Questions Mount Over "Probe" in Massaquoi's Death

By F. Christopher Williams
Monrovia, Liberia

The Perspective

April 20, 2001

President Taylor's decision to name a commission to investigate the circumstances around the death this week of Sports Minister Francois Massaquoi has been greeted with skepticism and anger, since all commissions in similar circumstances have remained dormant.

Meanwhile, contrary to Government claims that Massaquoi was on a "humanitarian mission", it has emerged that he was in fact delivering arms to Government troops battling dissidents in the area, according to government sources. Since the Lofa incursions, Minister Massaquoi has been a key operative within the Presidential Antiterrorist Unit (ATU) and was seen in Monrovia in ATU vehicles protected by heavily armed men.

"If the Government believes that the Minister was shot in the helicopter and no one else was injured, why is the President naming a commission to investigate? Investigate what? We have not heard from the commission named to probe the death of the Vice President Enoch Dogoleah. The Commission of ex-police director Joe Tate, who also died in a plane clash under mysterious conditions, is silent. The killers of Samuel Dokie remain at large. The Government promised to bring the killers of Madam Nowai Flomo to justice but they remain unknown. And now there is a commission of the Sports Minister death? This is a joke", said a Methodist priest on anonymity.

"To say that the Taylor regime undertakes 'humanitarian missions' is the funniest thing I have heard. From the days of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) to now, they have no record of humanitarianism. Their record is to take away from their victims, to loot and plunder", said a critical Opposition politician.

Since the Minister's death, many Liberians have expressed doubts over the Government's version of the story, indicating it is a familiar pattern of mysterious deaths plaguing Liberia. They argued that the government has claimed rebels fighting in northern Liberia - Lofa county shot and killed Minister Massaquoi and wondered why would an investigation be carried out when it had already pointed fingers at rebels. Also rebels fighting in Lofa County have claimed responsibility.

Speaking to our reporter on the basis of anonymity, a senior government official hinted that there was "foul play" involved in the man's death but he was not specific. "When the time comes, the people will know", he said. He said that the status of the helicopter, which was at first described as "civilian helicopter", then later as a "police helicopter" by President Taylor, has led to more doubts as to the authenticity of the state's claims.

He said the failure of the dissidents to bring the helicopter down, and only killing Massaquoi without injuring any other occupant, is "clouded with unexplained facts. Who were the other passengers?" he asked. "Why haven't they presented the other occupants of the plane to media for real accounts of the incident?"

A ministry of Information quoted President Taylor as saying that the late Minister took the Lofa crisis passionately but did not have to sacrifice his life. Observers see the establishment of the committee by government to investigate the death of Minister Massaquoi, as another ploy to conceal the real truth in the man's death...

Meanwhile, the mysterious disappearance of Milton Teahjay, former Deputy Minister of Information and Media Consultant to President Taylor, continues to baffle many. The government of Liberia has yet to offer any official explanation on the whereabouts of Mr. Teahjay.

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