Armed Forces of Liberia Chief of Staff Wants Death Penalty for Rapists
MONROVIA – As rape and other sexual violence abuses against women and girls continue to escalate in Liberia, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), Major General Prince C. Johnson, has called for the introduction of a law seeking death penalty for rapists in the country.
Report by Obediah Johnson, [email protected]
General Johnson’s call comes barely a few days after an officer of the Liberia National Police identified as one Emmanuel Wesley was accused of allegedly raping a 17-year-old at the depot.
Wesley, who has been reportedly disrobed from the LNP, is said to be on the run.
General Johnson maintained that though Liberia’s international partners would not be in favor of a death penalty for rapists, tougher actions must be taken to help end the menace against women and girls.
He made these comments when he represented the Joint Security of the Government of Liberia at the launch of an awareness campaign against Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV), particularly rape, against women and girls in the country.
The campaign was launched on Saturday, July 11 in Congo Town, outside Monrovia, by the Game Changers, with support from the political leader of the Movement for One Liberia (MOL), Madam Macdella Cooper.
“The international community does not actually support this decision, but with the statistics we just heard, there is the need that we start to look whether we can revisit the issue of death penalty for rapists because this is getting serious”.
“I am not a legal person and I know that the legal people will look at it and discuss it. But, I think there is a need to look into that because, we have also heard about some women who are lying; they should also face the full weight of the law”.
General Johnson continued: “I am saying we should revisit the issue of death penalty and see how best we can fast track this whole thing”.
Leaders set examples
The AFL Chief of Staff further underscored the need for national leaders in Liberia to take the lead in discouraging SGBV, particularly rape being perpetrated against women and girls in the country.
He added that national leaders should desist from remaining mute on rape and other acts of sexual violence and abuse that women and girls continue to suffer.
He emphasized that stringent measures intended to disabuse the minds of would be perpetrators from engaging into the unwholesome act of rape must be instituted by government.
“The international community does not actually support this decision, but with the statistics we just heard, there is the need that we start to look whether we can revisit the issue of death penalty for rapists because this is getting serious”.– Major General Prince C. Johnson, Chief of Staff, Armed Forces of Liberia
“Government has to take leadership, especially like strengthening our laws. We as leaders need to come up and speak against these things that people will see and know that we are serious. If we as leaders come up and say let’s do this, there are lots of guys that will follow”.
Meanwhile, General Johnson has called for the full participation of community leaders in the awareness campaign against SGBV in Liberia.
He said town chiefs, commissioners, mayors, as well as parents and teachers must take ownership of the combat against rape and sexual exploitation and molestation against women and girls.
“We have to respect our religious and traditional leaders; but we need to educate them on the issue of rape that they will understand”.
He called for adequate support to be provided to females to encourage them to take up legal profession in a bid to fast track rape cases at the court.
At the same time, General Johnson has promised that the AFL will not entertain rape or any form of violence against women and girls in Liberia involving any of its members.
He said the force will not hesitate to act in keeping with the laws, including forwarding for prosecution any of its enlisted soldiers accused and investigated of rape or other offenses.
For her part, Swedish Ambassador accredited to Liberia, Ingrid Wetterqvist, observed that sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls appears to “worse than it was before”.
She maintained that the relevant authorities of the Liberian government should step forward to curtail the alarming wave of SGBV against women and girls.
She noted that women and girls must develop ways to protect themselves from rape and other forms of sexual violence.
Ambassador Wetterqvist encouraged women and girls to ‘start speaking out’ against sexual and other forms of violence being permeated against them.
“This is not only about prevention; it is about stopping it and addressing it as it happens; and dealing with perpetrators. Women need to speak out and little by little, we will change the society”.
“Rape is a horrible experience. It takes others to stand up and say no to rape; enough is enough”.
She pledged the Swedish government’s commitment to help combat against the menace in the country through partnership with various groups.
She further frowned at what she calls “grades for sex” in schools across the continent.
Ambassador Wetterqvist, however, commended Madam Cooper and the Game Changers for the launch of the awareness campaign against rape and violence against women and girls.