By William Q. Harmon | 9/19/2023
Washington DC: Renowned human rights activist and Co-Executive Director for the Advocacy Foundation for Human Rights (AFHR), Dr. Alan White has told the United States House Subcommittee on Foreign Affairs that President George Weah and his Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) are involved in acts of extrajudicial and ritualistic killing.
Addressing the subcommittee on Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations, under the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Dr. White said that at least 10 people were killed in unclear circumstances in 2021, including five in September of that year reportedly with suspected links to ritualistic practices or political motivations.
The killings referenced by Dr. White, all of which occurred during the Weah administration, were never solved and remain fresh on the minds of Liberians as the country goes to the polls on October 10 this year, to elect a president, vice president and 88 legislators.
On December 10, 2021, the United Nations issued a public statement –“A UN human rights expert today called on the Liberian Government to promptly investigate a series of killings that have occurred this year, some of which have reportedly been linked to ritualistic practices.”
White told the subcommittee that his organization has received disturbing information about the frequency of such killings and the allegations linking it to the Executive Mansion (The Office of the President) and other high ranking government officials. Details of these atrocities, he said, are difficult to obtain.
“Sources advise the police are not allowed to investigate these matters or if they do, it is done superficially as to not get too close to those involved,” White told the Subcommittee on Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations at a hearing on Tuesday, 19 September. “Also, because of the high-level links to the government it is taboo to say anything about it or otherwise you could be the next victim.”
White called on the U.S. government and global partners for the prosecution for these heinous crimes. “The killing must stop and hope your legislation can effect change and stop this madness once and for all,” he told the subcommittee.
White’s AFHR, a nonprofit organization, located in Washington, DC, USA, targets human rights violators, that engage in public corruption and seek justice and accountability for the victims of such atrocities. The group is also actively engaged in conducting investigations and compiling information about those individuals who are committing ritualistic killings, especially in Liberia.
In his testimony, White made specific references to the mysterious disappearance of three young men who were hired by Moses Ahossouhe, owner of the St. Moses Funeral Parlor in Monrovia, to undertake a task in Bong County; the high profile death of four auditors; as well as other mysterious deaths that took place in the country under the Weah administration.
On October 17, 2020, Robert M. Blamo, Jr, 29, Siafa Gbana Boimah, 34, and Bobby S. Gbeanquoi, 32, were reported drowned in a river in Fuamah District, lower Bong County, when a canoe they were allegedly riding capsized.
“The bodies of the three young men were retrieved by Ahoussouhe and never returned to the parents. He has close ties to the President and the government,” White told the committee. “And the Ministry of Justice has failed to provide an update or release the outcome of an investigative report on circumstances that led to the conclusion they drowned. Why didn’t they release the bodies to the family?”
“The aggrieved families believed that their children are being kept in a sacred place to be used for alleged ‘ritualistic purposes’. The family members sought the assistance of the international community, including the US Embassy and the United Nations.”
Three of the most recent victims were either former officials or had links to high profile former politicians, he said. “Even a recent death of some young girls involved in political campaign event held by the CDC sparked outrage by the citizens and allegations their deaths were done for ritualistic reasons,” he said while referencing the headline of a local newspaper which said: Citizens to President Weah: ‘No ritual can help you from leaving office after the elections.’
White noted that the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf administration during her 12 years (2006-2018) in office was plagued with ritual killings and despite vows to bring them to an end they continued. “The same problems continue under the Weah administration and, unlike Sirleaf, there were no insiders reporting her direct involvement with the ritual killings,” he said.
Over the past 20 years White has been actively engaged in seeking justice and accountability for victims of human rights violations and conducting criminal investigations of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Africa, most specifically West Africa. From July 2002-July 2005, he was detailed to the United Nations backed Special Court for Sierra Leone located in Freetown, Sierra Leone West Africa where he served as the Chief of Investigations.
“As Chief of Investigations of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, I directed all criminal investigations which led to numerous indictments and convictions, most notably was former Liberian President Charles Taylor who was the first sitting Head of State to be indicted and convicted for war crimes and continues to serve his 50 year prison sentence.”
White was one of four witnesses who testified during the hearing on the theme: “Efforts to Address Ritual Abuse and Sacrifice in Africa” on Tuesday, September 19, 2023. The others were Obed Byamugisha, Program Advisor, Kyampisi Childcare Ministries; Miriam Fullah, Trafficking in Persons Protection Manager, World Hope International; and Josephine Aparo, Founding Member, Global Survivor Network and International Justice Mission.
He applauded the work of the Subcommittee and its members, noting that his organization will continue to work on the issues. “We hope that this Hearing will shed a very bright light on a very dark issue plaguing many African countries and especially Liberia, who experienced this despicable crime against humanity during war and peace, yet it doesn’t stop,” he said.
His testimony to the U.S. House Subcommittee is the latest deposit in a trove of numerous reports with claims of crime and corruption on the part of the Weah administration. So far, some of these claims have resulted in sanctions against three of Weah’s top lieutenants — former Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Nathaniel McGill; former Solicitor General, Cllr. Saymah Syrenius Cephus; and former Managing Director of the National Port Authority, Bill Twehway.
Yet, amid the U.S. sanctions, the three individuals continue to wield influence across the country — especially during the current election period, as Both McGill and Twehway are splurging cash to gain favor with voters in order to be elected to legislative office come October 10.
Dr. White’s hope that the U.S. Congress’ “… legislation can effect change and stop this madness once and for all,” might resonate with many Liberians at home and abroad, but the October 10 elections will be the litmus test of whether the critical mass of Liberians at home feel the same way about the state of affairs in their country.
You can watch the hearing here on YouTube