Monrovia, Liberia–I went out on the street this afternoon and spoke with Kortee, a young man operating a money exchange. He was anxious to tell me of the joy of free movement and the difficulties the people have just passed through. He and his friend Peter spoke of the cruelty of the youthful militia.
He explained that a large, once attractive
apartment tower across the street from his sidewalk vending booth was
comandeered by the militia and used as a holding facility and torture site.
Peter explained that innocent
people were taken off the street and beaten, or worse, killed. This was for no
reason but to demonstrate that power was in the hands of the militia. He
pantomimed how the rebels would force a captive to fill his mouth with rocks
until his cheeks bulged. Then they would slap him splitting the skin.
Some were thrown into the swimming
pool with bags on their heads. Others had bicycles forced over their arms as
“necklaces” and were made to crawl on their knees.
It was a strategy of humiliation,
intimidation and fear. “They would kill you for no reason,” one pastor told me.
“They would kill you simply because they could.”
The legacy of terror is that it
corrodes hope. It feeds uncertainty. It undermines well-being. To overcome
terror is a difficult thing. It will require secure conditions that allow life
to be dependable and let people hope again. It will require just treatment
under the rule of law.