Part III
The Doe Era
(page under construction)

Defense Minister, Maj. Gen. Gray Allison, arrested - accused of ritual murder:

Ritual Killing Laid To Liberian Official

Eleven people, including Liberia's Defense Minister, have been arrested and charged with the ritual murder of a policeman as part of a plot to overthrow the Government.

The plot began in March, court papers charge, after the Defense Minister, Maj. Gen. Gray Allison, sought the aid of a ''medicine man'' to help him advance in his career.

Prosecutors assert that General Allison had been told he would need a potion of human blood and body parts to perform ''juju'' or ''harsh medicine.'' The potion would then be used against Liberia's President, Samuel K. Doe, presumably to cause his death and bring down the Government.

A few days later a decapitated body was found lying across a railway track near General Allison's home with its heart ripped out. The body was later identified as that of J. Melvin Pyne, a local policeman.

The killing remained unsolved for several months until late June, when General Allison was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. He was also accused of engaging in ''ritual intended to promote his own selfish and greedy desire.''

Tried by Military Tribunal
The general, who faces a maximum penalty of death if convicted, was removed as Defense Minister after his indictment and went on trial before a military tribunal on July 10. His wife, Angeline Watta, and nine others were indicted as co-conspirators, but will be tried separately by a civilian court.

General Allison has vigorously denied the charges. Among those testifying against him were Sekou Sachko, the ''medicine man,'' and a nurse who said he had cut off Officer Pyne's head. The trial is expected to end shortly. The ritual killing has gripped Liberia this summer because the defendants are not marginal members of society but pillars of the establishment. Before his arrest last month, General Allison was among Liberia's most prominent political figures.

News articles about the trial often note that General Allison and his wife were known as devout Christians. They were recently named Liberia's father and mother of the year.

''Without saying whether he's guilty or not, when people of his caliber, who profess to be Christians, are even mentioned as being involved, it shakes the faith,'' said Michael Kpakala Francis, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Monrovia. ''It's sickening.''

The unfolding of the murder case has forced people of this country on the western bulge of the continent to confront the enduring influence of magic, witchcraft and the belief in a universe filled with spirits that can be placated with charms and human sacrifices.

While Liberia was founded in 1822 by freed American slaves, neither Christianity nor Islam has ever gained a firm rooting here. About 65 percent of the two million people are followers of various tribal religions, 20 percent are Muslims and the rest Christians.

The practice of using ''juju'' for individual advancement is also often reported in newspapers in the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. But nowhere else in West Africa, it seems, does belief in juju and Christianity overlap.

''The revelations of the past few weeks are eloquent examples of our wicked ways,'' said an editorial in The Daily Observer, a Monrovia newspaper. ''Ritualistic killing has become so rampant in our society that whenever there is a Liberian, his pride is hurt, he hangs his head in shame.''

Dozens Charged Over Years
While General Allison is the most prominent Liberian to have been charged with ritual murder, dozens of business leaders, politicans and even clergymen have been charged, and sometimes convicted, of similar charges over the last few decades.

In 1987, six people, including a close aide to President Doe, were executed for the ritualistic killing of two boys.

General Allison's court-martial has been conducted behind closed doors, but in daily accounts of the trial made public by the Government, the former Defense Minister has steadfastly insisted on his innocence.

Whatever the court may decide, however, many people here have been struck by a words of a speech General Allison gave six years ago. In it, The Daily Observer reported, Mr. Allison complained that ritual killings were posing a severe threat to the security of the nation, adding, ''Anyone found guilty of being a ritual killer must face the firing squad.''

August 15, 1989

Quiwonkpa, killed, dismembered and consumed
Thomas Quiwonkpa, former Commanding General of the Armed Forces of Liberia, and former member of the PRC, returned to Liberia via Sierra Leone, and staged a putsch. Quiwonkpa was later apprehended by Doe’s forces, killed, dismembered, and according to reports, part of his body was consumed by his executioners.
November 12, 1985

History of ritual killings in Liberia:

  • Introduction: Caution

  • Part I  : Before 1950

  • Part II : 1950 - 1980

  • Part III : The First Liberian Civil War 1990-97
                 The Taylor Administration 1997 - 2003
                 The Second Liberian Civil War 1999-03

  • Part IV :  After 2003



© fpm van der kraaij