Liberia: For Government’s Attention: Disabled People Talk “Radical Approach”, Other Matters

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MONROVIA — Liberian Government’s apparent insensitivity to the plights of citizens living with disabilities has resulted into “hostile methods” aimed at pricking the conscience of local authorities to direct their attention to sufferings of disabled people. 

The resort to use of hostile method was disclosed at a two-day Conference of titled “R1.3 Exchange of Best Practices with African Disability Platforms”, held from August 27 to 28, 2021 at the Monrovia Christian Fellowship Center on 9th Street, Sinkor Monrovia.

The Conference was sponsored by Association Friends of Raoul Follereau (AIFO), an Italian NGO involved in empowering Liberia’s disabled community on economic self-reliance in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD)

AIFO opened an office in Liberia In 1997, and engaged Liberia’s disability community first through Liberia’s community of persons with leprosy.

Less than two years later, the Italian NGO established a palm oil production-related business setup program in four of Liberia’s 15 Counties: Montserrado, Bong, Nimba, and Grand Gedeh. Each County’s business setup is being run by group of disabled persons united under Disabled People’s Organizations (DPOs) Each DPO was created by the National Union of Organization of the Disabled (NUOD), a private umbrella body of disabled persons and groups not directly covered under the Liberian Government’s  welfare programs for disabled people in the Country.

NUOD, currently headed by Madam Naomi B. Harris, is AIFO’s major partner in the community of disabled groups.

On the side of its host Government, AIFO is working with the National Commission on Disabilities (NCD)

AIFO is also sponsoring radio programs for Liberia’s disabled community to share their experiences and contribute to national development. One program is on the Economic Community of West African Countries (ECOWAS) Radio (91-5) based in Montserrado County (Monrovia). Another program is aired on Nimba Radio in Nimba County.

“We sometime use radical approach to get the attention of the County’s authority to pay attention to disabled people’s plights in our County, Nimba,” said Mr. Abestine Tozay, County president of Nimba Disable Community (NDC) announced to the body of participants during “County Updates” and Panel Discussion—two different segments of the Conference.

The “radical approach”, he later, explained, entails creating a barricade in front of the offices of the County’s Superintendent and blocking major public roads in the County.

He indicated that each of these methods is aimed at calling attention of officials of the County’s authority (of Government’s appointees) and the County’s representatives in the National Legislature.

However, the Keynote Speaker of the Conference, Mr. Adama Dempster, president of the National Civil Society of Liberia, cautioned his hosts against using “illegal methods” during their advocacies to direct the Government’s attention to their plight.

“All advocacies of disabled persons or group against violations of the rights at work places, other areas should be done in the confines of the laws of Liberia.,” advised Mr. Dempster, a popular Human Rights activist in post-war Liberia.

The topic of his speech was “Institutional Best Practices in Liberia”

On the Government, Mr. Dempster remarked: “Government and heads of private institutions must ensure that ALL facilities are disability-friendly, meaning there should be ram, leveled pathway, at all entry or exit points of Government’s buildings, as well as other public buildings.”

Speaking further, he said The Government of Liberia is under mandate to promote and protect the “inclusivity rights” of the Country’s PWDs, based on Liberia’s affixed signature to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and other international universal rights-promotion Instruments. “Including ICCR, UPR, et cetera,” he enumerated.

On the Government and Liberia’s disability community, the Keynote Speaker remarked: “The slogan of the United Nations, “Leave No One Behind”, also means that educated disabled people should be brought to the front row of national development through their being absorbed into the national governance structure and into the workforce controlled by non-PWDs.”

There were two Panel Discussions on each of the two days, where representatives of invited institutions enumerated challenges experienced by their institutors on “Advocacy”, “Best Practices”,  “Networking”, “Fundraising”, “Internal Management” (of donors’ monies),

A total of 51 organizations  received invitation, but only…………….(number?????)  honored the invitation by sending representatives to the Conference. Those that showed are: Group of 77 (Government’s entity), represented by Mr. Boakai Nyehn; Cultivation for Users Hope (CFUH), represented by Mr. Bill Jallah;  Christian Association of the Blind (CAB), represented by Mr. Elijah G. Manuon; Liberia Albino Society (LAS), represented by Mr. Clarence S. Clay; Bomi County’s DPO, represented by Madam Bendu Fahnbulleh’ Fahnbulleh’ National Association of the Deaf (NAD), represented by Mr. Augustine Willie; and Inclusive Disability Initiative (IDI), represented by Mr. Alonzo Dorian Dixon.

During an interview with this writer at the Conference, AIFO’s

The Master of Ceremony of the Conference was Mr. Heylove Mark of NUOD, while Mr. Luthier Mendin and Mr. Sulvester Roberts (noth of AIFO) served as Moderators for the Panel Discussions respectively.

Sign Language Interpretations were provided by from Mr. Benjamin Nathan of Liberia Sign Language Training Program; and Madam Agatha Yah Borbor of Association of Liberia Sign Language Interpreters.

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