Liberia: George Dweh - How I Knew Him

While in lockdown from the Coronavirus Pandemic here in the United States, my friend Roland Sombai called and sent me a text late Saturday evening (April 4, 2020) informing me that notorious Liberia war criminal George Dweh had died. In our subsequent phone conversation on Sunday, we discussed the nefarious crimes of Dweh and the accompanying pain he inflicted on his victims in their hour of death and the torments their survivals continue to endue. We felt it an indictment against Liberia that a publicly known war criminal like George Dweh would cash in his evil deeds to become speaker of an interim legislative assembly and lived an openly large life until he died of natural causes as a free man. Justice was denied the many he murdered and their still hurting families and friends.

Roland and I knew George Dweh very well; he worked with us at the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) in the late 1980's. When I was managing director. Roland was manager of the LEC General Services Department (GSD) where George Dweh was assistant manager for administration and Johnny Nah whom he murdered with his family in cold blood was assistant manger for operations. It was from here that the hatred of George Dweh against Johnny Nah and others in and outside of the LEC began to brew in his evil soul.

In its pre-civil war prime, the LEC GSD located at the utility's Bushrod Island yard along with other operational departments was a place filled with life and actions. With nearly 190 employees, the GSD was responsible for maintenance of the LEC fleet of vehicles, buildings, structural repairs to power plants, and substations and storage and distribution of gasoline and lubricants. Equipped with bulldozer, grader and other yellow equipment, the GSD also built and maintained LEC access roads. As assistant Manager for operations at the GSD, Johnny Nah's team was responsible for building and road maintenance. Nah was quite a likable guy with tremendous sense of humor. His personal vehicle, a Peugeot station wagon was a known fixture around the LEC facilities. I worked with Johnny Nah at the LEC Bushrod yard in the Planning Department as distribution planning engineer few years before moving to the central office at Waterside as technical assistant to the MD (I then became deputy MD before becoming MD).

At the GSD were two of the Krahn men who helped sow the seed for the civil war that led to the destruction of hundreds of thousands of lives including that of President Samuel K Doe along with the country's infrastructure. One was George Dweh, the GSD assistant manager for administration, cousin to President Doe. The other was a troublemaker named Peter Fineboy, who was one of Johnny Nah's building maintenance supervisors. Here is the story of how these two diabolical men helped stain their noble Krahn tribe and destroy a nation.

In this story are Johnny Nah, his then 12 or 13 year-old daughter, Peter Fineboy, George Dweh and the red Toyota pickup.

As GSD assistant manager for operations, Johnny Nah was assigned a pickup that was used during the workday for general services operations but remained with him nights and weekends. Sometime in 1988, Supervisor Peter Fineboy and his crew were assigned an outside maintenance job by his boss Johnny Nah. On that day Johnny Nah's daughter couldn't be picked up from school for whatever reason and he asked the crew to pick her up after their work and bring her to him at the office. Nah was standing at the front of the GSD office building at Bushrod when he saw the pickup drive into the yard and to his astonishment, he saw his daughter at the back of the truck while his supervisor Peter Fineboy sat only with the driver in the 3-passenger cab.

Johnny Nah was furious and went to the vehicle and asked Peter Fineboy if he was too good to allow the young girl to ride in the front with him. In the back of that pickup were stack of materials, work tools, old items that had been replaced including lumber pieces with protruding nails and the crew, rugged workers with their safety gears. The back of this pickup was no place for a 12-year-old girl for all the safety reasons. Being a red-blood Kru man who says what's on his chest and forgets about it, in anger he told Peter, "You Krahn people consider yourselves to be above others but I tell you that from the greatest of you to the smallest, you all are nothing."

Peter Fineboy then went into George Dweh's office and told him his boss had tongue-lashed him and repeated Johnny Nah's words. Dweh concluded that Johnny wasn't talking to Peter Fineboy but to Doe, the president. They left the LEC compound and went to another Krahn kinsman, Armah Youlo, who was assistant director at the National Security Agency (NSA). Together, they concocted a vicious and unfounded lie that Johnny Nah had insulted President Doe. Johnny was arrested and detained at the NSA the following morning. Later that day as I was on my way for lunch, coming down the stairs, I heard a group of employees murmuring about what "they are doing to Johnny Nah is not good." I asked what they were doing to Johnny Nah and who are the "they." On asking that, they were afraid, thinking I knew about the Nah's detention but on insisting, they shared that Johnny Nah was detained at NSA on account of George Dweh and Peter Fineboy.

When I gathered the necessary information, I went over to the NSA and had a conversation with Flomo Washington, a highly respected professional man who was the agency's director (I was delighted to attend his 80th birthday in Sacramento, California last year). I explained to Director Washington what had happened and he was appalled. After the intervention Johnny Nah was released without charge. I summoned George Dweh to a meeting in my office with the deputy managing directors and his manager and emphatically told him my displeasure, asserting that the LEC was not a political institution. I made it clear that the next time he repeated such behavior he would be dismissed.

From that day, George Dweh harbored bitterness against Johnny Nah and me. He lobbied with some of his influential Krahn relatives to have me removed from the LEC but President Doe knew better. Besides, many of Dweh's Krahn kinsmen like Commissioner Edwin Taye, General Moses Thomas and Peter Gawo were highly respected for their integrity and goodness of heart provided relief to many non-Krahn serving in the government as well as ordinary citizens from the exploits of Dweh and other mean-spirited Krahns.

When the civil war got intense, George Dweh had taken up arms and headed a death squad that went to Johnny Nah's house and asked for the pickup truck assigned to him. It wasn't just the pickup Dweh wanted. He went to Nah's house to settle score, to show his power. He was now a mad man and spilling blood was now a source of satisfaction for him. He murdered Johnny Nah, an experienced civil engineer and his family including his expecting wife who had a graduate degree from Columbia University.

That gruesome murder of Johnny Nah was not George Dweh first neither was it his last. He killed Mr. Sam Green, Liberia's top statistician and deputy minister of planning and economic affairs and his family. Their daughter, Kim Green who also worked at LEC was the lone survival. He killed his own best friend at LEC Moses Harris, simply because he was from Nimba County and he couldn't trust him. He and General Tailey were out every night moving from home to home, murdering Liberians they suspected or didn't like.

As for me, it was by God's mercy that I left Liberia because George Dweh made it clear to friends of mine that had I been in Liberia, my "coffee would have been cold". Fast forward to 1995, I was back in Monrovia and walking into the office of the late Sam Divine, then President of now defunct LUBI Bank, George Dweh extended his hand to me for a handshake, smiling. I passed by him and that was the first time I left an extended hand to me in the air. I hope it was the last.

For justice, healing, closure and cleansing of our land, the War Crime Court as recommended by the TRC is a necessity. There are too many other George Dwehs in and out of Liberia who committed unbelievable atrocities and crimes against humanity taking the innocent lives of so many. These George Dwehs have caused much pain and suffering and have not acknowledged or shown any remorse for their evil deeds. Many of these unrepentant killers live conspicuously large and walk as if nothing ever happened, some even flaunting high profile positions while the families and friends of their victims continue to live in the anguish of their crimes.

For their sake and for the country's sake, the War Crime Court must be established and all those George Dwehs be brought to account for their inhumanity. No more impunity. Justice delayed is justice denied.

By Christopher Z. Neyor, Former Managing Director, Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC)

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