25 June 2019

Liberia: 'Ritual Killings' Spark Riot in Kingsville

Armed police on the scene in Kingsville Number 7 Community and fired several rounds of ammunition to disperse the demonstrators, who retaliated by throwing stones at the police.

Angry residents block Kakata-Monrovia highway, as Police fire live rounds to disperse crowd

Number 7 Kingsville, Montserrado County, was a scene of rioting on Monday, June 24, 2019 when aggrieved citizens of the town gathered and blocked the main road from Red-Light to Kakata in demand for justice for two boys, Elijah Porluma, 9 and Thomas Kollie, 10, who were reportedly abducted and later killed allegedly for ritual purposes early this month.

It began without violence during the morning hours when local residents blocked the traffic in what they said was an attempt to draw the government's attention to perceived injustice given what they see as the lack of appropriate Police response to the killing of the two boys; later, it turned violent when a few officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP) sent to contain the situation began using force to disperse the demonstrators to restore the free flow of traffic.

The demonstrators were holding aloft placards bearing inscriptions that read, "We want justice," as they occupied the middle of the road with themselves and abandoned pieces of timber and metallic objects used to set up the roadblock.

According to eyewitness accounts, the police at first spoke to the aggrieved residents to allow the free movement of vehicular traffic, but they refused.

"If we will die like the children who were killed, we will die; but we cannot leave this place until justice is done," they declared.

Following the failure of the Police to convince the protesters to disperse, they regrouped and advanced towards the protesters in a tactical move, which succeeded in dispersing them. As the LNP officers attempted to remove the roadblocks, they were greeted by a hail of stones and other flying objects, which provoked the discharge of firearms (AK-47s) using live ammunition.

"While responding officers of the LNP were trying to remove the road blocks and illegal checkpoints from the Kakata Highway," said a statement signed by LNP director of public affiars, H. Moses Carter, "they were stiffly resisted with stone throwing protestors and the use of other dangerous weapons including steel rods and petrol bombs which resulted in the injuries of three residents of Kingsville including: Saah Saah, 18, Dave Mombo, 18, and Abraham Tumba, 17 years old, all of the same community. Also, two officers, namely: Insp. Morris Dahn, and Sgt. Gbornimah Barmabia sustained head and leg injuries. Those who sustained injuries are said to be responding to treatment at the Du-Side Hospital in Margibi County and the John F. Kennedy Medical hospital in Monrovia."

An eyewitness report says one person identified as Abraham Smith was shot dead in the incident, while another suggests that he was instead shot and severely wounded in leg but was not killed. Both reports are yet to be independently confirmed. It was, however, confirmed that a stone hit one of the police officers and he was seriously injured in his face.

The LNP says it has "launched an immediate joint investigation comprising the Professional Standards Division (PSD) and the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) to probe into reports of shooting. The public can be assured that any officer found culpable in the unconventional use of lethal weapon will be made to face the full weight of the law."

After hours of rioting, the few police officers left the scene thus, leaving the aggrieved residents in total control of the road until some senior police officers accompanied by reinforcements from Monrovia arrived and contained the situation. This led to resumption of the flow of traffic at about 2:56 p.m.

Fayiah Dumbo, an elderly man living in Number 7, explained that early this month the two boys, whose brutal killing sparked the riot, were abducted and taken to the bush at the outskirts of the town and were killed on land belonging to another resident he did not name.

"They took the two boys, one 9 and the other 10, down the town in the bush and killed them. The doers skinned one of them and cut the private parts, and they took the nose, lip and one eye of the other boy along with his kidneys," Fayiah said.

According to the LNP statement, the bodies of the two children were discovered on June 3, 2019 in the bushes of Kingsville, Montserrado County, after they were sent on Thursday, May 30 and Friday, May 31, 2019 by their parents to sell but did not return home and were declared missing.

When the corpses of the victims were discovered, Fayiah said forensic examinations were done and four persons were arrested that included three prime suspects and the owner of the land on which the bodies were discovered. He explained further that the three arrested suspects, all men, were released and residents expressed concern that their release was done by the police and not the court.

"The police people came and gave us a paper that the bodies should be buried and that was done, but the three people are freed without facing justice in the court except this old papay who is still in jail because it is behind his house the act was done. This is why we are here today because we want the three men rearrested to face justice in the court and not the police to decide," Fayiah said.

Fayiah said they will only be content if the men go through court trial and exonerate themselves, but their release from detention without the court's mandate constitutes injustice and they will not stop their protest action until they can get redress.

According to him, ritual killing (otherwise known as heart-man activity) is rampant in their town and, when it happens, the government (police) usually claims the lack of sufficient evidence as a basis to drop charges against suspects involved in ritual killing.

"I have spent 15 years here, and since I came there have been many heart-man cases that ended like this," he said.

The riot in Number 7, Kingsville, is the second of such violent incidents recently on this trunk of paved motor road leading to the country's interior. It can be recalled that on April 1, riot broke out between the police and aggrieved residents of Weala over ritual killing and the police depot was burned while the house of the accused was damaged in part.

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