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Liberia's Northern Lofa County Returning to Normal, Says Regional Leader

Map of Liberia and Lofa County
Map of Liberia and Lofa County

Superintendent Galakpai Kortimai says last Friday's violence in Lofa County had nothing to do with religious differences between Christians and Moslems

The superintendent of the northern Liberian region of Lofa County says the situation in the city of Voinjama is returning to normal after last Friday’s violent clashes between Moslem and Christians left many people wounded and some Christian churches burned to the ground.

The violence followed the death of a Christian school girl, Korpu Kamara.

Superintendent Galakpai Kortimai said the violence had nothing to do with religious differences between Christians and Moslems contrary to some reports.

“This whole thing actually it’s not about religion; it’s about tribe – Lorma and the Mandingos. It is not about religion to say Christians and Moslems because a lot of Christians and lots of Moslems were also affected. They looted the people’s places and burned down their houses,” he said.

Superintendent Kortimai said the conflict began following the death of a Christian school girl, Korpu Kamara.

“The whole thing started in a town called Konia where a school girl (Korpu Kamara) got missing and then everyone went out in the bush. And on Thursday afternoon, around 1 O’clock the body was found right around the school building,” Kortimai said.

He said the situation soon got out of control when angry students began demonstrating to protest the girl’s death.

“The next day someone called from (the town of) Konia and called the Mandingo boys here that in fact the mosques in Konia had been burnt. And so without investigation to proof whether this was true, they resorted into vandalizing the Pentecostal Church, the Catholic Church, and then going to individual homes and to also burn down the Lorma homes. So the Lorma people also got angry and started setting Mandingo buildings ablaze,” he said.

Kortimai said the unrest has been brought under control.

“I think the security situation is improving gradually after we imposed a curfew. We were able to stop whatever violence that was taking place, the burning down of structures, and other activities that were taking place. And then we had the re-enforcement that came from Monrovia and joined our security group. And as of today things are calm, people are passing about doing their work,” he said.

He said the contingent of the United Nations peacekeepers assigned to Lofa County did not act quickly because of their protocol.

“The people had to get command instructions from their headquarters (in Monrovia). And so when we told them to move in they were waiting for command instruction to come before they would move in. So the whole thing went out of hand before they started deploying, Kortimai said.

He said the dusk to dawn curfew imposed following the unrest will remain in place until the security situation improves.

“The curfew will be lifted as soon as the security situation improves. When the security people advise me that indeed we can relax the curfew then we will relax it. But the curfew we started yesterday (Friday) and we are going to run from 6 to 6 every day,” he said.

Superintendent Kortimai said the country’s jails were broken and prisoners, including murderers and rapists had escaped. He said the county is determined to recapture the runaway prisoners.