Liberia: Ministry of Internal Affairs Secures Release of 11 Men Held in Traditional Leaders in Bong County after Going on a Preaching Expedition

Monrovia – The Ministry of Internal Affairs says it has secured the release of 11 men who were held in the custody by traditional leaders in Gbartala, Bong County.

The eleven men who had traveled from Monrovia to Gbartala on a preaching expedition are members of a religious group called Saint Assembly.

The men were released Thursday, October 7, 2021  to a team dispatched by Acting Internal Affairs Minister Momolu S. Johnson following reports that members of Saint Assembly were allegedly conscripted by force into traditional society in the area.

A press release from the Internal Affairs Ministry said the high-powered team is headed by Assistant Minister for Culture and Customs Joseph B. Jangar and Chief Zanzan Karwor, Chairman of the National Council of Chiefs.

According to Assistant Minister Jangar who is still in Gbartala, residents and traditional leaders expressed anger that during their preaching the men castigated the culture and traditional of the community as being demonic, which constitute a violation of the cultural norms of the community.

The Assistant Minister said he and Chief Zanzan were informed by the traditional people that the men used the preaching to ridicule the culture.

Meanwhile, the traditional leaders denied ever taking the men into the Poro Bush, terming it as total falsehood.

The traditional leaders said the men were only detained in a nearby town with the plan of turning them over to the local authority for violating the Culture.

According to the release the chiefs said the detention was a safety measure as some angry community members were becoming increasingly impatient with the negative message of the men

 “The men in question were never taken to the bush, we met them detained in the town.” Honorable Jangar reported.

Meanwhile, the eleven men and their families have been turned over to the District Commissioner and office of Bong County Superintendent Esther Walker pending their transportation back to Monrovia.

The Acting Minister has requested the team to conduct further investigation concerning the claims and counter-claims.

For the second day running, the compound of the Ministry has been a scene of Saint Assembly members who are staging a sit-in action in apparent demand for the release of their members who they alleged were forcibly initiated into the Poro Bush in Gbartala, Bong County.

Early Wednesday morning, October 6, 2021 upon their arrival at work employees of the Ministry were greeted by the group comprising dozens of citizens occupying the entrance of the Ministry’s compound and other areas.

The group occupying the compound refused to speak to any authority or accept any meeting request, but continue to sing, preach and chant. 

All efforts by authorities of the Ministry and Liberia Council of Churches to convince the group’s leaders for a meeting in order to ascertain the facts proved fruitless, due to consistent refusal of the group and its leaders to listen to any official who attempted engaging them.

National Peace Ambassador Rev. William R. Tolbert, Liberia Council of Churches represented by Dr. George Zorbah, Chief Zanzan Karwor and head of the Liberia Peacebuilding Office Edward Mulbah  and other senior staff of the Ministry exerted every effort to call a meeting, but were all resisted. 

Officers of the Liberia National Police were immediately called in to assist in maintaining calm at the Ministry complex.

Acting Minister Hon. Momolu S. Johnson has since contacted Justice Minister Cllr. Frank Musah Dean on the situation. 

The Acting Minister has been in constant telephone contact with the President of the Liberia Council of Churches Dr. Kortu Brown following their meeting earlier on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Ministry is warning local and traditional leaders against taking the law into their own hands, rather seek legal remedy to such situation.

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