Minneapolis, Minnesota – The Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas (ALJA) says it is shocked and dismayed over reports, which claimed that a seven-year-old daughter of a Liberian diplomat in Abuja, Nigeria was sexually abused by two teenagers on the premises of the Liberian Embassy.
The incident, which reportedly occurred nearly eight months ago, was recently brought to the public’s attention by the father of the victim, Mr. Nat Bayjay, who works at the Embassy as Minister Counselor for Press and Public Affairs.
In a Press Release issued on Wednesday, December 15. 2021, the Association said it is deeply saddened by the reported incident. ALJA says it is heart wrenching that since the reported abuse, the seven-year-old girl and her parents are yet to get legal redress from the Liberian government while the two alleged perpetrators have since returned to Monrovia.
The Association quoting the girl’s father, Minister Counselor Nat Bayjay, says the abusers are reportedly roaming the streets of Monrovia much to the frustration of the victim and her parents. ALJA called on authorities of the Liberian government to ensure that the alleged rapists are arrested and prosecuted for the heinous act committed.
The Association says to mitigate the high incidence of rape in Liberia, the country’s criminal justice system needs to respond swiftly and aggressively in ensuring that the perpetrators irrespective of their ages and social status are held liable for their actions.
ALJA says it regretful that Liberia’s Ambassador, Dr. Al-Hassan Conteh, and authorities of the Liberian government in Abuja and Monrovia have dragged their feet on ensuring judicial accountability of those individuals who allegedly abused the girl since the matter was reported to the Liberian government in April of this year.
ALJA also, criticized the authorities for failing to provide appropriate medical, mental health, and social supports to the victim and her family. The Association maintained that the alleged act committed against the victim has both long-term traumatic and economic effects on her if, she is not immediately given the appropriate medical and psychological attention.
Meanwhile, ALJA is calling on the Liberian government to give the current rape case its utmost urgency, cognizant that the abused child is a Liberian citizen, who is entitled to full legal protection by the Liberian government.
Recently Mr. Bayjay spoke about his daughter’s ordeal on several local news network in Monrovia. Then he claimed that his daughter was raped repeatedly over a period of several months; and she suffered serious physical and emotional harm as a result. He lamented that despite the trauma experienced by his daughter, senior staff at the Liberian Embassy as well as the guardian of the perpetrators, who is also an embassy staff, have shown little interest in the wellbeing of his daughter and instead have tried repeatedly to shield the perpetrators.
At the same time, ALJA has described as hypocritical the statement released by the Embassy in Abuja this week in which it expressed “zero tolerance to all forms of sexual molestations and gender-based violence …against women and girls”. The Association says the statement, which comes months after the incident occurred in Abuja is a callous response and an attempt at damage control more than a serious effort at dealing with the perpetrators and caring for the victim.
ALJA says the Embassy’s response is not only very worrisome, but it raises serious questions about the government’s professed commitment to protecting women and girls from gender and sexual based violence. According to the Association, the Abuja rape incident is a reminder that SGBV remains pervasive in the society and called on the government and every well-meaning Liberian to continue to work to ameliorate this problem.