Defense Minister, Maj. Gen. Gray Allison,
arrested - accused of ritual murder:
Ritual Killing Laid To Liberian Official
Eleven people, including Liberia's Defense Minister, have
been arrested and charged with the ritual murder of a
policeman as part of a plot to overthrow the Government.
The plot began in March, court papers charge, after the
Defense Minister, Maj. Gen. Gray Allison, sought the aid of
a ''medicine man'' to help him advance in his career.
Prosecutors assert that General Allison had been told he
would need a potion of human blood and body parts to perform
''juju'' or ''harsh medicine.'' The potion would then be
used against Liberia's President, Samuel K. Doe, presumably
to cause his death and bring down the Government.
A few days later a decapitated body was found lying across a
railway track near General Allison's home with its heart
ripped out. The body was later identified as that of J.
Melvin Pyne, a local policeman.
The killing remained unsolved for several months until late
June, when General Allison was arrested and charged with
first-degree murder. He was also accused of engaging in ''ritual
intended to promote his own selfish and greedy desire.''
Tried by Military Tribunal
The general, who faces a maximum penalty of death if
convicted, was removed as Defense Minister after his
indictment and went on trial before a military tribunal on
July 10. His wife, Angeline Watta, and nine others were
indicted as co-conspirators, but will be tried separately by
a civilian court.
General Allison has vigorously denied the charges. Among
those testifying against him were Sekou Sachko, the ''medicine
man,'' and a nurse who said he had cut off Officer Pyne's
head. The trial is expected to end shortly. The ritual
killing has gripped Liberia this summer because the
defendants are not marginal members of society but pillars
of the establishment. Before his arrest last month, General
Allison was among Liberia's most prominent political figures.
News articles about the trial often note that General
Allison and his wife were known as devout Christians. They
were recently named Liberia's father and mother of the year.
''Without saying whether he's guilty or not, when people of
his caliber, who profess to be Christians, are even
mentioned as being involved, it shakes the faith,'' said
Michael Kpakala Francis, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of
Monrovia. ''It's sickening.''
The unfolding of the murder case has forced people of this
country on the western bulge of the continent to confront
the enduring influence of magic, witchcraft and the belief
in a universe filled with spirits that can be placated with
charms and human sacrifices.
While Liberia was founded in 1822 by freed American slaves,
neither Christianity nor Islam has ever gained a firm
rooting here. About 65 percent of the two million people are
followers of various tribal religions, 20 percent are
Muslims and the rest Christians.
The practice of using ''juju'' for individual advancement is
also often reported in newspapers in the Ivory Coast, Ghana,
Nigeria and Sierra Leone. But nowhere else in West Africa,
it seems, does belief in juju and Christianity overlap.
''The revelations of the past few weeks are eloquent
examples of our wicked ways,'' said an editorial in The
Daily Observer, a Monrovia newspaper. ''Ritualistic killing
has become so rampant in our society that whenever there is
a Liberian, his pride is hurt, he hangs his head in shame.''
Dozens Charged Over Years
While General Allison is the most prominent Liberian to have
been charged with ritual murder, dozens of business leaders,
politicans and even clergymen have been charged, and
sometimes convicted, of similar charges over the last few
In 1987, six people, including a close aide to President
Doe, were executed for the ritualistic killing of two boys.
General Allison's court-martial has been conducted behind
closed doors, but in daily accounts of the trial made public
by the Government, the former Defense Minister has
steadfastly insisted on his innocence.
Whatever the court may decide, however, many people here
have been struck by a words of a speech General Allison gave
six years ago. In it, The Daily Observer reported, Mr.
Allison complained that ritual killings were posing a severe
threat to the security of the nation, adding, ''Anyone found
guilty of being a ritual killer must face the firing squad.''
August 15, 1989
Quiwonkpa, killed, dismembered and consumed
Thomas Quiwonkpa, former Commanding General of the Armed
Forces of Liberia, and former member of the PRC, returned to
Liberia via Sierra Leone, and staged a putsch. Quiwonkpa was
later apprehended by Doe’s forces, killed, dismembered, and
according to reports, part of his body was consumed by his
November 12, 1985
History of ritual killings in Liberia: