‘Plot’ To Kill Journalist Covering LGBT Community Unravels￼
Monrovia – FrontPageAfrica has reliably learnt of an alleged plan by a former soldier of the Armed Forces of Liberia, Cheeseman Cole, to possibly eliminate the Curator-in-Chief of journalRAGE, Gboko Stewart.
journalRAGE is an online news platform founded by Gboko Stewart in 2019 to report exclusively on the LGBT community in Liberia. The news platform, since its inception, have brought to the front burner the many issues bedeviling the LGBT community in the country.
According to a source with knowledge of the plan that hinted at FPA, the ex-military personnel have grouped with a gang in the Congo Town belt that targets men suspected of being gay on social media (Facebook).
“He joined us over a month ago. Two weeks ago, he came to us saying he wants us to target one journalist named Stewart so we can kill him–he said the journalist is a threat to our operations. He said it was the journalist who spoiled his operations on the highway too,” said the source who asked for anonymity.
The source, who revealed that he has been a member of the gang since the beginning of 2021, said Cole’s plans were discussed amongst members of the group and there was an acquiescence amongst them that the plot be carried out, thereby leaving him with an uneasy feeling.
“My late father was a journalist, so when I heard Cole talking about us targeting this journalist, I was feeling different because I thought about my father and if he was alive, somebody could have done the same thing to him–that’s how I decided to reach out to your.”
Cheesman Cole, 41, is an ex soldier of the Armed Forces of Liberia who, according to journalRAGE, was discharged from the army dishonorably for engaging in what the army described as acts unbecoming of a soldier.
In September 2020, Stewart began a lengthy investigation on Cole when it was discovered that men suspected of being gay on social media were being targeted by the ex-soldier.
The investigation led to the discovery of about 27 men who were allegedly brutalized by the former soldier. Stewart’s investigation further discovered that Cole reportedly used Facebook to lure the individuals to his residence on the Roberts International Airport highway.
The story, which was lifted by FPA, revealed that Cole could be linked to the disappearance of Dominic Renner and Winston Toe, who have been missing since September 27 and October 4, 2020.
According to journalRAGE, Police investigation determined Renner and Toe were captives of the ex-soldier.
Cole and his accomplices were charged–some in absentia–with Aggravated Assault, Criminal Attempt to Commit Murder, Possession and Sale of Physical Objects for lethal use, Felonious Restraint and Theft of Property, the online news reported.
However, journalRAGE noted he was not charged for Renner and Toe’s disappearance despite what appears to be overwhelming evidence linking him to it.
During the investigation, journalRAGE stated its Curator-in-Chief was threatened by an anonymous call.
Stewart won the Press Union of Liberia 2021 Human Rights Reporter award for his reportage on Cole.
Two years following the arrest and charge of Cole by the government, the human rights journalist recently reported that Dominic Renner and Winston Toe have not been found, and Cole is yet to be prosecuted.
LGBTQI+ persons are attacked repeatedly in Liberia without any redress,, according to the 2021 US State Department report.
In May 2021, members of a community watch team allegedly beat three men on suspicion they were gay in the Gobachop community of Paynesville.
A month later in June, a student of the Trinity United Methodist School was expelled for crossdressing when a viral video on Facebook showed him in a playful but fiery exchange with a female street preacher who had sought to preach damnation upon him.
Liberian law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults. Articles 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.
When contacted for a response to the alleged plot, Gboko Stewart, 32, said he is not perturbed by the news.
“I know for sure this comes with the territory. When I signed up to start reporting on LGBT issues in Liberia, I knew it came along with threats and so forth. I have been threatened by Mr. Cole in the past when I investigated him.”
The Liberian human rights journalist said he has been quietly investigating the gang in Congo Town. “I am currently investigating that gang in Congo Town which, according to you, Cole is allegedly a member of. The victims are a bit afraid , but I have gotten some of their testimonies and I am writing about their ordeal.
“For Mr. Cole, he needs not worry because I am about to give him a bigger platform because a BBC stringer contacted me from Freetown wanting to use my stories on him to pitch so an extensive story can be done on his alleged moonlighting antics.”
Cheeseman Cole could not be reached for comment.