Liberia: Conflicting Accounts Over Student Activist’s Alleged Beating, Abduction
Monrovia – At around 10:30pm Friday, Martin Kollie says he was taking one of his Student Unification Party militants’ home when he received a call from other party members who were hanging out at the Renaissance Bar on Duport Road in Paynesville.
Martin Kollie’s Version of Events
Mr. Kollie, the controversial secretary-general of the Student Unification Party of the University of Liberia, broke his silence Sunday, for the first time since reports of his alleged abduction and beating by unknown forces, he says were instructed by the Liberian government to do him harm.
He told FrontPageAfrica some men in a white pickup tried to abduct him and take him away. “It was the grace of God and people who were around to raise alarm, that saved me,” the student activist lamented.
Kollie explained that he had spent most of the day Friday on the main campus of the University of Liberia. “I spent all day on campus with some of SUP militants. At the end of the day, I was driving coming to Paynesville side and to drop off one of our militants called Francis. Just in that time, one of the SUPist called to say that a group of them where hanging out at The Renaissance Bar and asked me to join them there.”
It was then, Kollie says, some men in a white pickup came and tried to abduct him. “They had a white pickup they wanted to put me in the pickup. They beat me with baton – and right now, my right foot is in a lot of pain. If people had not come around, it would have been a different story, I would not be here to tell what happened to me last Friday.”
A Victim’s Version of Events
Mr. Emmanuel Zorh Jr., Inspector General, Post & Telecommunication, who says he was at the bar when Kollie arrived with a group of SUPists, explained a different version of what took place at the Renaissance bar.
Zorh says, he had just come from the Roberts International Airport on Friday night and he and some friends decided to hang out at the Renaissance Bar. “When we got there, I was sitting on the counter. So, Martin, one Martin Kollie, that was my first time seeing him, he entered the place with some guys with him. He went to the cashier and took drinks and said this man will pay. So, I turned to him and said I’m not paying for any drink. I told the waitress, said go back to him, I’m not paying – and they were able pay for the drink.”
In the process, Mr. Zorh says, Kollie approached him and said, ‘you not paying’? – and I said no.
Mr. Zorh says it was then that Kollie decided to put up tension and said he wanted to fight. “One other guy called John Yormin, he works with the Internal Affairs – he came and called me. Because when Martin and his boys wanted to fight because I refused to buy him drinks, that’s how the whole place erupted. Just ask John Yormin and even the bartender, they will tell you – that’s how John talked to me – and I went and sat down. After some time as I was going out of the bar, Martin and his boys were sitting at the entrance of the entertainment bar, it’s a one-way – so they went and sat in the chair – and as I was coming out, I just felt the slap in my face, that’s how I ran back inside and started calling the police and there was no response.”
Mr. Zorh further explained that he waited, waited and waited. When he finally approached Martin out of fear, and trying to leave the bar, it was then, he says he came under attack. “I saw Martin them coming out with force, that’s when the police and other people that were there – they started fighting. So, when they were slapping me, the DEA officer came and that’s how I explained. I managed to escape and I went to bed and the next morning I went to the police station and registered my case and my lawyer and myself will be going to court tomorrow(Monday) to establish the case.”
Asked about Zorh’s explanation, Kollie expressed surprise, telling FrontPageAfrica: “I don’t know him from nowhere, how – or rather, why would I ask him to buy me drinks?”.
Kollie insists that he was taken across the road where the group of men trying to put him in the pickup asked him for his laptop. “When they took me across the road, they asked me for my laptop. I left the other pekin, Francis in the car. They were pushing me in the car; in the white pickup. I don’t know where they wanted to take me. I don’t normally stay out late but because of the SUPist that were with me, I stayed out late. It was around 10:30. I parked the car adjacent to Renaissance. I don’t know how those guys jump on me.”
Kollie says since the incident happened on Friday, he has been taking treatment at the Medlin Clinic on Randall Street. “I am feeling sharp pain internally. I will get the medical report tomorrow and will share it with you. My right foot has a problem right now and I am in deep pain.”
