21 March 2013

Liberia: Mosque, Homes Destroyed - in Renewed Lofa Ethnic War

The latest flare up of renewed tension between the Lorma and Mandingo tribes in Lofa County resulted to the burning down of the central mosque and several houses in the town of Zegeda, Zorzor District, the County Inspector has confirmed.

Jemmeh Kamara said the incident erupted Sunday night when a group of people from the Lorma ethnic group decided to conscript a member of their tribe in the poro society.

He told this paper in an interview from Voinjama, the provincial capital yesterday that about 500 men set up roadblocks challenging those on the opposing side to enter the town.

Thre county inspector said the situation escalated when the wife of the man who refused to join the Poro Society was supported by his pregnant wife because they had accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and personal savior

As a result of the woman's action, according to Kamara, the Poro members brutalized her to the point of giving birth prematurely.

This, he said infuriated some members of the Mandingo ethnic group who resorted to informing authorities of Zorzor, triggering the tension between the Mandingoes and Lormas.

"I think this is why the mosque and homes of the Mandingoes were destroyed," he said in a mournful tone.

Meanwhile, calm has reportedly been restored to the area after personnel of the Police Support Unit (PSU) from the Security Gbarnga Security Hub arrived. Security forces have cordoned off the town.

In 2010, Lofa County exploded after a young girl identified as Korpu Kamara was found dead in Zorzor.

The clashes were sparked by the death of a Christian student in the Konean village near Voinjoma when her body was found "with parts extracted" near a mosque.

Korpu Kamara went missing only to be found dead later with bullet wounds.

Following the discovery, students in Konean went on a rampage and destroyed a mosque.

"In reaction the Muslims of Voinjama went on a rampage and burned down churches, including the Catholic mission," one eyewitness said.

There were reports that a mosque, one church, and other properties have been burned down.

Witnesses identified the Catholic, Baptist, and Episcopal churches in the area as those that have been burned down.

Additionally, a doctor at Talawayon hospital in Voinjama reported that four people died and 18 others were being treated for injuries.

The outbreak of violence is said to have been a clash between Muslims and Christians.

This is the third violent outbreak between the two communities this year.

The UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) dispatched police and military personnel to help the Liberia National Police.

UNMIL called on "all the peace committees and local security committees to take the appropriate measures to contain the situation and act according to their designated objectives."

Since 2003, UNMIL has had peacekeepers stationed in Liberia tasked with restoring peace.

Last year the UN Security Council extended the mandate in order for UNMIL to be authorized to assist Liberia with its 2011 elections.

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