Liberia: ‘Army’ Personnel Uses ‘God’ as Subterfuge to Carryout Brutality Against 27 Suspected Gay Men

Cheeseman Cole, ‘personnel’ of the Armed Forces of Liberia

Monrovia – When Gbada Flomo (name changed to protect his identity) chatted with Cheeseman Cole—a ‘personnel’ of the Armed Forces of Liberia—on Facebook, little did he know it was a booby trap meant to bait him to an obscure location to be deathly beaten and have his belongings stolen.

Report by Gboko Stewart, [email protected], Contributing Writer

“He used a Facebook’s friend account to chat with me,” said Flomo in a state of rage.

Flomo, 28, said he was catfished by Cole on the social media site to visit his residence at Palm Wine Station on the Robertsfield highway via the Facebook account of his (Flomo’s) friend who was also a victim. There, he was brutalized severely.  

“When he took me to his house, he offered me food to eat but I wasn’t hungry—I was just browsing on my phone and not paying attention because my office had just sent me five dollars scratch card,” he added. “Before I could imagine, a whole crowd was standing over me with knives, cutlasses, scissors, wires—all types of desperate instruments I met over me.”

He said he was immediately attacked by the men, led by Cole. “One slap he [Cole] put in my ear, it made blood ran down my ear,” he said tearfully. “The other one took the cutlass and knocked it on me and said ‘here is the motherfucker we been waiting for’. I went off [fainted]. They stripped me naked—they took the new clothes I was wearing and all my valuables, including my passport.”

When he awoke, he intimated, the brutalization continued nonstop. “He stuck his combat helmet to my face until I go [went] off again. They beat me unmercifully—they beat under my feet. They put the door on me and two persons sat down on the door. 

LGBTI persons continue to come under threats and record instances of assault, harassment, and hate speech, according to the 2019 U.S. State Department Human Rights report on Liberia. Last November, a group of people celebrating at a party in Sinkor were attacked and brutalized by community dwellers over unfounded suspicion it was a gay wedding. 

Liberian law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults. Article 14.74, 14.79, and 50.7 [of the Penal Code of 1976] consider voluntary sodomy as a first-degree misdemeanor, with a penalty of up to one-year imprisonment. 

And though there has been no publicized case in recent years, harassment and discrimination abound. 

Cheeseman Cole is reportedly a Military Police (MP) officer in the Armed Forces of Liberia. But according to a source in the Liberian army, he was discharged dishonorably due to acts of alleged criminality. This information could not be verified independently as the army spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

However, it appears Cole has found favorite past time luring men he suspects of being gay on social media and brutalizing them when they show up at his residence. In a chat with journalRAGE using the account of one of his victims, he said his actions are a revelation from God to “get rid of all the gays in Liberia, especially Monrovia.” 

“I’m a servant of God n God spoke to me to get rid of all the gays in Liberia…,” he stated. “Two months ago. I have gotten 27 gays and they went under deliverance.” Quizzed whether he knew his actions violated the law and could land him prison time, he asked journalRAGE to visit his residence so he could explain more about his revelations from God. 

A victim of Cole’s barbarity displayed his wound

Cole’s Facebook profile describes him as “a born-again Christian who loves God so much, and cares about humanity.” That, his victims added, is the Sword of Damocles he hovers over them for “deliverance.” And it includes severe and unmerciful beating under the guise of cleansing the spirit, seizing of clothes, telephones, and other valuables, and later being thrown on the roadside wearing rags and left to wander with a warning to “go home and sin no more.”

Cole is also reportedly a member of a church pastored by businessman George B. Kailondo who he describes in one of his Facebook posts as his “General Overseer.” It remains unclear whether Cole draws his inspiration for violence against sexual minority from the businessman and man of God. 

Albert Doe, one of Cole’s victims, said the army personnel also lured him via the Facebook account of his friend. “I thought it was my friend who was chatting with me when the person asked me to come to palm wine station. When I got there, I was tied till my two elbows touched one another and they beat under my feet with a mortar pestle.” 

“He said he will kill one of us if we don’t change from being in things.” Doe, 35, said Cole seized his cell phone and he’s currently using it to bait others on Facebook. In excruciating pain, he said he can barely walk. Revealing further, he mentioned that others are currently hospitalized and injured from Cole’s proselytization. 

LGBT Community Alarms

News of the ‘soldier’s’ activities has sent ripples of shockwaves and fear through Liberia’s underground Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender community. “Such issue is getting very alarming in our community of recent,” stated Open Arms, an underground LGBT organization, in a statement.

“Several cases of how this guy has tortured several LGBTIQ persons, pretending to be a friend on social media has been discussed in our community. We think this is a criminal act and the victims must be advised to register these cases at the police station. “

The group said it is important for survivors to inform the police for Cole to be apprehended. “The perpetrator has no plan to stop this and he’s not in hidden, just that his victim has not been able to react or seek justice due to fear of stigma, discrimination, violence and a high degree of injustice for sexual minorities in Liberia.”

But for Gbada Flomo, he has no trust in the Liberia National Police. “Liberia Police da sound (trustworthy) Police?”

Is Cole Linked to Missing Catholic Laity?

Cole’s claim of deliverance of 27 victims is true, according to Peter Jones, one of the survivors who was spared of Cole’s wrath. Jones, 21, said Cole showed him 27 phones which belonged to the 27 men he has brutalized. 

He furthered that in his presence, Cole used another victim’s social media account to chat with Dominic Gardour, a Catholic laity who has reportedly gone missing along the Monrovia/Buchanan Highway. 

According to an online outlet, Gardour had been set to take up an assignment in Ghana prior to his sudden disappearance. He was previously assigned at the St. Martin Seminary in Gbarnga, Bong County.  

But Jones said he remembered Cole chatting with Gardour from another victim’s account and asking him (Gardour) to show up at another location as he had some documents to share with him before he leaves for Accra. 

However, he added, he does not know whether the Catholic laity—who remains missing—showed up. 

But the Whistleblower stated, “The Catholic Church in Grand Bassa & Bong [Counties] placed out an announcement and alerted the police to no avail. Gardour attended the St. Peter Claver School in Buchanan.”

A friend of Gardour, speaking to journalRAGE on strict condition of anonymity said he is worried over his disappearance. “Dominic is a very easy person and gets along with everybody. Anybody can be Dominic’s friend,” he said. 

journalRAGE provides exclusive coverage of Liberia’s LGBT Community