Monday, March 1, 2010

Ethnic-religious tensions simmer in Liberia's northern Lofa County. 1 March 2010

On Friday 26 February, a violent clash errupted between Muslims and Christians in Voinjama, the capital of Lofa country in northern Liberia, that left four dead (3 Christians) and 18 wounded, 3 critically. Calm has been restored and investigations are underway, but tensions and fears remain.

On 23 Feb. 14-yr-old Korpo Kamara, a student at the local Luthern school, went missing in Konia town, some 55 miles south-east of Voinjama. On 24 Feb. police dispatched from Voinjama found her body near a Konia mosque. When local Christians (ethnic Lormas) arrived at the mosque and began asking the local Muslims (ethnic Mandingos) what had happened, the Muslims denied having any knowledge of the incident. Some ethnic Lormas reportedly blamed the Muslims, saying that Muslims have been known to kill for ritual sacrifice (see The Inquirer). Now this might be true, or it might not. It could possibly be a case of blame shifting as ritual sacrifice is widespread in Liberia. Hopefully the investigation will uncover the truth.

According to Liberia's Daily Observer, during the confrontation at the Konia town mosque, a Muslim made a telephone call to the Muslim community in Voinjama, the county capital, delivering the false rumor that Christians had torched the Konia mosque.

The Muslim community in Voinjama responded to this false report by mobilising against Voinjama's Christian community. The Catholic Church on the Macenta Road was torched and the Voinjama Free Pentecostal CHurch was "massively looted". Private homes and vehicles belonging to Christians were also burned.

Eyewitnesses told the Daily Observer that automatic weapons-fire was heard coming from the Mandingo quarter, and that during the confrontation, Pakistani peacekeepers deployed tanks around the Konia's two mosques and protected them from looters, but left the churches and other Christian-owned establishments to be vandalized.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has expressed her grave concern over the development, and promised that a full investigation will be undertaken and that the perpitrators will be prosecuted in keeping with the law. In the meantime, the Council of Churches and the National Muslim Council will initiate mediation.

Violence Erupts in Lofa
27 Feb 2010

Four Killed In Voinjama Violence
1 March 2010

Four dead in religious clashes in Liberia: official
AFP 1 March 2010

Calm Returns To Voinjama…4 Killed, 18 Wounded
By Patrick K. Wrokpoh