By Alva M. Wolokolie & Garmonyou Wilson
Five years after a tragedy which claimed the lives of about 13 persons in Kolleh’s Town, Margibi County, several residents in those areas are still afraid while many of them have deserted the area. The bodies of the 13 persons were discovered in the Farmington River situated between Grand Bassa and Margibi Counties.
Few of the residents across the Farmington River are afraid to even talk about what happened on that fateful day 2008, for fear of reprisal from those that were accused, arrested and later sent to court by family members of the 13 dead persons.
The killing of about 13 persons was attributed to a longstanding land dispute between Margibi County former Senator Roland Kaine, a former executive of the defunct National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), and the former spokesman of the Liberian United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), Charles Bennie, who later became Director of Foreign Trade at the Ministry of Commerce during the first regime of the Unity Party led administration.
Many Liberians considered the incident to be one of the worst land conflict 14 years after the civil crisis which has left scars on the entire country, prompting the Government of Liberia to develop policies to avoid recurrence through the newly created Land Commission.
Former Senator Roland Kaine and 13 others were accused, arrested, charged by the Government and sent to court but Kaine denied being in Kakata during the weekend in June 2008 when the incident occurred. He told reporters at the time that he was 4 miles away from his farm which is in that vicinity and there was no local network there to receive or make a telephone call. Kaine and few of the 13 were later acquitted of murder charge after court trial. There were others found guilty and are still behind bars. Associate Justice Philip A.Z. Banks was then Minister of Justice who warned that death penalty awaited anyone found guilty.
It was also reported that one A.Y. Kollie of Kakata allegedly masterminded the whole saga by recruiting men from Kakata to attack workers on Bennie’s farm.
Mr. Charles Bennie contested the 2005 Senatorial Elections on the ticket of the Reformation Party of Liberia (RPL) but was defeated by Roland Kaine and was accused of hiring 13 persons from the Slipway Community in Monrovia to go and brush his rubber farm in Kolleh’s Town but denied sending anyone. The land Bennie was claiming is called Joshua Harmon’s farm. Media report says Bennie took over the land at the time he was the spokesman of LURD.
With several perpetrators still on the run, villagers felt that the incident has not finished and one day they could also be accused if they decide to bring back a recollection of the event.
Now five years have passed. The towns and villages still remain deserted, with only a handful of residents having the courage to return to the area but dare not interact with anyone concerning the murder that took away the lives of the 13 persons.
During the weekend, the INQUIRER Newspaper dispatched two of its reporters to visit the area and ascertain whether people are still living there unlike before. The reporters upon their arrival in Kolleh’s Town and its surroundings quickly realized that those living on the Margibi side of the Farmington River from where the incident occurred still live in fear as many acted as though they did not know the actual site where the incident took place, thus giving the journalists a run around until after several hours when an old man directed them to a crossing point where the bodies of the massacred were dumped.
The INQUIRER reporters rode a canoe to cross and when they reached the Grand Bassa side of the Farmington River, they noticed that plum trees, coconut trees, and other farm products had been unattended to, thereby giving the town a ghost-like atmosphere.
However, while walking around the town, the reporters were fortunate to have met a family that had decided to live in the area, but claimed they were not around in 2008 when the massacre took place. The family now lives on the sales of rubber and coco as a means to sustain them.
Although our reporters saw the town being deserted but according to one Famata who lives in Kolleh’s Town and met upon arrival, said there were other men in the town that decided to go on their farms.
Famata told our reporters that her elder brother named Oldman Jude was picked up at the time by security authorities, detained, tried by the court along with the former Senator but is still kept behind bars for his alleged involvement in the massacre.