Liberia: Several Sande Zoes Arrested in Nimba for Defying Traditional Council

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Flashback: Several Sande Zoes Arrested in Nimba for Defying Traditional Council

Sanniquellie, Nimba County – Over 10 female zoes of the Sande Society in Gbao Clan, District #2, Nimba County, have been arrested on order of the Traditional Council in the county.

Paramount Chief Peter G. Barlon and Chairman for the County Traditional Council of the county gave the order.

The zoes were arrested after they were allegedly caught forcing school-going girls to attend the bush school in their parts of Nimba.

On June 25, 2019 both Sande and Poro heads from the 15 counties in Liberia, met in Ganta, Nimba County and drafted a policy statement temporarily suspended all Sande activities in the country.

On that day, over 50 zoes, who are heads of Sande and Poro Societies, had met with a non-governmental organization—West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP).

Prior to the gathering, these zoes from both secret societies were still carrying out their practices in the county and other parts of Liberia.

Whenever these bush schools are in session and the formal academic programs are also in session, many kids are forced to attend these bush schools thereby making the enrollment in the formal academic program to dwindle. 

During a recent interview with the Nimba County Inspector, Mr. Reginald Mehn confirmed the arrest of the zoes. Mehn, however, stated that the zoes were released based on the intervention of some senior authorities in in the county.

The establishment of Sande and Poro in Liberia dates as far back to the days when there was no constitutional government to run the affair of existing traditional societies.

These institutions inculcated the value of the society in their children.

The Poro trained the boys for manhood while the Sande prepared girls for womanhood.

Despite the existence of a constitutional government in Liberia, these societies still exist to ensure the perpetuation of the traditional culture.

For some time now the National Council of Chiefs and Elders of Liberia [NACCEL] and the Ministry of Internal Affair [MIA] have observed with keen interest that certain individuals in some localities of the country are in the habit of subjecting women and girls into culture practices without their consent, which is in total violation to the rules and guidelines of the traditional institution.

The actions of these individuals and groups claiming to represent traditional zoes continue to cause great embarrassment for NACCEL, government and the people of Liberia, thus causing trauma that is affecting victims and their families the policy added.

It is not yet clear what would become of those school-going kids, who were made to leave their formal academic programs to get into the bush schools. 

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