Religious Warfare In Monrovia and Kakata…

Over 200 Injuries, 172 Detained, …Churches, Mosques, schools Burnt, Several Businesses looted


By: Josephus Moses Gray
Monrovia, Liberia

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

November 1, 2004



Just as Liberians were thinking that the 14-years of bloody and devastating ethnic war in Liberia is over the conflict has taken a new dimension - with Christians and Muslims at each other throats, engaging into lawlessness and inflicting massive destruction on religious shrines and personal prosperities.

The actual cause of the incident is not known and the Liberian Government is yet to give a clear indication as the reasons behind the problem. The head of the United Nations Mission in Liberia, ambassador Jacques Paul Klein has blamed the fighting on loyalists of deposed Liberian President Charles Taylor, former fighters of LURD, hooligans, criminals and some invisible hands.

The situation occurred just three days before to the dissolution of the belligerent groups and the end of the disarmament scheme in Liberia, which expired on 31 October 2004.

Reports coming from UNMIL and Liberian Government authorities have revealed that bulks of the troublemakers were neither Christians nor Muslims, but rather composed of ex-combatants, hooligans and criminal elements.

There have been persistent reports of unidentified people visiting homes in the Jacob Town Paynesville areas during the midnight hours, using knife and other objects to rob, hijack residents, and demand cash.

Other are blaming UNMIL for the extent the crisis has reached on grounds that had UNMIL swiftly intervened to bring the situation under control, it would not have degenerated to such a dangerous stage. The UN peacekeeping force is said to have downplayed the situation from the onset.

Ambassador Klein has put the number of persons killed during the Jacob Town fracas incident to 14, while over 250 persons have been injured and over thousands forced to flee their residences for safety. Other reports put the number of deaths to 21.

During a joint UNMIL and Liberian police search cordon on Sunday, October 31, a huge numbers of AK_47 riffles were discovered in the Jacob Town community, while 40 bottles of Petro bombs - cocktail Molotov - and ammunitions were also discovered in a house on the airfield-sinkor road.

The Liberian National Police Chief, Chris Massaquoi, said during the incident, some of the fighters used arms to get to each other.

The unprecedented Friday, October 28, violence was very tense, fearful and destructive, leaving scores of innocent persons killed, displacing thousands others, while countless numbers of churches, mosques as well as filling stations, schools and residential areas were intentionally set ablaze by the mobs.

According to reports gathered by The Perspective in Monrovia, the effect of the incident is very grave. Top brass of rebel group Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) were hit hard, with their proprieties destroyed.

The homes of Justice Minister Kabineh Ja’neh, Transport Minister Vamba Kanneh and the Deputy director of the National Social Security and Welfare Corporation, Varfley Dorley were set ablaze, while the Congo town homes of LURD disputed chairman Sekou Damate Conneh and his wife Aircha Conneh, were also attacked. Ministers Kanneh and Ja’neh reside on Dupot Road and on the airfield.

Up to press time, there has been no report of any attack or destruction of top brass of MODEL and members of the deposed regime of Charles Taylor or the former ruling party-the National Patriotic Party (NPP).

Statistics of churches and mosques destroyed in the suburbs of Paynesville have been put to eight while confirmed reports gathered in central Monrovia named some of the areas set ablaze as the Muslim Congress High School, thee Mosques located on Gurley, Randall and Front streets as well as several filling stations operated by Amanita and Sons on Lynch and Carey streets. Other filling stations in Sinkor and on the Old Road have also been set ablaze or destroyed. Several vehicles also owned and operated by members of the Mandingo ethnic group were destroyed or burnt to ashes.

The Liberian Police says over 172 persons have been arrested, charged and are awaiting prosecution by the court.

The ugly and painful situation which erupted during late Thursday evening hours in the suburbs of Paynesville but later extended to the central Monrovia and its surroundings, continued for three days before UNMIL and the Liberians Police Force was able to bring the violence under control.

Paynesville, especially the Red Light Market area, is replete with notorious criminals and ex-combatants, some of whom pretend to be petty traders and marketers.

While the UN peacekeepers were dealing with the tense situation in the capital, similar incident was taking place in Kakata city. According to report from the area, the levels of destructions that engulfed the area are similar to that of Monrovia.

The UN peacekeepers in the capital could not immediate bring the violent incident under control until some units of the force assigned to nearby counties were dispatched to Monrovia to beef-up the force in Monrovia. Of the 15,000 UN force in the country, less then 2,000 persons are stationed in the capital and its environs, while the rest are assigned outside Monrovia.

In the wake of the religious fighting in the capital, Chairman Charles Gyude Bryant has imposed a curfew in the country. He has also mandated the UN peacekeepers to use maximum force to restore law and order to the capital and its environs.

For his part, the head of UNMIL, Ambassador Klein has ordered UN Peacekeepers to use maximum force against anyone who refuses to abide by the law.

Both Chairman Bryant and Ambassador Klein were forceful and tough in their declarations aired on the various radio stations in the country.

Following the orders by the two leaders in Liberia, the various streets were eventually deserted as everyone went into their hiding places, while UN peacekeepers and personnel of the Liberian National Police patrol the various streets in the tactical jeeps and tanks.

Majority of the ex-combatants who fought for the deposed regime of Mr. Taylor are sheltering in the Paynesville areas and on a daily basis seen in the Red-Light Market and ELWA Junction. Ex-combatants of MODEL, LURD and also some of Taylor regime are constantly seen in central Monrovia and Bushroad Island.

Since their submission to the disarmament exercise and their subsequent reintegration into the various communities, the ex-fighters are yet to undergo any intense vocational programs to keep them busy as well as counseling to transform them into law abiding citizens.

Owing to the absence of these programs, these ex-combatants are on a daily basis seen on the streets and in the various communities- going “up and down”, awaiting on an opportunity like this so that they can loot and harass innocent people.

Meanwhile, Chairman Bryant in his nationwide address carried live on the various radio stations noted that the incident was well organized, planned and financed by individuals who are enemy of peace, describing them as “ forces of evil”.

Furthermore, the transitional head of state said his government remains resolute in the achievement of its objectives to disarm all the belligerent groups and to conduct elections in 2005, in accordance with the Peace Accord on Liberia.

According to him, the hands behind the violence incident will be brought to book and will definitely not go unpunished.

However, recently, the transitional government accused former government especially those affected by the UN Travel Restriction and those whose assets are frozen of trying to incite former generals of Taylor regime against the transitional government in order to disrupt the fragile peace process; but the officials of NPP reacted swiftly by saying that it was the transitional government that was attempting to disrupt the peace process to enable the government to over-stay its mandate.

For over 150 years of Liberia's existence, Christians and Muslims have lived together without such a religious conflict. Islamic and Christianity are the two religions that exist in Liberia but Christians are in majority.

During the 14-year of civil war, Liberians took up arms against their own native Liberians, leaving over 250,000 killed, destroyed billions of dollars worth of properties, displaced over 800,000 persons and sent over 700,000 in to refugee camps in the sub-region.