Monrovia-Barely less than a week following a robbery attack against him, journalRAGE’s reporter, Abel Sumo, has come under new attacks at his residence.
Sumo (name changed to protect his identity), 32, was attacked during the early morning hours of August 24 when the roof of his apartment was pelted with a hail of stones by angry youths in his Sinkor community.
“Around 10 a.m. while inside my apartment browsing the internet on my phone, somebody passed near my window and issued a threat saying, ‘this faggy [faggot] one that’s inside here, we will burn his house,” he said. “I went outside to my landlady to ask whether she heard the threat and saw the person who said it.”
He said the landlady identified the suspect who issued the chilling threat as a youth in the community who is a member of a criminal gang which operates in the Plumkor community of Sinkor.
“By 2 a.m. this morning, I heard rocks flying over my house – heavy stones which have caused my place to leak severely.”
The incident, he said, left him in a state of trauma as he did not know then who the suspects were. “I was so afraid. It was in the morning and everyone was sleeping.”
The attack against Sumo came less than a week ago when he was robbed on August 16 by an acquaintance he had met on social media. The incident saw the journalRAGE reporter losing his cellphone, wallet and sneakers.
The suspect, King Derrick The Change, was incarcerated briefly in the Police slammer in Joe bar, Paynesville, and later signed for by his lawyer.
Though the two incidents seem to be unrelated, a connection cannot be ruled out as Central Monrovia and its environs have become rife with criminal gangs, coercing President Weah to call on Liberians to buy CCTV cameras for their security.
LGBTQ Liberians continue to face widespread threats, assault, harassment, and hate speech, according to the 2020 U.S. State Department Human Rights report. LGBTQ Liberians have faced an uptick in harassment and attacks in the last year.
Last October 2020, ex-personnel of the Armed Forces of Liberia, Cheeseman Cole, was arrested, for reportedly “catfishing” over 27 men on social media and brutalizing them when they showed up at his residence. He claimed it was a divine mission ordained by God to cleanse Liberia of its LGBTQ population.
Two men—Dominic Renner and Winston Toe— remain missing from Cole’s attacks. The Liberia National Police has not released an update on the status of the investigation.
Though Cole was investigated, forwarded to the court, and detained for a brief period at the Monrovia Central Prison, he is currently free on bail awaiting prosecution by the Ministry of Justice.
The spokesperson of the Ministry of Justice, Maude Somah, at the time said her boss, Solicitor General Syrenius Cephus, is following up with the county attorney on the status of the prosecution. Cephus has been suspended by President Weah after being sanctioned by the US Government.
Liberian law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults. Articles 14.74, 14.79, and 50.7 [of the Penal Code of 1976] consider voluntary sodomy as a first-degree misdemeanor, with a penalty of up to one-year imprisonment.
Though the country has not defined its stance on the protection of the rights of its LGBT population, Attorney General, F. Musah Dean, during the launch of the UN SOGIE report in November 2020 at a private resort said the Liberian constitution guarantees protection for all.
Recently, a student of the Trinity United Methodist School was expelled for crossdressing when a viral video on Facebook showed him in a playful but fiery exchange with a female street preacher who had sought to preach damnation upon him.
One Arrest Made
A day following the attack against Sumo, accompanied by the curator-in-chief of journalRAGE, Gboko Stewart, the case was registered at the headquarters of the Liberia National Police with a suspect being arrested.
The suspect, an unidentified and unkempt youth, could not provide a reason for the attack during the investigation in the Crime against Person Unit of the Police.
However, he revealed that they were numbered ten when they attacked the home of journalRAGE’s reporter.
Police sources say he promised to cooperate to ensure his fellow conspirators are arrested.
More Threats Emerge
The arrest of one of the suspects in the attack against journalRAGE’s reporter spread like a wildfire. But it has also brought a further wave of renewed threats against him.
According to our reporter, following his return home, more threats were issued against him. “When I got home, one of the boys in the community said if I don’t release his friend after the holiday (August 24), they will come back again to burn the house.”
The threat has coerced the reporter to seek safety out of his residence. “I can’t go back over there until I am ready to move out. They could burn the place while I’m inside and nobody could come to my rescue,” he said.
JournalRAGE boss alarms
For his part, the curator-in-chief of journalRAGE, Gboko Stewart, said he is very concerned over the safety of Sumo.
“The safety of the people who contribute to our publication is very paramount,” he said. He’s currently in a temporary safe space until the situation improves.”
The journalRAGE boss said he is going to be involved in every step of the way to ensure his staff gets the redress the law provides.
“I have spoken to one of my good friends who’s a top brass in the Police and he promised to give us more men to arrest other suspects who might be linked to this grave crime.”
He furthered that he is disappointed with the security led organization that was set up to be the protection arm of LGBT community.
“Those who are tasked with the security knowledge in the security sector and are supported by donors to protect minority voices should step up because we had initially sought their help and they’ve been very nonchalant from the first attack to the recent one,” he furthered.
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