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Ritualistic Killings in Liberia's Southeastern Maryland County

  • James Butty

President Sirleaf Addressing the 52nd National Legislature of Liberia

President Sirleaf Addressing the 52nd National Legislature of Liberia

Justice Minister Christiana Tah says President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is concerned about the peace and stability of the region

There are reports of a resurgent of ritualistic killings in Liberia’s southeastern Maryland County region.

About 18 people have been arrested in the provincial city of Harper, including a top government official in the region. Maryland County is notorious for these types of murders.

Justice Minister Christiana Tah, who has just returned from the region, said President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was concerned about the peace and tranquility of the region.

“We have reports of the disappearance of individuals in the last month; we’ve had reports of two individuals disappearing – a 19 year-old boy and then a young girl whose age is underdetermined disappeared. In both cases we have not seen any bodies. There’s no evidence that they have been killed. They just simply disappeared,” she said.

But Tah said President Sirleaf dispatched her and the internal affairs minister to the region because the residents there were becoming very anxious and tension was building in the region.

Map of Liberia

Map of Liberia

She said adding to the tension in the region was the fact that a witch doctor provided the list from which the 18 suspects were arrested.

“We had 18 persons arrested based on a list that had been produced by a traditional doctor upon which a warrant was obtained to search the homes of these suspects. This also is not consistent with our laws,” Tah said.

Maryland County is notorious for ritualistic killings. In 1977, Allen Yancy, vice president and chair of the then ruling True Whig Party was hang after being found guilty for the same practice.

In the latest episode, Counselor Fulton Yancy, a prominent government official in Maryland County is reportedly among the 18 suspects.

Some reports said a bottle of human blood and the intestines of a dead child were found in Mr. Yancy’s home.

But Justice Minister Tah said her ministry knows of no human parts being found in people’s houses.

“What we do know at this time was that two very small bottles were found in the home of Counselor Yancy. People speculate that what was in the bottles may have been blood and some human tissues. We do not know this for a fact. The Ministry has agreed to have the specimens sent to Ivory Coast for examination,” Tah said.

Tah said President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s government is concerned about instability in the region and the fact that the residents do not feel secured in their homes as a result of the alleged ritualistic killings.

“We are doing whatever we can to ensure that we try to get rid of this problem because we are concerned about the peace and tranquility in that area. People tell me that they feel captive in their own homeland; they are not free to get out in the night to go to the bathroom or to go to the club. The young children are afraid to go out alone to the beaches,” Tah said.

She said President Sirleaf’s government has stepped up security and increased the number of investigators to make the citizens of the region regain confidence in the rule of law.

The Justice Minister also said the government has reopened some alleged ritualistic killings cases that had been closed and unsolved.

Tah said Liberians have been getting a lot of rumors and misinformation about the developments in country’s southeastern region of Maryland County.

She said she will try to set the record straight at her Tuesday news conference in the capital, Monrovia.

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