Liberia: Justice and the civil war legacy on 25th anniversary of nun deaths

By Laureen Fagan|

Friday marked the solemn anniversary of the deaths of five American nuns killed during Liberia’s first civil war, all of them as missionaries with the Sisters of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ in 1992.

It’s been 25 years since Sister Mary Joel Kolmer and Sister Barbara Ann Muttra died on a road between Gardnersville, a suburb of Monrovia, and the neighboring community of Barnersville. Witnesses say on that fateful October 20, as fierce fighting under former Liberian president and warlord Charles Taylor drew closer, the women were killed at a checkpoint while trying to get an employee home safely.

Three days later, the remaining nuns – Sisters Agnes Mueller, Shirley Kolmer and Kathleen McGuire – were shot dead at their convent, two of them apparently hacked into pieces with a machete. Weeks went by before anyone could collect their remains. Years went by with no one ever held accountable.

They served in the country for as long as 21 years, in Muttra’s case, or for as little as one; that was true of McGuire and her work with Liberians psychologically traumatized by the war. Their roles as teachers, nurses and spiritual leaders lived on in the Liberian clinics and schools named after them, but so do the questions of who was responsible for the deaths and how they might be brought to justice.

Liberia, currently in a peaceful election process to replace the outgoing President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, is trying to move on from a painful past in which the five American deaths were just a handful of at least 250,000 people killed in conflicts that also left more than 1.3 million displaced.

“We were there with people who were suffering through the same thing,” says Sister Barbara Hudock in a new short video released by the religious order as part of the 25th anniversary observance. “This happened to all of your people.”

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Source: Africa Times

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About Cholo Brooks 17167 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.