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Massacre survivors want War Crimes Court

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As calls for the establishment of war and economic crimes court in Liberia intensify, victims and survivors of the Samay Massacre have joined the campaign, demanding the prosecution of those who carried out the massacre in 1994 that killed 28 people and destroyed 22 houses.

Our Bong County correspondent says the Massacre occurred on October 27, 1994.Survivors told our correspondent that attackers who carried out the massacre were fighters of the Delta Force, a faction of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia of convicted former President Charles Taylor.

Investigations say many of those that were killed were men, and some of the killings included entire family.Our correspondent says every year on the anniversary, relatives of those killed, the survivors and residents of the town where the massacre took place gather at a mass grave containing the remains of the dead.

At this year’s event, attendees say the atrocious event is still seared into their memories even 24 years on. At a monument marking the grave site, initiated by citizens and later improved through a grant from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), people became teary as they listen to a historical reflection of the massacre.

Jerry Cooper, a resident of Samay, says the National Patriotic Front Liberia (NPFL) soldiers had launched a campaign to reclaim Gbarnga, Bong County from George Boley’s Liberian Peace Council (LPC).

In the process of reclaiming Gbarnga, Cooper narrates that rebels committed the massacre, accusing the residents of harboring the LPC soldiers.

The LPC soldiers reportedly used the Kokoyah Road, a route that passes through Samay, to attack Gbarnga and later used the same path to retreat to Grand Bassa after NPFL forces overpowered them in Gbarnga.

“Samay became victim to that effort on the night of October 27, 1994, at about 3:00 to 4:00 a.m.,” Cooper recalls.The NPFL soldiers attacked the town in the night, shooting indiscriminately and setting 22 houses on fire. They killed 28 persons in cold blood. It was terrible that early morning.

By the end of the civil war in 2003, Samay had lost a total of 41 citizens at separate venues and under different circumstances, according to Cooper. Those killed included Bendu Siakor, J. Kpai Siakor, Gertrude Yarkpawolo, Borbor Flomo, Joseph Tamba Tokpa, and Tamay Maai Linga, a well-known traditional midwife.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), in its final report, lists NPFL and LPC under the “Significant Violator Group” responsible for committing ‘egregious’ domestic crimes, ‘gross’ violations of human rights, and ‘serious’ humanitarian law violations, including economic crime in Liberia between January 1979 and October 14, 2003.

Today the people of Grand Gedeh County have voted George Boley to a district seat at the House of Representatives, just as Liberians have always done, awarding former rebel leaders with state power.

Fatu Tokpah, one of the survivors of the massacre, witnessed her husband (Joseph Tokpah) being killed, a memory that is still fresh with her today.

She could not hold back her tears as she shared her experience during the memorial.According to the survivors, it is important that the government of President George Manneh Weah works out things to ensure the establishment of a war crimes court that will prosecute those that committed crimes against humanity.

Such call may fall on deaf ear because the Weah regime has over time indicated that it is not timely to go after war criminals, stating the fragility of Liberia’s peace and lack of resources as its excuse.

The massacre survivors told our Bong County correspondent over the weekend during a visit to the town that they continue to be traumatized by the situation, maintaining that they will only be satisfied if a war crimes court is established in Liberia.

“We must seek justice for those they killed in this place,” Nowai Gotolo, 52, whose husband was killed during the situation told our correspondent. Our correspondent says another cold-blooded killings also took place in Kpamue by the Lofa Defense Force (LDF) during the civil war.

According to the Town Chief Johnson Galatokpah soldiers got to the town and killed more than 10 persons, many of whom were men and two pregnant women. “At that time, we were not able to bury those that were killed because we were all escaping for our lives,” Mr. Galatokpah says.

“The soldiers tied us in the center of the town. I was part of the people they captured in the town and at the time, all my families had escaped. Thy killed all my friends and even the two pregnant women, but I managed to escape after I had pretended that I died during the long shooting by the soldiers,” Mr. Galatokpah concludes.
-As Weah ignores calls in speech

By Joseph Titus Yekeryan in Bong –Edited by Winston W. Parley

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