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Lawlessness, corruption facilitate rape cases in Liberia, as teachers, government officials and others raped women and minors

ONTARIO, Canada –Lawlessness in Liberia as well as corruption and incompetence in the country’s judiciary and the criminal justice system put thousands of women, especially girls and minors, at risk of rape by older men, including officials of government. The situation has become so pervasive that most men consider raping young girls as normal since consecutive Liberian governments, past and present, remain unconcerned and virtually clueless in addressing such harmful abuse against women.

A school teacher named Jesse Smith, 39, recently raped a 13-year old girl who is also one of his students in Kakata Town, Margibi County, central Liberia. According to the grandmother of the raped victim, Madam Gamai Mulbah, her granddaughter was raped when Teacher Jesse Smith forced the little girl in the bushes while she was going to fetch water from a nearby creek.  After the horrible incidence, the victim reported the issue to a classmate that their teacher Jesse Smith had raped her.  Both the victim and her classmate were afraid so they did not report the matter to anyone.

Grandma Mulbah said the same teacher raped her granddaughter again for the second time when the 13-year old girl old went to fetch water and wash clothes near the same creek, causing serious bodily harm. This time, the grandmother said she found out when she heard her granddaughter cried.

When the incidence was reported to the local police in Margibi County, the teacher was arrested and detained for few hours but after allegedly paying bribe to the police officers on duty and to the police commander in the area, the culprit was released.  Since then the grandmother who is pursuing justice for her granddaughter is being pushed around by the Liberian police, according to family sources.

Rape is endemic in Liberia, with even government officials including lawmakers accused of raping young girls and minors without any repercussions because of judicial corruption and weakness within the criminal justice system.

In April this year, a 13-year old virtually impaired girl was also raped and impregnated by another teacher at a local Christian Association of the Blind school, according to Liberia’s leading local daily, FrontPage Africa.

FrontPage Africa is quoted in its reports that “prior to the pregnancy, the victim Princess was allegedly raped in the school’s kitchen by one of the instructors identified as Kwame Wreh.”  In May 2017, and during the administration of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a Liberian lawmaker from Grand Gedeh County, Morais T. Waylee (UP-District #2 Grand Gedeh County) was also accused of raping and impregnating another 13-year old girl who became sick later on. The minor girl named Mary (real name withheld) who the Liberian lawmaker raped and impregnated had to undergo C-section to give birth to their child, according to several local media reports and investigations.

The lawmaker who was and remains an executive member of former President Sirleaf’s Unity Party (UP) had accepted responsibility for the rape act and promised to provide support to the victim and the child born from the rape. Adding, that he wanted to be protected by the girl’s family in exchange for financial support.

Children and girls as young as 7 years old are raped by cruel men and others throughout Liberia due to a culture of impunity, mainly facilitated by corruption in the country’s judiciary and its criminal justice system, and the lack of political at the national level.  A number of diaspora women and others of Liberian and African origin based in the United States and Canada are concerned about the clueless posture of the Liberian authorities in the violence against women and girls, especially minors in the country.  The women are urging the Liberian administration and the international community to address the prevalent of rapes in Liberia.

According to the evolving women group, sexual harassment and sexual violence (sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and sexual exploitation) are not acceptable behaviors in any community and are violations of the law across all countries.

The women group and other concerned Liberians are urging President George Manneh Weah and his administration to demonstrate commitment to providing protection and prevention education and support services to the survivors as well as hold the perpetrators fully accountable.

A prominent American female legal professional in Washington, DC who chose to remain anonymous so as not to be viewed as interfering in Liberia’s domestic affairs say the incompetence of the Liberian judiciary and the corruption in the criminal justice system is one main factor responsible for the lawlessness and breakdown of law and order in Liberia.

An American women and children activist in New York, Constance Fellews, is mobilizing other children and women’s rights advocates in the U.S. to put pressure on the U.S. administration, especially the State Department to halt development and other support to Liberia unless the Liberian government and President Weah prioritize the protection of children, especially girls.

Adding, “the United States government should not support a government that disregards the protection of women and girls.”

Meanwhile, Grandmother Gamai Mulbah is seeking the help of Liberians and others to assist her provide medical and related treatment for her granddaughter raped by the elderly school teacher.  To support the victim’s treatment as well as provide other forms of social and related support, contact Ms. Elizabeth Mulbah (no relation), a one-time psychiatric nurse who now works as an acute care nurse with VA Hospital in Atlanta, GA.   Ms. Elizabeth Mulbah is an organizing member of the proposed African Women Against Rape and Sexual Violence.  To contact Ms. Mulbah, call 678-778-4434.

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Blama G. Konuwah

Blama G. Konuwah resides in Vancouver, Canada. He is a public issues analyst and senior contributor to Globe Afrique.

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