” this morning from the online Merriam Webster Dictionary, It gave me the following definitions, “a. the quality or state of being free b. the power to do as one pleases C. freedom from physical restraint d. freedom from arbitrary or despotic control e. the power of choice and etc. It did not add with the right to force others your way in any of the definitions. This is a clear evidence of how many in Liberia have taken advantage of the Mandingo People in the past and now with central government doing nothing to protect the rights and freedom of the Mandingoes as the Constitution demands for every citizen. Article 13 A and B  of the 1986 Constitution state that, “ a)Every person lawfully within the Republic shall have the right to move freely throughout Liberia, to reside in any part thereof and to leave there from subject however to the safeguarding of public security, public order, public health or morals or the rights and freedoms of others. b) Every Liberian Citizen shall have the right to leave and to enter Liberia at any time. Liberian citizens and non-Liberian residents may be extradited to foreign country for prosecution of a criminal offense in accordance with the provisions of an extradition treaty or other reciprocal international agreements in force. Non-Liberian residents may be expelled from the Republic of Liberia for cause.”How are the rights of citizens to move freely throughout Liberia and to reside in any party  and leave from said area protected when there are other citizens under the same laws and within the same territorial jurisdiction running the land with their own laws with the Government and the rest of the citizenry playing spectators roles?

What happens to the right of a Liberian citizen who had to travel to or out of Ziggida at the time the traditional believers had imposed their illegal curfew? Where is the justice system? Does it not applied to the Mandingo Man? Will the Lorma people put food on the tables of their Mandingo brother whose economic and other daily activities are been curtailed as a result of their illegal curfew? What kind of Country is Liberia even with a Nobel Laureate in person of Madam Ellen Johnson as president?  What are the economic, social and political benefits the Mandingoes get out of cutting their normally daily activities short for the Lormas to practice their tradition that the Mandingoes are not members of?  What has happened to our morals as a people? Will the Lorma people too be willing to go indoor when asked by the Mandingoes because of a tradition that they the Lormas do not believe in? Article 14 of the Liberian Constitution says, “All persons shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment thereof except as may be required by law to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.

All persons who, in the practice of their religion, conduct themselves peaceably, not obstructing others and conforming to the standards set out herein, shall be entitled to the protection of the law.

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No religious denomination or sect shall have any exclusive privilege or preference over any other, but all shall be treated alike; and no religious tests shall be required for any civil or military office or for the exercise of any civil right.

Consistent with the principle of separation of religion and state, the Republic shall establish no state religion”. Let assume the Country Devil’s tradition to be a religious practice, are they not obstructing the Mandingoes against this provision.

Are we lacking of truth tellers to see these truths and speak them as they are? Where are the human right activists in Liberia? Are they not there for the Mandingoes? Finally I would like to close by calling on the government of Liberia through the Justice Ministry to bring all of those responsible for this senseless and reckless violence against our people in keeping with the law of the land. In as much I do respect the right of our Lorma brothers and sisters to practice their tradition freely, I think it would be save for them go to a private place where they would be protected by fence instead of forcing a whole town, city or village or the Country to go along with them.  In his book “The Land of my father’s birth” in which he recounted his personal experiences as well the many injustices meted out against the Mandingoes of Liberia, Liberian Mandingo Poet and writer, Mr. Nvasiki Konneh stated that some of these injustices are meted out against the Mandingoes because of the failures of most Mandingoes to stand up for their rights. This makes the oppressors to feel that it is their right to continue

the oppression since there is nobody to challenge them. I agree with Mr. Konneh. It is now that that we the Mandingoes stand up for our rights and say no to the oppressors in keeping with the laws of Liberia. Again, the Government of Liberia must also respect article 10 of the 1986 constitution which talks about the teachings and disseminations of the constitution by inculcating its teachings in the national curriculum for every school throughout the length and berth of Liberia as stated is said article. Focuses or efforts should also be made to teach Liberian histories in all of our schools. These are some of the issues that are causing all of these impositions.

The failure of central government too to put more efforts in reconciliation is also another factor. We need reconciliation now!!  Long Live understanding, peace and respect for one another in Ziggida, Lofa and LiberiaLong live LiberiaThank you!!

Manyou MAS Bility, Milwaukee, WI

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