DEA Commander’s Version of Events
Special Agent Romeo Suah, Paynesville Commander of the DEA explained that he and his men were simply overpowered by Kollie and his supporters.
Suah says he was out Friday night with three of his officers around the Duport Road belt at The Renaissance Entertainment Center where the problem occurred. “It was yesterday(Saturday) that I learned of a victim from the Post and Telecommunications. This gentlemen and Martin were into a fight. There’s a bouncer who came to me and say Chief Romeo, there’s some noise going on over there – and I went there, not too far from me where the car was parked. I saw Martin on top of the guy with two or three other guys tussling. So, in the process – in fact, I don’t really know Martin, I just been hearing his name but I don’t really know him. So, I went to him trying to bring the situation under control – and in less than a minute my shirt was already torn up.”
Suah lamented that he simply went on the scene to try and bring the tension down. “The fact that I went to part them, I don’t know the both of them; but I just went in between them, they tore my shirt immediately. Another guy who is now in the police custody threw a slap in my ear in defense of Martin who I was trying to part from the other fella. Just in that time, my other officer, who had on his DEA shirt held the man who slapped me, trying to arrest him.”
Suah explained that when he contained Martin and took him across the bar to the car, the student activist actually had about four guys around him and things got ugly. “One of them took the bottle that he had and threw it to me, I dodged it and it hit my car, the mark is still on the car.”
Suah says even the alcohol that was in the bottle all splashed on his clothes.
Aware of the negative reports regarding security officers, Suah says he always tries to be moderate in dealing with tension but he and his men were outnumbered. “One of the officers who was trying to contain Martin hand is now swollen, as they fought and wrestled him to the ground. Because the tension was getting high, we fled the scene while we managed to contain one of the guys, especially the one who put slap in my ear; my wallet and all of my identification cards left there. We took the guy straight to the police depot.”
Suah says the DEA officers never arrested Martin or tried to abduct or kidnap him as is being reported. “It was not Martin that we carried. Martin left with his guys. We did a formal complaint at the police station that night. The next day we made a follow up before we realized that it was the Martin Kollie from the University of Liberia.”
Suah says, since the incident, an elderly man who identified himself as Martin’s father has been calling him to resolve the matter. “The man called me the following day, Saturday to prevail on me to see how we could resolve the issue. The elderly man said he was Martin’s father. He said he was a reverend from the Wesleyan Church. So, I told him there is a lot of things involved in the case and besides I have already filed a report with the police and there was nothing I could do.”
Suah says the elderly man took his number and has been calling him since but because the matter is now in the hands of the police, he has been avoiding taking the old man’s call.
Recalling the night in question, Suah reiterated that to the contrary, it was he and his officers who came under attack from Kollie and his supporters. “They inflicted wound on us, they relegated us to the lowest. We did not arrest Martin, the crowd was getting too much and I was protecting Martin – there were about ten of Martin supporters and we were only three, so we had to leave.”
Bar Manager’s Version of Events
James Woiwor, Manager of the Renaissance, when contacted Sunday, offered a different version from what both Kollie and Zorh explained.
Explained Woiwor: “What happened that day – I’m the manager but I wasn’t really on the scene. The situation occurred before I arrived on the scene. Martin was drinking and the other guy, I’ve just forgotten his name but he was in a white trousers, mistakenly Martin, the liquor he was drinking, a sip of it dropped on the guy’s white trousers, and that’s how he began to ask Martin what happened – and when he asked Martin what happened and that’s how Martin started to talk to him and the two of them could not come to one understanding. But he had more presence than Martin – and that’s how he went into a fistfight – and they even tore Martin’s clothes up and people had to come to Martin’s rescue.”
Asked if he saw any white pickup truck around the bar during the incident, Woiwor said he could not recall. “I don’t really want to lie; I did not take notice of that. But actually, that’s what happened.”